by Barbara Adach, R.Ac
Welcome to 2017! In Canada, the start of a new year means that we are getting reacquainted with winter.
Ahhh, winter … the quick metallic bite of skate blades on a frozen pond snowflakes gracefully falling from the steely sky, the bracing cold bringing color to our cheeks! That’s a rather idealized picture of the season and it certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, winter truly is here and we can certainly learn, at the very least, to get along with it.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has some great advice for getting the most out of winter.
Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, the legendary sage of Chinese Medicine, and his court physician, Qi Bo said we can live long and well when we adapt our lives to follow the changes each season brings. These seasonal adjustments include how we dress, what we eat, how we spend our time and even how much we sleep.
Of course, we need to protect our bodies in winter. Dressing warmly in layers of clothing composed of natural fibers is ideal. While we want to stay warm, we also want to avoid any excessive perspiration that can chill us. Natural fibres can wick away perspiration to protect us.
There are some specific areas of the body that are deemed especially vulnerable in TCM. The head, neck and upper back are said to be susceptible to ‘Wind’, the environmental vehicle by which disease can enter the body. Many acupuncture points in those areas have the word ‘wind’ in their names. So, we wear scarves, hats and appropriate coats to block the wind and protect our health.
Another at-risk area is the lower back, in the area of the kidneys. The Kidney is a key organ in TCM, acting as our biological clock, helping us to live and age gracefully. However, the Kidney can’t do this on its own. We must cooperate with the Kidney by protecting the low back and keeping it warm and dry. Full-length coats are considered more appropriate winter gear than short jackets.
Additionally, we need to protect the soles of our feet. That area is also connected to the Kidney in TCM. In fact, the first point on the Kidney meridian is on our soles. To safeguard this area, we should wear warm, waterproof boots outdoors and resist the temptation to go barefoot indoors. Even if our homes are toasty warm, it is advisable to wear socks and/or slippers that will keep our feet warm and our bodies healthy.
We can also adapt to winter by modifying our diet. In the spring and summer, we eat lighter fare but in the winter, we can look after ourselves with richer and more warming foods such as soups and stews made of root vegetables. Root vegetables complement the ‘storage’ theme that is prevalent in winter and they help us to be more settled and secure in this season. Warmer foods such as red meats (beef, lamb) supplement the diet. Beans are also considered appropriate food in the winter as they are said to support the Kidney.
As winter is considered a more inward and reflective time, why not invite others to share this peace and joy? We can join or create a book club. We could arrange a potluck meal with friends and family and generate a sense of emotional warmth as well. We have to remember to balance this more inner-directed theme with the ongoing need to remain physically active. We should continue to keep our backs flexible and limber. Getting outside (warmly dressed, of course) to enjoy a refreshing walk or a bit of cross-country skiing will help us to shake off the cobwebs. A skating or tobogganing party capped by a pot of hot gingered tea in your home might be suitable too.
Regarding sleep, it is suggested to stay in bed a bit longer during the winter. We are encouraged to follow the sun’s example by turning in earlier and rising later.
The start of a new year can call to mind changes that we want to make. For some, this may mean finally committing to a smoke-free life or adopting a healthier diet and losing weight. If those are goals of yours, please know that there is acupuncture support to help you on your new path.
If the regular activities of the season, such as snow shoveling or scraping ice from the car, cause you pain, or if you overdo it at the hockey rink, acupuncture can also be helpful. One of the most common reasons to seek out acupuncture is pain relief.
As with any season, winter has fans and detractors. We may not all be avid skiers or winter camping enthusiasts but we can all learn to accept the wonderful gifts this season has to offer.
To arrange your Winter Tune-Up acupuncture treatment with Barbara, please contact the Pacific Wellness Institute at 416-929-6958 or submit your online appointment request form.