Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Chi of Winter

Chinese cosmology and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are grounded in the principles of Yin and Yang. Each season falls along the path of balance between these two energies. Fall takes us from the Yang of summer to the Yin of winter. As the daylight lasts for shorter periods of time, autumn prepares us for more quiet times and relaxed activities, and introspection.

Winter is the time of rest and quiet, of the stark colors of white, blue, and silver, and the Water Element.

What Can We Do To Balance Our Energies and Live In Balance with Winter and Water? 

Begin with the breath. We are in the process of conserving our energy, immersed in the full Yin of winter. At the same time, we are moving away from the transition of fall. Use Qigong breathing to keep this transition in balance and harmony. Don't overexert yourself (too much Yan), but keep your strength and stamina balanced.

Zhan Zhuang - Standing on Stakes (Standing Meditation)

Although this practice is wonderful all year, winter is an especially powerful time for Zhan Zhuang. In winter, we sink our Chi deeper into Earth, deeper into our root.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width. Bring your attention into the Bubbling Wells, the balls of your feet. This is your Yin connection into the Earth, and you want to begin to focus your attention there. Of course, the brain is active with thoughts, and standing quietly will become tiring as you try to quiet your mind and relax your body. This is the essence of the practice. Keep at it. Feel each breath, and allow the thoughts to come and go without trying to control them.

As you continue to stand, switch your breathing to Buddhist or Post-Birth breathing. As you inhale, allow Tan Tien to expand and feel your lungs filling all the way to the bottom. Contract Tan Tien to exhale, releasing the negative energy from the core of your being. Now, in autumn, extend the exhalations so that they are longer than the inhalations. (Note: many breathing practices suggest counting. While this is fine, many people find the counting to be distracting.)

Maintain this stance until your body begins to feel tired. Don't let that stop you - rather, let it inform you. Use that awareness of tiredness or tension as an opportunity to relax one of the parts of your body that feels tired. Focus on the particular area, exhaling and relaxing it further and more deeply. Continue on with each other part of your body that is tense, exhaling and relaxing. You will be very surprised to discover how tense your body was, and by contrast, how relaxed it can become.

We always begin with attention direction at our physical bodies. As they relax, our attention can be diverted inward, to the energy body. Releasing outwardly physically expands the opportunity to ease the organs and systems inwardly. At a very deep level, we begin to heal. Find ten minutes every day to engage in this practice. The return on your investment will be tremendous!

Breathe and smile...

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