Winter Solstice: Moments of Stillness – A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective
By Sarah Mackie – Student of TCM
Welcome to Winter Solstice!
I remember when I was little looking out the kitchen window, white snowflakes light as feathers floating down, me on my tip toes precariously perched on the electric heater, a continuous draft of heat inflating my night gown as my fingers pressed against the cold window. It was magical. The snow glistening like a million tiny diamonds under the street lamp and oh so quiet.
There is a Japanese word shinshin (pronounced sheensheen) that perfectly describes the quiet magic of snowfall. It means silence or rather an absence of sound. The snow dampens the sound around it creating stillness.
Moments of stillness that have that magical quality might be more of a distant memory to a time in our lives when things seemed to move more slowly, a time when we weren’t pulled in different directions all at once. Winter was not just cold and dark or about rushing to make an appointment to get your snow tires on. What if we looked at Winter through the eyes of a child – with wonderment and curiosity?
In traditional Chinese Medicine, Winter is a time for introspection. The darkness is not a foreboding emptiness but something mysterious to explore. It’s a time when we take stock and look at our lives, it’s a time to enter the forest of our mind and contemplate. Do we see a different path ahead or is the path we’ve taken hold promise still?
Winter also belongs to the Water Element and the energetic organs or Zhang-fu – of the Kidney & Bladder. The Kidney plays an important role in that it houses our pre-essence, the Qi (life force, energy) given to us by our parents and it also houses the Fire Gate of Life (Ming Men) and is the foundation of all the other organs, as well as, the foundation of Yin and Yang. The relationship between Water and Fire (Yin and Yang) needs to remain in balance to ensure health.
Ming men is located between the physical location of our Kidneys in the lower back in the lower processes of our 2nd Lumbar vertebrae. The acupuncture point is called Du 4 or Governing Vessel 4. Just adjacent to that point about 2 finger breadths lateral to the spine is the Back-Shu point of the Kidney – Bladder 23. Both points powerfully tonify or nourish the Kidney. It offers courage and if there is forgetfulness, confusion, it clears the consciousness. This is also a point to stimulate for depression or emotional withdrawal – it coaxes you to reengage with the world. They are also wonderful points for low back pain, feeling of cold in the body, reproductive issues like infertility, and impotence.
Winter Exercises: Massaging Ming Men + Stimulating Kidney Back-Shu
There are many ways you can stimulate Ming Men and the Kidney Back-Shu:
Ming Men – Massage the area with this exercise:
Begin by lying on your back bringing your knees to chest and placing hands on your knees.
Gently, move your knees in a circular motion applying pressure to the low back and gently massaging.
Complete the excerise by moving in a circular motion for 3-4 times, then going into opposite direction.
Yin Yoga Sphinx Pose – A great way to stimulate Du 4:
Yin Yoga Sphinx Pose
Simply lie on your stomach and gently lift up, the opposite hand clasping the opposite elbow ensuring your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Make sure your legs are apart and in a slight v- formation.
After awhile you can bend your knees to put a little extra pressure on Du 4.
Step 3: Complete the excerise by holding the pose for 3-5 minutes. Or to the length of your comfort level.
Another wonderful thing to do is to apply heat to Du 4. This will help strengthen your immunity and keep the Ming Men fire warm and alive. You can use a heated magic bag or heat up a towel in the dryer and place it on your low back.
If possible, perform these movements in the morning to awaken the body or in the evening to relax a tired body. Make sure to move in and out of each posture carefully and remember that all exercises should be pain free, so if you experience pain during the movement, stop the exercise.
Hopefully these exercises will bring you relief this Winter. Of course, booking an appointment at Therapy Lounge with our Acupuncturist Jennifer Keith will help maintain the Yin/Yang balance and our overall health during these winter months.
We also now offer Counselling with our Registered Social Worker Roxana Condorand Mental Health Counsellor Kim Crossman who can help you navigate your winter introspection!
Winter Essential Oil Spotlight + Self Care: Protect + Purify with On Guard
The On Guard blend has a spicy, energizing, uplifting aroma, and a chemical makeup that has cleansing properties. It has incredible uses and benefits for both body and home. With powerful immune-supporting properties, On Guard is well-known for its ability to protect against environmental and seasonal threats. An effective non-toxic cleaning agent that can be used to clean skin and household surfaces. On Guard can also be diffused to help cleanse and purify the air.
Ingredients: Orange Oil, Clove Bud Oil, Cinnamon Leaf Oil, Cinnamon Bark Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Rosemary Oil
On Guard Essential Oil Uses:
Topical use: Dilute 1 drop with 5-10 drops of carrier oil to minimize skin sensitivity.
*Apply topically to the chest and bottoms of feet when seasonal threats are high, to increase circulation and to experience its energizing, uplifting aroma.
To Diffuse: Use 3-4 drops of On Guard Essential Oil in the diffuser with filtered water.
*Diffuse to cleanse the air and to provide a positive, sweet, spicy aroma.
~Protect & Purify:
2 drops On Guard + 2 drops Peppermint
~Protect & Sleep:
2 drops On Guard + 2 drops Lavender
~Alert & Awake:
2 drops On Guard + 2 drops Wild Orange + 2 drops Peppermint
2 drops On Guard + 2 drops Easy Air
2 drops On Guard + 2 drops Lemon + 2 drops Tea Tree
*DIY Potpourri: Get creative with On Guard Essential Oil by making DIY Potpourri that will leave your house smelling fresh with the spice and citrus scents of On Guard Essential Oil. Simply arrange craft pinecones and fresh cinnamon sticks in a decorative dish of your choosing and add a few drops of On Guard to add an uplifting and purifying aroma.
*DIY Cleaner: An effective non-toxic cleaner that will work well for most cleaning jobs around the house.
2 cups of Water
2 tbsp of On Guard Concentrate (OR 4 tbsp of Liquid Castile Soap)
20 drops of On Guard Essential Oil (OR 10 drops On Guard EO and 10 drops Peppermint EO)
Combine ingredients into a glass spray bottle. Spray on desired surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
Possible skin sensitivity. Keep out of reach of children. If you are pregnant, nursing, or under a doctor’s care, consult your physician. Avoid contact with eyes, inner ears, and sensitive areas. Avoid sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after applying product.