During Winter, it is important that we conserve our energy as a seed does in nature, that we rest and preserve the essence of life, preparing for the rebirth of Spring.
Water, the element associated with the energetic season of Winter in traditional Chinese medicine, is the source of life.
It flows, hydrates and purifies. It’s a vehicle carrying nourishment to living things–plants, animals, humans. It can be hard or soft, gentle or powerful, flowing or standing still and stagnating.
In its natural environment it seeks always to flow downwards and fill every space it contacts, but in our body the water circulates in spite of the lack of a designated pump such as the heart for blood circulation. The proof that there is such water circulation is the fact that without it our body shape would be totally different with all the bulk in our legs.
Water circulation is the function of the aspect of vital energy called Water. Proper distribution comes from movement and good breathing. Deep breathing throughout the day activates the largest muscle in the body, the diaphragm, which provides a powerful pumping action ensuring water circulation throughout the body.
In very cold climates, the Winter tendency to hibernate and reduce physical activity must be overcome to ensure enough physical movement and deep breathing necessary for proper water circulation and to avoid water retention, particularly in the legs.
When we’re born, our bodies are about 80% water. As we grow older, we progressively lose water from evaporation that has not been properly replaced. A healthy adult body is comprised of about 75% water. Elderly people might even get to a low of 60%. Further dehydration can become a cause of death.
“The more buff you are (muscle tissue stores more water) the wetter you are. Because women generally have more fat cells, they tend to be a bit drier. Fat cells aren’t as moist. The water that lubricates your joints flushes your waste, assists seminal reproduction, and absorbs shocks to your bones—as you age, the moisturizer in you slowly dwindles.” –Robert Krulwich, Krulwich Wonders on NPR
The importance of proper hydration cannot be underestimated. The medical community is increasingly realizing that most adults are more or less in a severe state of dehydration.
Unfortunately, our drinking water quality is not always satisfactory. Drinking an ample amount of good water is necessary but not fully sufficient. Minerals and electrolytes are necessary. In this regard, fluid from fruits and vegetables is highly desirable. Conversely, too much dry food ( an example would be crackers) contributes to inner dryness.
It is recommended to drink a cup of water per waking hour at regular intervals during the day. It is also good to have water available if and when we wake up during the night. Drinking sodas or coffee is not a substitute for our very necessary water intake quota. In fact, any diuretic such as coffee will eliminate fluid from our body requiring a double dose of hydration to compensate.
Although occasional flushing of toxins from active perspiration is desirable, the rest of the time, limiting natural evaporation–loss of water from our body–is necessary. Application of a good hydrating cream on the face or hydrating body lotion after a bath or shower will also assist to reduce the rate of evaporation through the day.
During the Winter energetic season, signs that we are not in balance with the energetic flow of the season and its element, Water, include the following:
Joint weakness, joint swelling, rheumatism, arthritis, tooth decay, osteoporosis (bones and bone marrow are the tissues associated with Winter in TCM). All bones draw nourishment from the energy of kidney and bladder. The cells that carry nourishment, strength and renewal throughout the body are regenerated in the bone marrow.
Thirst and dryness (water is the element associated with Winter according to TCM).
Frequency or infrequency of urination (the Winter associated orifices are the genitals, urethra, and anus; kidney is Winter’s organ and bladder Winter’s viscera).
Excess or deficiency of perspiration, putrid body odor (when the water element is not flowing adequately even to the point of stagnation in the body).
Reduced metabolism; dehydration compromises metabolism.
High or low blood pressure (salty is the taste of the Winter season). Too much salt in the system causes fluid retention and is therefore not recommended for high blood pressure patients. Too much salty food is bad for the blood.
Sexual weakness, infertility, sterility (the genitals are one of the orifices associated with Winter in TCM). Healthy reproduction, the functioning of the testes and ovaries, and the flow of energy necessary to perform the sexual act all depend on Water element balance. The environment essential for the development of the embryo is water.
Depression, inhibited or blocked emotions, apathy, lack of will power or determination (will power is the spiritual resource associated with Winter in TCM). The kidney (Winter’s organ) stores Jing, the life force or impetus. Without good Jing, one can have difficulty coping with even the simplest of tasks.
Fear, aloofness, shyness, phobias, an inability to face risk (fear is Winter’s associated emotion). A feeling of foreboding or anxiety may arise. An inability to let go of anxieties or falling into despair is a sign of Water imbalance. “Extreme fear can damage the kidneys, but it can be counteracted by contemplation.” –Neijing Suwen
Vertigo, dizziness, loss of balance (ears are the sense organ for Winter in TCM).
Balding (hair is the external physical manifestation of Winter). Strong healthy hair reflects good Jing or life force.
Constant complaints (moaning and groaning are known as the sound associated with TCM’s Winter energetic season).
Shaking as a release of withheld tension (accumulation and storage are associated with the Winter element in TCM).
– Krulwich, Robert. Krulwich Wonders. "Born Wet, Human Babies Are 75 Percent Water. Then Comes The Drying."http://www.npr.org/sections/krulwich/2013/11/25/247212488/born-wet-human-babies-are-75-percent-water-then-comes-drying. N.p., 26 Nov. 2013. Web.
Chellini, Serena. Compendium of Traditional Chinese Medicine. N.p.: Google, n.d. Print.