By Anne-Sophie Morel.
Living amongst the hustle and bustle of big cities, we often forget that we are part of nature, and are therefore influenced by its cycles. Winter and night-time are periods of rest and repair. Animals and plants alike retreat inwards. Humans are the only beings to fight against this natural time of rest. Electric lights and central heating enable us to carry on, neglecting these crucial phases of regeneration.
One of the principles of Chinese health preservation (Yang Sheng) is that to be healthy and happy we need to live in harmony with the various cycles that govern nature, be they yearly, monthly, or daily. So many of us live our lives in a rush that we need to rediscover the ability to rest fully and allow our bodies to regenerate. Winter invites us to relax, retreat inwards, experience stillness. Relish it!
Imagine a frozen lake. When all is calm and serene, far away from the buzz of the summer, we can stop and become more aware. With stillness, all the sounds are clearer: we can turn our intention inward and truly listen to what our body and environment is telling us. The pause between the in and out breath, this nothingness that some of us dread, is absolutely crucial to all cycles in life. It’s the ocean in which ideas are formed, it’s the seed. Without the ability to return to this state, we run around like headless chicken, exhausting our energy. This winter, take the time to savour being quiet and replenishing yourself.
A well-adapted diet is at the base of all healing. We need to be eating fresh food in tune with the seasons and the place we live. For most of us, we know instinctively that winter is not the time for an all-raw diet. Winter is the time for steaming, soup-making, braising, and slow-cooking food which will soften it and make its nutrients easier to digest. Many of the herbs and spices in our kitchens are actually part of the Chinese pharmacopoeia, and the warming ones are ideal for the winter season! Cinnamon, cardamon, clove, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, and ginger are all excellent at sustaining the warmth of the body through the long cold days and nights.
Winter should be a time of rest, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exercise! Cold freezes and stagnates. Our muscles starts to tighten up, so it’s important to maintain sufficient movement in our body. However, we should keep exercise to a moderate level and not overly disperse our energy. If you are unwell, you should keep to indoor activities. If you are well and enjoy exercising outside, you should keep our lower back and feet warm; don’t let the cold penetrate into your core. And if you are not into training, maybe it’s time to find out what activity you really enjoy doing – joining a salsa class can just as beneficial as joining a gym (and a lot more fun)!
Respecting the changing of the seasons and adapting the way you eat and live enables you to reconnect with the patterns of change in nature. We are part of nature, and need to embrace those changes in our own lives.