WINTER – The Way of the Water Element

Winter is the season of culmination of all that has transpired in the year. Officially, winter begins with the winter solstice, December 21. In a few months, Spring will come along to begin anew. Seeds lie quietly dense with stored energy, anticipating the upcoming cycle of new growth.

Season of Light

Meanwhile, as we harmonize with winter, we emphasize the yin principle if we allow ourselves to become more receptive, introspective, storing. This can be a time of profound healing at every level of one’s being – our deepest essence touched, restored. We cool the surface of the body and warm the core. Cold and darkness (less day-light) move us to seek inner warmth. It is a time to rest, to meditate deeply, refine one’s spiritual essence, and store physical energy. Yet, we must stay active to keep the spine and joints flexible and adaptable (qigong, t’ai chi practices are ideal).

This is the time of the water element; midnight blue/dark purple/black; kidneys and bladder, bones, bone marrow, reproductive organs, body fluids, ears. It is said that the kidneys open to the ears – meaning that hearing is related to the health of the kidneys, the organs most affected by wintertime. The ability to listen clearly is heightened in the cold, silent months. Keep the kidneys and adrenals (atop the kidneys) warm and comfortable. This includes keeping the feet warm – the first kidney point in the meridian being at the sole of the foot. This is a time to recharge our life batteries with loving care and appreciation.

In Balance the water energy of the kidney/adrenal function (energetically speaking) – one experiences strong healthy bones, knees, lower back, teeth; good hearing and ear health; healthy hair; urinary, sexual, and reproductive health; vibrant vitality / youthful aging; strong sense of personal will and gentle power (rather than a sense of excessive fear, stress, insecurity).

Renew your Gentle Power; Release Fear and Stress

Renew your Gentle Power; Release Fear and Stress

Food: Warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts are the staples in this season. Dried foods, small dark beans, seaweed, sea vegetables, and steamed winter greens fortify the kidneys in winter. Cook foods longer, at low temperatures and with less water – the qi taking on a more sinking, dense, inward character. Salty (naturally salty or moderate use of sea salt) and bitter foods are appropriate for the season – lettuce, watercress, endive, escarole, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, carrot top, rye, oats, quinoa, and amaranth, chicory root (often found in grain ‘coffee’), miso, soy sauce, millet, and barley. Take in warm drinks, avoid cold. Drink less alcohol than usual, if any.

Self-Care in Action (what you can do):

  • Enjoy going within and experiencing your own infinitely deep source of gentle power (no need for force) and trusting in your natural state of being able to act will-fully, easily, joyfully in alignment with your purpose and passion.
  • Practices include: slow t’ai chi, qigong; ocean breathing qigong; spine rolling qigong; laughter qigong; 6 healing sounds qigong, inner smile qigong.
  • Play with preparing foods that support your well-being, rather than those that draw you into a need for re-cooperation.
  • Upon arising in the morning, sip 4 cups of warm water (yin/yang water, mix room temperature and heated water)
  • Meditate. This suggested focus will be particularly powerful on the winter solstice, December 21. Stand outside facing the north, the direction of the Water element. Visualize and feel the power of the north in the form of blue light qi. Gather this qi into your body through your inhalation, through your pores, through the door of life in your lower back, and through the crown of your head.
    As your body fills with blue light Qi, visualize that your body becomes transformed into translucent pure blue jade. Feel that you have absorbed the essence of the Water element and that you are recharged and renewed.
  • The holidays…since we live in the West, a time packed with holidays, practice moderation, so you can enjoy the holidays as well as listening to your inner nature, all of nature: Attend only the events/gatherings most important to you – choose foods/drinks that nurture and nourish you, stay only as long as feels good for you; Schedule quiet, alone time, rest.

AUTUMN: Metal Element Way of Tao

Fall is the season of harvest, a time to pull inward and gather together on all levels, a time to store up fuel, food, and warm clothing, a time to study and plan for the approaching stillness of winter. Everything in nature contracts and moves its essence inward and downward.Easing Into Autumn Leaves and fruit fall, seeds dry, the sap of trees goes into the roots. This is the time of the Metal element, the lungs, skin, nose, color white, pungent flavor, balanced emotions of joy, harmony, courage. Imbalances such as grief, sadness, and despair can be transformed with our conscious attention to our patterns and practices.

Foods: We become aware of the season’s abundant yet contracting nature. Choose more astringent foods (e.g. spinach and radish) with heartier flavors. Cooking methods involve focused preparation to supply greater energy required by cooler seasons. The essence of food is received through the sense of smell, with baked or sauteed dishes – concentrated foods to thicken the blood for winter. In general, cook with less water, lower heat, for longer periods of time. Include more sour (a little goes a long way) foods such as sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yogurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and the sour varieties of apples, plums, and grapes. To counter dryness, add a small amount of fresh soy products, spinach, barley, millet, pear, persimmon, loquat, seaweeds, almond, sesame seed, honey, eggs, and a little salt in cooking moistens dryness.

Connecting with the Earth. As we root our feet and open to receiving the earth’s nourishing energies, be mindful that the ground is becoming cooler now. Shoes should be warn when standing on cool ground. This includes indoors. Enjoy bare feet when the day is warm and the earth has been warmed by the sun.

What you can do:
Pressing back palms qigong; qi self massage – tapping the thymus gland, SSSSS healing sound, playing the Tiger movement.

Access your inner courage, integrity, happiness - Tiger frolic with healing sound

Access your inner courage, integrity, happiness – Tiger frolic with healing sound; qi self massage lung tops/cross forearms over heart.

Don’t know these practices yet?

Please join us at qigong and /or tai chi class.

September is National Fall Prevention Awareness Month

Exciting things will be happening all month in honor of National Fall Prevention Awareness Day, First Day of Fall.

Heather with Dr Paul Lam, TCHI Founder and Dr Richard Carmona, 17th US Surgeon General

We enjoyed numerous wonderful events across Arizona in 2017.  Check this space for September 2018 Fall Prevention Awareness events, culminating in Dr Lam coming to Phoenix AZ in October.

Falls are NOT a natural part of the aging process.  Programs such as the evidence based,  Tai chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention program,  endorsed by the CDC, National council on Aging,  Arthritis Foundation, and more,   help millions of people every day to gain strength, balance, mobility, and friendships.   Locally instructors offer weekly classes designed to be safe, effective, and enjoyable.  Ask Master Trainer, Heather Chalon, MPH how you can participate in classes,  learn how to become a practice leader or instructor,  bring the program to your location.

Many people think falls are a normal part of aging. The truth is, they’re not. Most falls can be prevented—and you have the power to reduce your risk.

Exercising, managing your medications, having your vision checked, and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Every year on the first day of fall, we celebrate National Falls Prevention Awareness Day to bring attention to this growing public health issue. To promote greater awareness and understanding here are 10 common myths—and the reality—about older adult falls:

Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me.

Reality: Many people think, “It won’t happen to me.” But the truth is that 1 in 4 older adults fall every year in the U.S.

Myth 2: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.

Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Myth 3: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.

Reality: Some people believe that the best way to prevent falls is to stay at home and limit activity. Not true. Performing physical activities will actually help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active. Social activities are also good for your overall health.

Myth 4: As long as I stay at home, I can avoid falling.

Reality: Over half of all falls take place at home. Inspect your home for fall risks. Fix simple but serious hazards such as clutter, throw rugs, and poor lighting. Make simple home modifications, such as adding grab bars in the bathroom, a second handrail on stairs, and non-slip paint on outdoor steps.

Myth 5: Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained.

Reality: While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. It’s never too late to start an exercise program. Even if you’ve been a “couch potato” your whole life, becoming active now will benefit you in many ways—including protection from falls.

Myth 6: Taking medication doesn’t increase my risk of falling.

Reality: Taking any medication may increase your risk of falling. Medications affect people in many different ways and can sometimes make you dizzy or sleepy. Be careful when starting a new medication. Talk to your health care provider about potential side effects or interactions of your medications.

Myth 7: I don’t need to get my vision checked every year.

Reality: Vision is another key risk factor for falls. Aging is associated with some forms of vision loss that increase risk of falling and injury. People with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as those without visual impairment. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your eyeglasses. For those with low vision there are programs and assistive devices that can help. Ask your optometrist for a referral.

Myth 8: Using a walker or cane will make me more dependent.

Reality: Walking aids are very important in helping many older adults maintain or improve their mobility. However, make sure you use these devices safely. Have a physical therapist fit the walker or cane to you and instruct you in its safe use.

Myth 9: I don’t need to talk to family members or my health care provider if I’m concerned about my risk of falling. I don’t want to alarm them, and I want to keep my independence.

Reality: Fall prevention is a team effort. Bring it up with your doctor, family, and anyone else who is in a position to help. They want to help you maintain your mobility and reduce your risk of falling.

Myth 10: I don’t need to talk to my parent, spouse, or other older adult if I’m concerned about their risk of falling. It will hurt their feelings, and it’s none of my business.

Reality: Let them know about your concerns and offer support to help them maintain the highest degree of independence possible. There are many things you can do, including removing hazards in the home, finding a fall prevention program in the community, or setting up a vision exam.