Building Long-term Vitality: Winter, Water, the Kidneys & Self-Care

by in Acupuncture February 9, 2012

The element corresponding to the Winter is Water – winter is a yin season; in nature there is activity deep beneath the surface, as animals hibernate and live on stores of food saved over the year.  Traditionally this is a time of hibernation, reserved physical and mental energy, and introspection.  Winter is a time to connect with your roots and nourish essence.

The roots in Chinese Medicine are your Kidneys – one’s qi, energy and vigor is thought to stem from them, the point “Gate of Life/VItality” lies just between them.  The classics say that “the Kidneys are responsible for the creation of power.  Skill and ability stem from them.”  (Larre and Rochat de las Vallee)

What is Jing?  Jing is stored in the Kidneys and is the energetic substance that governs all the transformations and growth in your body, feeding vitality and vigor over a lifetime.  The Chinese character for Jing represents four grains or seeds bursting with potential life, and the color qing, which is the color of a sprouting bud!

Interesting facts about Kidney and Jing – Your Energy Stores
-The kidneys store jing
-Every individual has a fixed amount of jing to “spend” over a lifetime
-The quality and quantity of jing is constitutional, and it is inherited from your ancestors and parents
-In treatment, lifestyle advice is made in respect to one’s jing
-Jing is depleted by over time by overwork, frequent ejaculation in men, too many childbirths in women, frequent drug usage, poor diet, lack of rest or lack of appropriate exercise
-Jing follows a long term cycle of growth – governing reproduction and fertility, conception and pregnancy.
-For women, the jing cycle is every 7 years, for men, a new cycle of jing begins every 8 years.

So how does one nourish essence or Jing?  
-Pace  yourself.  When you push through to a “second wind” you are tapping into your jing.  Unlike qi that you receive continuously from food and air, one spent, jing can’t  be re-gained.  
-Take time to be still.  Meditate, or rest for starters.  Listen to your body if you are tired.  Stimulating it with caffeine only further erodes Kidney Yin.  
-Don’t burn the midnight oil.  Sleeping is the body’s ultimate way of rebuilding and restoring.  A rule of thumb is to be horizontal by 11:00 PM to allow your liver blood to regenerate your organ systems. 
-Eat a nourishing diet of yin foods – these include preferably organic root vegetables – yams, parsnips, beets – all soups (watery substances nourish yin), whole grains like rice in moderation, eggs, and organic non-farmed fish and sustainably-minded meats.  
-Limit or avoid refined sugars and refined foods in general, they stimulate energy but erode Kidney and Stomach Yin over time, creating heat and inflammation.  Nourish yin with whole, natural fruits.
-When thinking about nourishing yin, make sure food is warm and cooked, and that liquids are not cold!  Cold injures the kidneys.  If you enjoy a fresh green juice in the winter, add grated ginger to warm internally.  
-Follow a gentle exercise routine that gets your qi moving to the extremities and so nourishes vitality, 20-30 minutes of walking is perfect.
-Acupuncture treatment nourishes jing by supporting the kidneys and the water element, and by helping the body to remember what is truly nourishing.
-Take time to be and not do.  I’ve realized that stillness is an active practice.  It takes some time to get used to, but it is essential to nurturing yourself!
Chinese Medicine and philosophy looks at nature to see how to live healthfully.  They witnessed that all living things are dynamic, the seasons progressing naturally into one another is the basis of Five Element Acupuncture.  The same is true for the generation of energy.  Yin as stillness is the very basis for yang, dynamic vitality.  The two are intertwined and interdependent, one cannot exist without the other.  Nourishing both creates the best foundation for healthy, balanced living.

MaryFatimah Weening, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
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About MaryFatimah Weening, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
MaryFatimah has practiced acupuncture for over 10 years, and is licensed by the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, and nationally board-certified by the NCCAOM. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, and a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from Maryland University of Integrative Health.