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Your journey to better health

How to access the power of the winter solstice to improve your health

This Sunday brings the winter solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the year. The solstice is an important energetic day as it is the pinnacle of Yin, in Traditional Chinese Medical theory. Yin and Yang (shown by the Taiji symbol to the right) is the root foundation of all Traditional Chinese Medicine, and by extension, acupuncture, tuina, and herbal therapy.

Yin and Yang represent two fundamental forces at play in the human body and the natural world. Yin represents darkness, turning inward, sinking, coolness, passivity, water, and rest. Yang represents light, opening outward, expanding, warmth, passion, fire, and activity. The winter solstice, being the darkest day of the year, is the day that the Yin energy of the Earth is most fully expressed. After the winter solstice, Yang slowly begins to exert itself more fully (although very slowly at first…we have plenty of months of winter ahead of us), until it reaches its full expression on the summer solstice.

Yin is all about accessing the deeper, quieter, wise parts within us. It is the silence created by a night-time snow fall, resting in a restorative child’s pose in yoga class, journaling to access the true parts of yourself to which you don’t often give a voice. It is stillness, and calm, and peace.

Traditional Chinese Medicine says that when we do not live in sync with the natural world, sickness and disease occur. In modern American life, you can see how a day of stillness and rest does not always come easy on December 21. It is the peak of the holiday season – schedules are full, wallets are stressed. There are holiday parties and attend and presents to buy and commitments to schedule. There are crowds, and sparkly decorations, and holiday music blaring through the malls. And there is absolutely a time and a place for this festivity. But perhaps this year, this Sunday, this winter solstice, carve out some time for quiet. Create the space for yourself to access the natural rhythms of the world and nurture your own internal source of well-being.

Here are some suggestions for how to nurture your Yin this Winter Solstice:

  • Rest. Allow yourself to sleep in, or go to bed early, or even take a nap in the afternoon.
  • Do restorative yoga. Restorative yoga – or slow, gentle yoga focusing on deep relaxation – is a perfect Yin Solstice activity. It allows the nervous system to quiet, and allows you to drop more deeply into yourself, while still creating space for gentle movement. (This is called the “yang within the yin.”)
  • Eat yin-nourishing foods. These include naturally black-colored foods, such as blackberries, blueberries, and black beans. Fish and seaweeds can be great for nourishing the yin of the body, as can chicken, pork, yams, black sesame seeds, barley, millet, and asparagus.
  • Create a meaningful ritual that allows you to slow down and reflect. This could be a solitary walk, a half hour for journaling, sitting in meditation, or simply watching the sun set or the snow fall. It could be listening to soothing music, gently stretching in a seated or lying down position, or taking a bath.

Happy Winter Solstice!



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