By April Schulte-Barclay
Monday, January 2, 2017
When was the last time you heard yourself or someone else say, “Hey, great job for sleeping in, laying low, eating regular meals and going to bed when the sun went down today.”
In today’s ramped up, fast-paced world, we tend to value productivity and resist rest and rejuvenation. We praise ourselves and others when projects are complete, business is thriving, the house and yard are clean, the kids are stimulated by activities, the Christmas cards are written, the car was taken for a maintenance check and so forth.
Unfortunately, we tend to put ourselves down when the to-do list gets avoided, business is down, the dishes are sitting in the sink, the kids aren’t scheduled to the hilt, the Christmas cards are still in the box and the maintenance light in the car is still haunting you.
The kicker is, optimal productivity must have equal and opposite quieter times of rest, rejuvenation and planning. What does this have to do with your health? The answer is everything.
Consider the theory of yin and yang energy.
Yang aspects include sunlight, warmth, functionality, productivity, summer time and qi (“chee”).
Conversely, yin aspects include darkness, coolness, rest, rejuvenation, wintertime and bodily fluids. The theory of yin and yang is represented well in a yin-yang symbol, where white represents yang and black represents yin.
When looking at the symbol, you will notice yang feeds yin, and yin feeds yang. Without the other, each will perish.
Many long-term chronic diseases can be blamed largely in part because of what is referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as “yin deficiency.”
Yin-deficient patients will have internal dryness (beyond dehydration) resulting in inflammatory conditions.
An explicit example is spring allergies. If you experience spring allergies, the time to treat them is in the winter. In the annual cycle, spring is the introduction of yang energy after the most yin time of year, winter. When yin is at appropriate levels internally, the inflammatory nature of allergies is held at bay because the body has enough nutrients and clarity of the immune system to function optimally.
Thereby, nourishing yin and our immune systems in the wintertime can anchor inflammatory processes, like allergies in the spring. Very similar circumstances arise for many autoimmune conditions, chronic musculoskeletal pain, anxiety and hormone imbalances.
The concept of yin deficiency is missed by conventional medicine.
When one’s yin is replaced, the body’s ability to heal itself is enhanced dramatically. Herbs and foods nourish yin energy, but nourishing yin is not as simple and easy as popping a pill.
Nourishing yin requires mindfulness — mindfulness in how you spend your energy, mindfulness in what you eat and mindfulness in feeding your spirit.
A simple exercise is to take a small span of time, even five minutes, and ask yourself:
What does my body and spirit need right now? Am I hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Bored? Lonely? Does my body need to move?
Once you determine the answers, you can more appropriately cure what ails you. Honor what your body is asking of you. If you are hungry, eat nourishing food. If you are thirsty, drink a nourishing drink. If you are tired, rest. If you are bored, find something to do that feeds your desires for joy. If you are lonely, reach out to a friend or take a walk in a park and say hello to those around you. If your body feels stagnant, exercise.
So, this winter, pay attention to your body and spirit. Notice that the yin of the day, darkness, ensues earlier in the evening and stays longer in the morning. Darkness insinuates rest.
Take advantage of the opportunity winter provides for us to rest and rejuvenate so that when the yang of spring and summer encroaches we have appropriate energy to work and play during the longer sun hours of the day.
By the time yin deficiency is affecting the body physiologically and causing illness, expect nourishing the yin to take some time.
The path to nourishing yin, and thereby soothing chronic inflammatory processes, is a long and steady one. Reach out to health care professionals who understand this concept and know how to replenish yin in the most effective way possible, utilizing diet, behavioral health, herbs and more.