For many of us, winter can herald a grim period to be endured, with long hours of darkness and the weather getting wetter and colder. The world can seem bleak and often our desire to leave the house diminishes, as we would rather stay indoors and curl up in the warm. Shiatsu, a popular Japanese bodywork therapy, has its roots in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) where these feelings are recognised as important natural signals from our own internal cycle, which mirrors that of the seasons. Maintaining good health includes recognising and honouring these cycles.
In the 5 Elements system of TCM, winter is linked to the Water Element. The Water Element when in balance is deeply nourishing, enabling us to experience quality rest and stillness, but it also conversely provides the power behind our impetus to drive forward and get things done. An imbalance may be experienced as one, or both, of two extremes: either fatigue, lack of energy, low motivation; or feeling ‘wired’, unable to relax and switch off, continuously on the go. Both are common experiences.
To help us regain balance in our system there are different approaches we can take. Sleep is a great rejuvenator – the classic texts of TCM say that in winter we should go to bed earlier and rise later! So allowing ourselves to sleep for longer, if possible, is a good start. Comforting, warming foods like soups and stews are easier for our systems to digest and provide a natural central heating supply. Turning off our electronic distractions in the evening is important if we want to properly relax and unwind… instead read a book, write a diary, take a bath or simply give yourself permission to sit,be still and do nothing.
Exercise that has a rebalancing and rejuvenating effect on the nervous and hormonal system, such as Tai Chi or Yoga, help us physically, emotionally and mentally to de-stress and unwind. Shiatsu, an energy-based bodywork system of healing and health maintenance, activates the parasympathic nervous system and uses pressure points to enable deep relaxation and self-healing. Simple traditional exercises such as ‘Kidney rubbing’ and lower abdominal breathing can help to boost flagging energy. Of course a healthy balanced diet will help with fatigue, but maybe also treat yourself to a tonic such as Floradix (a great natural remedy including fruit extracts, vitamins, minerals & iron). Rest, as suggested, will also strengthen the immune system to help fight off seasonal colds and flu.
Our bodies know what is good for them and if we listen we may find winter is a time to be welcomed, even considered a gift. In nourishing our deepest energies the soul of our inspiration may be born - by tending to the stillness needed in our depths we will find the resources to reach our greatest heights!
Happy Winter Solstice!
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