Integrative Medicine Blog
Tips to Conserve Energy During the Winter
The yin and yang of winter solstice.
As we approach the winter solstice the days are getting shorter and the air is getting colder. According to Chinese medicine, culture and philosophy, we are now in the Yin time of year. As shown in the Yin/Yang symbol called the taiji (pronounced ‘tie-jee.’) this is the white dot inside the black swirl, the light within the darkness, or Yang (pronounced ‘yong’) within Yin. The black represents Yin and is fullest at the bottom of the symbol, this is winter or midnight. While the white represents Yang and is fullest at the top, this is summer or noon. The symbol represents the cyclical nature of all things.
December 21st, the day of the solstice and longest night of the year (in the Northern hemisphere), will represent the height of Yin when its energy is strongest and when Yang energy is at its weakest, hence dark & cold days. One of the most essential theories within Chinese medicine is Yin-Yang theory. It is a way of explaining and reflecting upon all natural phenomena in the universe, including our bodies. This theory holds that present within everything in nature are two opposing but interconnected aspects that are relative to one another, balance each other, and can turn into one another (night turns into day, winter turns into spring, etc.) The original meaning of Yin is the side of the mountain turned away from the sun, or the shady side; while Yang is the side of the mountain facing the sun, or the sunny side. Yin represents darkness, nighttime, cold, winter, passivity, interior, downwards, substance and stillness while respectively Yang represents brightness, daytime, heat, summer, activity, exterior, upwards, function and movement.
Wintertime encourages us to become more Yin—to rest, digest, consolidate and reflect. It is appropriate that we try to be in tune with nature. After the warmer seasons that are full of activity, now is the time to honor slowing and quieting down, to reflect inwardly, and to conserve energy so that we may be replenished and recharged instead of burned out when the spring returns. Just as the leaves fall off the trees and the roots store the essential nutrients needed for re-growth in the spring, we can shed unwanted layers or habits, getting rid of that which does not serve us anymore, while grounding into and cultivating the positive and healthy aspects of our being. Now we need to recharge our batteries so that when Spring comes illness does not linger and we have the energy to be more vibrant. We can do this by:
- going to bed earlier and sleeping longer,
- eating warming spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom, and foods that are easy to digest like rice, soups and stews,
- making sure to wear warm enough clothing, and always a scarf to protect against cold wind hitting the back of the neck that can bring in pathogenic influences giving way to colds and a tight neck and shoulders,
- exercise but don’t exhaust yourself or sweat too much. Incorporate slower more mindful type of movement such as yoga or Qigong. This can be beneficial to still prevent stagnation in the body without burning up our reserves we’ll need when warmer weather returns.
- Set intentions, meditate, cultivate, and plant seeds on things you want to harvest when Spring comes. For now, relax and let go of whatever is not serving you.
If we don’t honor the season and our bodies during this time, it can give rise to imbalances in the Spring time such as allergies, cold hands and feet, digestive issues, and difficulty waking in the morning. If you have a tendency towards these things, or difficulty now during the winter with sleeping, digesting, slowing down or turning inward, acupuncture and herbs can help. Give yourself a gift this season by prioritizing your physical, mental, and emotional health and doing what you can to align yourself with the season. We are here to help when you need support!