Winter Solstice: the pinnacle of darkness, stillness, and quiet, but with a glimmer of hope, renewal, and rebirth – the gradual return of light. It’s no coincidence that the most festive holidays occur during the shortest days of the year, as humanity attempts to balance darkness with light. Considered the midpoint of the winter Solar Terms, the Winter Solstice marks an important pivoting point as nature’s budding Yang energy begins to emerge from the depths of Yin.
Based on both solar and lunar calendars, the 24 Solar Terms, or Seasonal Nodes, are biweekly divisions reflecting significant natural shifts. People in East Asia have been using the wisdom of Seasonal Nodes to guide agricultural and human activity since the 17th century BCE.
Understanding these patterns can help us “swim with the current” of nature – in other words, harness the vast forces of nature to optimize our well-being and enhance our endeavors. This seasonal series will explain the Seasonal Nodes as organized into the four seasons we are already familiar with. Here’s what it means for Winter:
- Beginning of Winter (Nov 8-21: Scorpio)
- Entering the season of utmost Yin.
- Minor Snow (Nov 22 – Dec 6: Sagittarius)
- First snowfalls occur, and temperatures drop.
- Major Snow (Dec 7- Dec 20: Sagittarius)
- Snowfall gradually increases
- Winter Solstice (Dec 21 – 5: Capricorn)
- Daylight is the shortest, and nighttime is the longest. Yin reaches its greatest depth, then slowly pivots into the Yang season of Spring.
- Minor Cold (Jan 6-19: Capricorn)
- Temperatures continue to drop, but sunlight increases.
- Major Cold (Jan 20 – Feb 3: Aquarius)
- The last solar term of Winter brings the coldest time of the year. At the same time, chicken eggs begin to hatch, signifying the renewal of the following 24 Seasonal Nodes.
Winter is associated with the Water element. Water is supple and yielding, taking infinite shapes and forms; yet, with patient resilience, it can also carve rocks and erode canyons. As the foundation of all life, the power of Water lies precisely in its softness.
Our Kidneys are Water Element organs and, thus, are the foundation of our vital energies, known as Qi and Essence. Our Kidney Essence ignites and propels all life processes: birth, growth, reproduction, and aging. During this season of utmost Yin, we are invited to connect with the deepest core of our beings and process our untouched emotions. Only when we tap into this hidden potential can we emerge with transformative renewal in Spring.
How to tap into our deepest Yin storage of Winter
“During the Winter months, all things in nature wither, hide, return home, and enter a resting period, just as lakes and rivers freeze and snow falls” ~ Huangdi Neijing (ancient Chinese medical classic)
- Retire to bed earlier and sleep in longer. Hibernation is for animals, including humans, as we enter the season of conservation and storage.
- Stay warm and keep covered, especially your feet. Think foot baths, warm socks, and thick boots – keeping your feet cozy will warm up the entire body since the Kidney meridian begins on the sole of the foot.
- Exercise moderately and minimize sweating. Vigorous exercise in Winter depletes our energy stores and fatigues us in Spring and Summer. Instead, yoga, qigong, journaling, meditation, and breathwork align with the introspective and grounding nature of the season so we can burst forth with fresh vigor in Spring.
- Connect with others, but to an extent. Protect and preserve your emotional energy, while still maintaining close relationships.
- “Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a happy secret” ~Huangdi Neijing
- Warm foods and drinks are always recommended, but especially in Winter, when heat is more precious. The key qualities of a nourishing winter diet are warmth and nutrient density.
- Root vegetables – such as carrots, beets, turnips, and potatoes – are nutrient storehouses, and, therefore, particularly beneficial to our Kidney storehouses of vital Qi. Roots take longer to grow, thus, giving them a denser, warmer nature than stems and leaves of the same plant.
- Nuts, seeds, and whole grains – such as walnuts, chestnuts, sesame seeds, and hemp seeds – are complete powerhouses of Essence, as they contain enough vital life force to grow an entire living organism.
- Heavier animal products – such as lamb, pork, seafood, and bone broth – also deeply nourish the Kidneys.
- Slow-cooking, roasting, and baking – are cooking techniques that further infuse our food with heat that is later transferred to our bodies when we eat.
By embodying the cyclical wisdom of the Seasonal Nodes, we can maximize our human potential and live a more harmonious life with ourselves, others, and nature. Although adjusting our lifestyles may help prevent future imbalances, a more personalized approach from your practitioner may be necessary to correct existing imbalances. Winter is a particularly wonderful time for moxibustion, in addition to acupuncture and herbs!