Winter is the season of storage. We move inward into the quiet of stillness and rest. The prevailing Qi of Winter is Coldness. We take extra care to stay warm, keeping our low back, feet, knees and necks covered and unexposed to drafts. Coldness also brings stillness. So, we practice sitting meditation and slow-moving yoga or tai ji.
Winter corresponds to the Kidney and Urinary Bladder organs from an Oriental medical perspective. Two important aspects of these organ systems – the organs have emotions in this philosophy – are managing resources, finding our spiritual power and cultivating wisdom. Reflect and take stock of what you have, make plans to put into action in Spring, study something for study’s sake, get in touch with your spirituality. These are things to do in a time of stillness, so when the growth of Spring and expansion of Summer come along we know we were thoughtful and mindful when we made the plans we are acting out.
Eating in Winter
This is the time to incorporate spices like ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves into our diet. Try roasting yams or other root vegetables with a sprinkle of these spices on top.
This is also a great time to eat seeds and nuts. Try mixing walnuts, black sesame seeds and honey together, then baking to form a crunchy brittle to snack on. You can also grind walnuts and black sesame seeds together, store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, and then use as a topping on hot breakfast cereal or other nourishing foods. This mix will tonify your internal organs, and also strengthen the brain (walnuts look like a brain after all) and make the hair silky and soft. The oily nature of these two foods will also help treat mild constipation.
My mentor, Adele Reising, suggests to her patients making a tea of ground black sesame seeds and goji berries sweetened with brown sugar. The sesame seeds moisten the skin and nourish the blood. The goji berries strengthen the blood and eyes. Brown sugar is considered more warming than white sugar, making it a better choice for the colder months. It is also less processed than white sugar. Besides being a good Winter tea, this is a good tea to drink in the evening if you wake up with anxiety in the morning. The brown sugar and sesame seeds are also high in minerals, which will support the bones. If you prefer to avoid brown sugar, try Grade B maple syrup. It is darker than Grade A and more nutrient rich.
If you have never made a bone broth, now is the time to do it. Bone broths are exceptionally healthful. They are also full of joint-lubricating compounds, which will help with stiff or arthritic joints. The key to bone broths is long cooking, so prepare to have it on the stove overnight on a low simmer. Also, make sure to get bones of chickens, cows, turkeys or lamb that were raised at pasture and are organic. EatWild is a great resource for finding local purveyors of pastured, grass-fed (not grass-finished) meat and poultry. If you add a tablespoon or so of organic cider vinegar, more minerals will come from the bones into the stock.