So, winter is here. Some say yay, other say… please summer c´mon!
What I love about Chinese medicine, except that I learn new things about myself through studying this art of medicine, is its philosophy of not viewing things as good or bad. A different approach from the ”western way” of viewing things, where we (yes me too) like to categorize stuff as good or bad. This is especially important when it comes to our emotions, and this is also when it becomes really practical and also healing.
How often have you regarded sorrow as good? Yeah, me neither. Until I started studying Chinese medicine that is. You see, sorrow doesn´t have to be bad. But that doesn´t mean it´s good either. It just is. Sorrow is sorrow. It´s an emotion important to be felt, like all other emotions us humans have the ability to feel. And that´s just the thing. Emotions are meant to be felt. And by viewing emotions as either good or bad, and just see them, and feel them, for what they are, we can stop putting labels on emotions, and actually harmonize and balance ourselves in our daily lives.
Emotions are a reflection of Qi. And the concept of Qi is, in western terms, easiest to describe as the energy that moves everything in our bodies. And the energy that moves everyting in nature. Bascially, the power behind all movement.
In Chinese medicine, winter is the season of WATER. As mentioned in the blog post series “SUP yoga life, a Chinese medicine perspective – part 2”, seasons have specific rhythms and each season represent parts of our bodies. This is tied to natures seasons and cycles, corresponding to the 5 element/phases.
In the Chinese medicine theories and philosophy – the season off winter belongs to the Water element – connected to a season of slowing down. It´s all about rest, preparing our bodies and minds to be ready for growth and expansion again when the season of spring arrives.
This season provides amazing opportunities to rest. If you look at nature, you´ll see clearly that stillness and rest is what´s going on. It´s the Yin part of the year.
We´ve gone through the wood season during spring with a start of the yang energies – into summer and the peak of yang – and September to prepare ourselves for the beginning of the yin season, that was escalating in october and november. Now it´s here. The inward, cooling season of yin. Did I mention rest?
KIDNEYS AND URINARY BLADDER
Winter – Water – is connected to our Kindeys and Urinarby bladder. The related emotions are fear, but also wisdom, that is said to be hold by our Kidnyes, in Chinese medicine.
Color: Dark blue
Organs: Kidneys, Urinary bladder
Meridians: In a functional yoga persective, we get access to the Kidney meridians through our adductors, groin, and spine. Urinary bladder runs from the top of the head all the way along the back side of our bodies, to our feet. Functionally, we get access to the Urinary bladder meridians through for example forward bends, as well as hamstring stretches.
HOW TO ACT DURING THIS SEASON
This is a time of allowing our bodies and minds to rest. To trea tour bodies and minds with movement of course, but no vigourous activities that can drain our bodies of energy. Just as most animals, we need to allow ourselves some time to rest enough, so we can be ready to meet spring when it´s time to grow again.
Have you ever thought about why there is such a thing as spring depression? Well, according to Chinese medicine, this is simply because we don´t rest enough during rest season. When spring arrives it´s time to plan, grow, expand and look ahead. Nature will start to awaken again. Nature will start to awaken and go green, thanks to the season before, the water season of winter. The ice of winter will start to melt, and by doing so it will give nature what it needs, water to grow and start all over again.
Do we human live like this? Not much. But we should, if we want to meet spring with fresh energy to meet the new cycle of yang again. If we have depleted our bodies and minds during winter season, we can´t meet the energy of spring to rise like a growing tree. Instead, we get depressed. And tired.
It´s something special. Wearing a thick 6/5/4 wetsuit with a hoodie. Gloves and surf booties. Pouring hot water in the gloves and booties before putting them on, getting ready to hit the freezing water. It´s special. It´s raw.
In Sweden, going at it during winter time is called “Cold Water Surf”.
So, how does nature behaves during winter? Go out and look. Grab you paddle board, if it´s not ice on the lake or ocean, and go out and study the water, trees and everything around you. Can you see how nature is in stillness, resting? Can you feel how nature is trusting what is. Trusting that everything will grow again in spring?
Even if nature is in rest, of course it´s ok to move our bodies. Many people love skiing and snowboarding, and it´s all good. As long as we balance it out with… yeah, you know it: rest.
Winter teaches us that the only way to fully enjoy the powers of the season is to surrender to it and learn from what it has to offer us. In winter the earth lies fallow; nature appears frozen and dead. In this deep stillness of nature, winter calls us to look into our depths, to reconnect to our inner being, to befriend the darkness within us and around us. In winter—like the seeds that are beginning their metamorphosis and starting to manifest their destiny in the deep recesses of the earth—all of our energies are being called to examine the depths of our being.
FROM FEAR TO WISDOM
The main emotion for winter is fear. And it´s connected to the color of dark blue, just like the deep ocean. The organs is connected to water metabolism in our bodies. Kidneys are, not only in Chinese medicine, but in western medicine too, connected to stress. Our kidneys don´t like stress. If we get stuck in stress, we´re going to produce stress hormones over and over again. We need to slow down and back off, allowing our bodies a chance of recovery now and then. Especially now, during this time of the year.
Our kindeys is said to hold our deepest wisdom. Our blueprint. And also our deepest fears. But just as all our other organs, which are all connected to different emotions, fear doesn´t have to be bad. We need to be able to feel fear. We need to be able to kick off our fight or flight response in our bodies, to be able to save ourselves in case of danger. Thing is though, that this danger isn´t too often a dangerous animal these days. The danger and fear we feel, is stuff like not being good enough, taking in front of audience and so on. I don´t know if it´s true, but it´s said that we humans are more afraid of being seen (talking in front of a group of people), than death.
Fear is the emotion associated with the Water Element. In a healthy way, fear is an emotion that moves and directs us to remain alert and attentive to our surroundings and situation. When confronted with danger, constructive fear can guide us with a message of caution and restraint and fill us with a sense of readiness and courage to face whatever situation might present itself.
Fear isn´t bad. But it´s not good either. Fear is fear. We need it. We need to feel it, be we must know how to let it pass, and make a difference between actual fear and felt fear that isn´t necessary accoring to the situation.
Working with deep yin yoga poses can help us tap into this emotion, shifting fear to wisdom. Working on trust. Using the energy of the season to rest, and get in contact with our deep wisdom we hold in our bodies. Trusting what is, and create some trust for what´s coming.
YOGA POSES FOR THE SEASON
During your practice – try and target your kindey and urinary bladder meridians, i.e. your adductors, hamstrings and spine. The calming effects of yin yoga is amazing, where you´ll target your fascia (where your meridians flow) to help regulate Qi and blood in your body.
If it´s too cold to paddle, take your yoga practice indoors, and make sure to get some yin yoga and restorative yoga poses going, to get some rest.
Keep Warm: Prepare for the weather, and dress accordingly. Chinese medicine says that the neck and shoulder areas contain the “Wind” points through which pathogens can enter, so keep these areas protected; wear a scarf and keep your neck covered. Meanwhile, enjoy everything that winter has to offer, within nature and within your inner self.
Good yoga poses to stretch your adductors through yin yoga is Butterfly pose, Dragonfly pose and Frog pose. To target your spine, do forward bends, backbends and rotations, as well as poses for lateral flexion such as ½ Butterfly pose and Bananasana. In need of some inspirataion? Go check my separate page for yin yoga www.yinyogaforathletes.comM