Taoist philosophy conceptualizes universal balance in terms of yin and yang, complementary forces that govern our universe. Yin characteristics are cool, wet, slow, feminine, and quiet, where yang is the opposite: warm, dry, fast, masculine, extroverted. Winter, the yin season, is a time for storing and conserving energy in the way a bear retains fat by hibernating, or a farmer stores food for the cold months ahead.
To stay balanced during winter it is suggested that we conserve our yang energy. Yin yoga, restorative, tai chi, qigong, and walking are best suited for yin season, as they safeguard our energy reserves. Think of these practices as an investment of your ‘energy paycheck’. Don’t use up what little winter energy you have with overactivity and added stress.
Eating cooked, spicy yang foods provides another good way to replenish energy. Prepare yang-strengthening soups, slow-simmered stews, beans, roasted root vegetables, and warm drinks. Add yang spices such as garlic, ginger, black pepper, cloves, and basil to increase the warming effect. Minimize your intake of yin foods such as raw veggies, salad greens, and cold drinks.
If you find quiet, more modest ways to enjoy your weekends and evening, you’ll stay in tune with the season and feel less need to release tension by overeating. You’ll also have more time and energy to connect with loved ones and you’ll find your self more in step with the quiet, nurturing yin nature of winter.
And, of course, come try one of my yin yoga classes if you happen to be in Tuscany.