Winter. A time for Christmas, Chanukah, and Happy New Years. A time for gatherings and friends and eating treats. For window watching, shopping, and new resolutions. And for many, a time for ice skating, hockey, skiing and snowboarding!
In Chinese medicine, we consider winter as a time of turning inwards for reflection, conservation, and nourishing ourselves from within while the cold and wet rages outside. It is the most Yin time of the year, where we should be conserving and building up our Yang energy for the coming year. It is a nurturing time in which we must take care of our health. It’s a time to stay warm and indoors, eat comfort foods, and lay low. To do otherwise would expend your Yang energy, thus leading to health issues come springtime.
This is quite opposite from what we experience in Winter in the modern world around us; everyone is super busy and no-one slows down, and the sports! Winter sports are in full swing.
While I happen to love winter sports myself, I realize that there’s a conflict of interest in the theory of the medicine we practice and wanting to include myself in participation of winter sports. Not only am I doing the exact opposite of turning inward, I’m exerting myself and doing it in the frigid cold which can only be worse for my joints and my body long term. It’s easy to rationalize all this away with the invention of modern ski clothing and calling it “vacation time” with friends, but the reality from the perspective of Chinese Medicine is that winter sports are not the best for our health.
I also know that most human beings, including myself, tend to knowingly do things that are not so good for us. However, knowing this fact isn’t going to stop anyone from skiing or doing other “fun” things that might have long term consequences. Let’s face it, I’ll probably still be ice skating! I’m only human, after all. However, like everything else, these things that we want to do must be kept in balance by doing them in moderation, and by also taking care of yourself in the process. Have your ski weekend, but follow it up with a quiet and nurturing next few days. Stay inside the following weekend to replenish yourself; watch movies and relax. Do stretching exercises during the week, and have an acupuncture session to re-balance yourself. Eat warm foods, not cold. Set aside the raw veggies for a few months and enjoy only cooked food instead, at least until springtime.
If you can create balance in your life by offsetting the “fun” things we do with healthy choices, you are less likely to suffer long-term consequences from your actions. So, go ski and skate! But next weekend, stay home and hibernate and enjoy it. Balance achieved!
Kim Schwartz-Finkelstein L.Ac.