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8branches Chinese Medicine

8 healthy winter practices

Nourish and restore your mind and body during the winter with these easy tips you can practice throughout the season.

1. Sleep – Achieve better sleep by retiring to bed before 10 p.m., turning your electronics off at least an hour before.  Keep a notepad by your bed and make a list if you find your mind wandering or ruminating on tasks.  Focus on deep breathing and massage sore spots to allow your body to slip into maximum relaxation.

2. Water – During the winter months, drink water at room temperature or warmer.  In the morning, enjoy warm water with lemon and honey to cleanse, lubricate and prepare the body for digestion.  Drink tea for warmth (chai or jasmine are great for winter) and try to avoid other sugary beverages.  Avoid drinking water with your meals – let your saliva do the work!  And, be sure to space out your intake throughout the day. Think of what happens when you try to water a dehydrated plant – the water goes right through it and isn’t easily absorbed. The same happens with your body.

3. Breathe – Focused breath work throughout the day can help you relax and focus. It seem so obvious, but learning to breath effectively can really change your health.  Build your qi by resting one hand just below your belly button and guiding your breath deep into your abdomen.  Begin with a count of five breaths in and out, allowing your belly to fill and empty.  Visualize taking in clean, pure, nourishing air and then exhaling any turbid, heavy or negative energy you carry.  You can increase your count as you feel comfortable and as your body allows.

4. Reflection – Winter is a time to relax and reflect, set goals and put pieces in place for the spring. Meditate, breath and develop a strong, focused mind-body connection to help you better achieve those goals. Use a journal to track your health, emotions and progress.

5. Movement – Focus on slow and gentle movements and move with purpose.  Join restorative or yin yoga classes offered at Saffron Yoga or Healium Hot Yoga  Try a new practice like Tai Chi or Qi Gong with Y.M.A.A. – classes offered at the Bay View Community Center.

6. Moxibustion – In addition to warming foods and herbs, moxa is great for the wintertime.  Cold trapped in the body can cause tightness and pain. The warming nature of moxa helps to relieve symptoms of pain and stagnation, but more importantly it strengthens and warms the body to prevent the effects of cold.

7. Salt Bath – Baths and/or foot soaks with sea or Epsom salt is a great way to keep the body warm and gently increase circulation. Salt also nourishes the body in the wintertime.

8. Skin Brushing – Brush away dead skin with a coarse-bristled body brush on dry skin to invigorate the lymphatic system. It helps to reduce sluggishness and improve immune function, not to mention it makes your skin feel alive again in the dead of winter. Once you slough off all the dead skin, nourish with warming oils, like sesame, avocado or walnut.