According to the Chinese Calendar Winter, the most Yin time of the year ruled by the Water Element and the Kidneys, starts on the 7th- 8th day of November. By now, the hours of light have become much less than the hours of darkness.
The Yin Yang cycle and Winter
A brief reminder of how the Yin Yang cycle works can give a glimpse into how their change and transformation manifest at this time of the year as well as the overall quality of its days.
From Winter (Yin) to Summer (Yang), the sun (Yang) warms and brings light to the world with increasing power. The seed hidden in the soil sprouts upwards and gradually manifest its form (Yin) clearly by blooming and bearing its fruits. Summer completes this process. Nature has slowly expanded to reach its maximum expression.
From Summer (Yang) to Winter (Yin) , however, the sun rises later and sets earlier than in the previous period. Darkness and coldness set in gradually. The lymph that had been helped to raise to the top of the trees by the impetus of the expanding and ascending Yang in order to nourish even the furthest branches and leaves, without its support sinks and can no longer sustain the tree's expansion and growth. Thus in Late Summer (less Yang) the fruits drop on the ground or are harvested for later storge and, eventually, in Autumn (even less Yang than Late Summer) all its leaves become dry and fall. Winter (Yin) completes this process. Nature has gradually contracted to reach its maximum level of quiescence.
As, according to Chinese Medicine’s physiology all “human beings are one with heaven 天人合一” our body, resonating with nature, also behaves accordingly. From Winter to Summer it calls us to become increasingly active and manifest all our potentials whereas from Summer to Winter. it calls us to become increasingly quiet and mellow, and rest.
All what said above can be put into the words of the principle, regulating Yin Yang, namely that:
“When the Yang is born, Yin grows, when Yang declines, Yin hides 陽生因長, 陽蔑 因藏”.
On its grounds it is possible to understand Chinese Medicine's 'physiology' and 'mechanisms of pathology' and, also, derive from it the correct 'principles of treatment'. This logic can be applied to the practice of acupuncture or of any other clinical method of Chinese Medicine.
The above principle of Yin Yang implies that when Yang grows, expanding and ascending Yin, losing its contracting and down bearing character, expands and rises with it, manifesting all the details of its forms. It also implies the contrary. When Yang declines and no longer can either expand or rise, warm or promote activity, Yin finds its natural contracting nature and shrinks to the mere essential.
In the symbol of Taiji, or Yin Yang symbol, the small Yang is marked by a small dot in the middle. This small dot, on the other hand, marks also the position from which Yang starts to grow again. Important here is to note that Yang does not disappear: its small seed simply hides in the midst of Yin. This is also represented by a continuous line in the middle of two broken lines expressing the Kan 坎 trigramme. Declining Yang means: loss of heat, the setting in of cold and darkness and a general slowing down, characterised by very much reduced activity and expansion. This is Winter.
The Yang, weakened by activity and reduced to its own shadow, now needs to be nourished and rest. Who can nourish it. Where can it rest? But of course Yin Water, the Shao Yin and the Kidneys, the house of all potentiality. Just like the seed in winter or the small Yang dot in the symbol, the Yang aspect of human life needs to rest, to be nourished. The shorter hours of daylight and the cold weather, call all people to retire in the warmth of their homes and find restoration in sleep (Yin).
The “Huangdi Neijing - Suwen，黃帝內經 – 素問“ Ch.2, gives clear directions on how people should conduct their life at this time of the year in order to stay healthy:
- Go to sleep early
- Raise after daybreak
- Keep warm, but avoid sweating
- Refrain from any emotional excess
- Abstain from overwork and intense physical activity
The Yin Yang of 'Nourishing the body'
From the perspective of nutrition, we should aim at bringing on the table foods (often powered by herbs) that enrich the Yin and support and refrain Yang from rising to the surface, to the Tai Yang level, and be lost.
Foods appropriate for the Winter season are:
- Small beans: chickpeas, kidney beans, azuki beans
- Vegetables in season
- Broth made with the bones of large animals
- Meats: lamb, pork, beef, chicken
- Sea weeds
- Dark green vegetables in season
- Black mushrooms
- Some grease : lard, butter and ghee.
- Spicy herbs that expel the cold like: i.e. fresh ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom support the Yang in its shelter. It is also possible to add some stronger spices that make the Qi move upwards (i.e. chilli), pepper, but use them sparingly as they can produce sweat, which is undesirable in Winter. Adding a small amount, helps the Yang move just as much as needed for the body to maintain Qi circulation.
- Apples, pears, oranges and lemons
- Nuts: pecan nuts, walnuts, pine kernels
Yin Yang - Cooking methods
Roasting and baking as well as slow cooking and stewing add intense heat to food. It makes it more Yang, and more appropriate to the season.
Balancing Yin Yang - Preventative treatment
Winter colds and chills can be prevented and the body’s ability to support the Yang in its ‘ Yin hiding place’ can be helped by:
- Applying 12 moxa cones to St 36 Zusanli 足三里 on 12 consecutive days either at the end of Autumn or at the very beginning of Winter. As this point, the the point of the Yang Ming, Stomach channel of the foot, full of Qi and Blood, can best keep the body strong and healthy and boost immunity.
- Avoid ‘tonifying’ the Yang and make it move up and to the surface, but aim at leading it to enter the Kidneys root and be stores there. This can be done by helping the descending function of Yang Ming and Tai Yin. Let it stay there undisturbed. In this period, the Kidneys pulse is naturally deep, but this is not abnormal as this reflects the Yang Qi sitting quiet in its Winter shelter, held and contained as it is in the Kan trigram.
- Avoid strenuous activity, sleeping late and getting out of bed before daybreak.