When it is cold and barren outside during the winter months we are presented with a beautiful opportunity to turn inwards. We seek the physical warmth of dwelling within warm homes. We are also required to seek the energetic warmth within our own spirits. This is a time to look deeper into the hidden energies reflected in the natural world around us.
This winter, consider embracing the season for what it is, honoring our natural tendency to seek external warmth and rest during these darker days. When many creatures in the animal kingdom are hibernating, what are ways we can also slow down and learn from this time, rather than resist and try to go on with full yang energy?
In traditional Chinese medicine, this is not a time for abundant creative projects or rushing around, but a time to rest and store up the body’s energy. Like the white snow that often blankets the world outside, wintertime creates a blank canvas waiting for the spring of creative extroverted energy to arrive. This empty, void-like phase of winter is the vessel for all new life and must be honored as such. It can be compared to the cocoon phase of a butterfly’s life cycle. The butterfly actually completely turns to liquid inside that precious cocoon. We also must let go of old ways of thinking and being if we are to be reborn into a dazzling, colorful new version of ourselves in the spring, like the butterfly emerging. Reinventing ourselves takes tremendous energy. Winter is the time where you collect that energy, like a pool collecting water.
According to traditional Chinese medicine winter is governed by the kidneys. The kidneys actually create and store the yin energy called Jing. Jing is the original water of Yin, as opposed to the original fire of Yang. Let’s take this time to cultivate Jin through 3 simple practices:
During winter all the energy of a tree goes deep into the roots below the frozen topsoil. Perennials flowers also return all their energy deep into the bulb. Picture yourself like a plant. Allow your meditation to go deep within to a cool, quiet part of your inner self.
In our fast paced, external achievement-oriented Western world it is possible that you may feel out of touch with the seasons. You may have excess fire/Yang energy to experience or burn off before you are ready for a nourishing Yin meditation. Consider burning the remaining autumn leaves of the mind, so to speak, by going for a brisk walk in the wintery cold. Perhaps bundle up less than usual so you are more in touch with the cold/Yin. Your own inner fire will flare up and exhaust itself. See if you can consciously relax your shoulders and breathe deep enough to control your shivering. Match your footsteps to your breath in rhythmic cycles, quickpaced like a runner’s panting. The more movement and breath you can create, the more your inner fire will burn away stagnant energy, like the dry leaves of fall disappearing. Let the concentration to remain calm and warm fill your consciousness for a powerfully focused meditation. Allow the inner landscape of your mind become empty with an inner hush like a wintery prairie landscape.
When you feel this brisk nature walk has refreshed you, come into a warm, quiet room inside your home. Get very warm and feel your body glowing with new energy from within. Let your body and mind soften in that fiery comfortable glow of relaxation.
2. Restorative Yoga
Now that your body is warmed up, loose and limber from your Moving Meditation it is time to get in touch with the natural hibernating inclinations of this time of year. Bring out your inner polar bear with these restorative, opening yoga asanas that allow you to melt away the tensions that cold weather can create in the body. And don’t be surprised if these postures help you sleep like a hibernating bear also!
You may wish to use our Breathe Oil Blend at the beginning of your Restorative Yoga session. DoTerra Breathe features lung and kidney supporting essential oils such as Laurel Leaf, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, Lemon, Ravensara, and Cardamom. With your lungs and pores open from your Moving Meditation it is a good time to place a few drops in a diffuser to fill your space with essential oils which support both your lungs and your Kidneys. If you don’t have a diffuser, add a few drops in a tablespoon of coconut or other carrier oil in your hand. Massage over the chest and abdomen.
Kidneys govern our will power and survival instinct. During the winter is a time to rest the will power in order to restore the kidneys. For the most optimal timing aim to practice between 3:00-5:00 pm, as that is the time when the kidney system is strongest, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
To begin, lie down and gently bring your awareness to your kidneys. The kidneys are located just behind the rib cage on both sides of your body. Rest your hands on your lower ribs and take some deep breaths, really focusing on expanding the diaphragm not only upwards but laterally as well. Let all of your energy collect there. Visualize energy -Jing- pooling in your kidneys like warm lava, filling you with soothing feelings.
Next allow your legs to open out, bringing the feet together for Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle Pose:
You may with to have pillows or bolsters under the knees and feet to encourage more energy to flow towards the kidneys and heart. Remain in this pose for 3-7 min.
Next, bring yourself to a seated position. If you have difficulty sitting in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your legs straight in front of you, elevate your rear with a pillow or blankets to take pressure off the lower back. Using a chair and bolster or pillows to come into Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend). The upward posture allows circulation in your torso while your limbs relax:
Finally, come into a Constructive Rest Pose.
Elevate your legs on a chair and let your hands rest at head level on blocks. Having the arms over the head creates room in the ribcage and the elevation of both feet and legs sends more blood towards the heart, lungs, and kidneys. You may wish to turn on a guided meditation or peaceful music and really float in this posture for a good 15-25 min:
3.Eat to Support Your Kidneys
In order to nourish the yin energy and not stir up the yang energy it is important to go to bed earlier and rise later, following the naturally longer nights of the season. In order to sleep well earlier it is important to eat well before bedtime.
Autumn already taught us to store up what we need, and let go of what needs to pass away. To eat in harmony with the seasons, reflect on foods that naturally store well in the winter: root vegetables, nuts, and meat. Choose for warming, gently cooked foods which don’t require your body to use energy to warm them. Celery root makes a lovely addition to soups and stews and is excellent for the kidneys.
Warm herbal teas are an excellent choice to soothe the kidneys and help store up chi. Choose a tea that features herbs such as marshmallow, dandelion, goldenrod, and parsley. These plants will help detoxify so make sure to increase your water intake throughout the day to support a gentle flush of toxins.