The Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine) is an ancient Chinese medical text dating back to over 2,000 years. It is a fundamental text upon which Chinese medicine is based. Chapter Two is translated as “On preserving Health in Accordance with the Four Seasons.” Times certainly have changed since then with our climate-controlled environments!
When we travel from our heated home to the car and then to ofﬁce, it might be hard to really feel the extreme effects of the seasons. With artificial light available anytime at the ﬂip of a switch, or with all of our back-lit gadgets, we might miss our internal signal that it’s time to go to bed. Despite these technological advances, the human body itself and its basic requirements for health remain the same. Clean air, nutritious food, and adequate rest.
Chapter One of the Huang Di Nei Jing reminds us to live in sync with seasonal changes for optimal health:
“Spring is the beginning of things when energy should be kept ﬂuid; summer opens up further into an exchange or communication between internal and external energies; in the fall it’s important to conserve; ﬁnally, winter is dominated by the storage of energy. By paying attention and following this cycle one can maintain optimal health.”
The common yin-yang symbol shows a piece of one within the other signifying that when one side reaches its peak, it starts to convert into the other side. Yin-yang theory is used to evaluate the nature of a subject. Yin aspects may be described as heavy, cold, deep, and dark. Yang is described as light, warm, superﬁcial, and bright. All things contain yin and yang qualities to varying degrees.
Another fundamental concept in Chinese medicine is the 5 element theory of correspondences.
This is a theory of categorization. Each season has an associated element, emotion, taste, organ and body part. Winter for example, is associated with the element of water, emotion of fear, salty ﬂavor, the kidneys and bladder, bones, ears, low back, and virtue of will power. This means that there are foods and activities that will help us adjust better to the seasonal changes and body parts to which we need to pay more attention to, to protect and keep healthy.
The winter solstice is coming. At that time the yin will be at its peak on the longest night of the year. After this point of extreme yin, nature gives way to increase the amount of light and warmth of yang qi around us. From this day on we’ll start to get a little bit more light day by day! This prepares us for the growth and renewal of spring.
Here are some tips to help ease the transition of winter.
- Eat warming foods and spices like hearty soups and stews, roasted nuts, root vegetables, beans, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon. Avoid raw fruits and vegetables and cold foods this time of year as it is too cold for proper digestion.
- Go to sleep early, rest, stay warm, and avoid over exertion of any kind.
- Always keep your neck and low back covered and warm. If you know you will be outside for an extended period of time, wear one of those air activated heating packs (ie. Thermacare).
- Make time to relax and release stress on a daily basis. Moderate exercise, Tai chi, and yoga, are important in the winter months to keep muscles and joints healthy and ﬂexible.
- Share thoughts and release emotions that are stuck or repetitious. Create moments for meditation and express gratitude on a daily basis.
- Bing, Wang, A. Wu, N. Wu, Yellow Empero’s Canon Internal Medicine
- Cecil-Sterman, Ann, Advanced Acupuncture A Clinical Manual, 2012, Classical Wellness Press, LTD
- Ni, Maoshing, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine - A New Translation of the NeiJing Su Wen with Commentary, 1995, Shambala Publications.
- Wu, Jing-Nuan, Ling Shu or Spiritual Pivot, 1995, University of Hawai’i Press
- Yuen, Jeffrey, Lecture notes from Advanced Acupuncture Program, 2013