In the northern hemisphere it is winter, which means many places are wet, chilly and bare. Whether it is San Diego’s drizzling rains, Chicago’s icy nip or Boston’s landmark snowfall, the winter season is cold, windy, dry and gray.
Of the five elements, Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, three are the most dynamic: Air, Fire and Water. These three move together in a dance that is sometimes even and tempered, but is more often unequal and imbalanced.
In Winter, Water leads Air as partners in the dance, with Fire seemingly taking a rest. As I write, in fact, I hear a whipping wind outside my window. It is dark, rainy and cold and the trees are waving wildly.
Water and Air have one thing in common: they are both cold. Each element can be heated, of course, but only with the element of Fire. Otherwise, they can chill us to the bone. To experience this, walk to a river and notice how the temperature cools as you approach the Water. Or, on a warm day, turn on a fan and notice how Air disperses the heat to cools things down. You can even try this if you ever experience the “hot” emotion of anger – take a few deep breaths and notice how the Air element cools and disperses that heat.
To balance the effects of Water/Air this season, we need Fire.
Of course, most of us intuitively know this. We light fires at the hearth, stove, oven, furnace. We add blankets, we drink tea, we stay indoors. What may be less obvious for warding off the winter chill is the need to stoke the inner fires of digestion and metabolism.
Here are three key ways to keep the inner fires burning bright and warm this season ~
1. You can kindle the digestive fire by drinking Lemony Ginger Tonic daily. It can be taken first thing in the morning to hydrate tissues and stimulate circulation, with meals to increase your digestive power, and throughout the day to keep the fires stoked.
2. Eat warm foods: a cooked breakfast like oatmeal, cooked vegetables with a grain for lunch, or a bowl of beans, and a soup or light stew for dinner. Drink warm water , lemony ginger tonic or spicy tea with your meals.
Remember, too, from the Autumn post, that most spices are lipophilic. This means that sautéing your spices in ghee, coconut or safflower oil before adding the other ingredients will boost their impact and help drive the spice’s natural medicine deeper into your tissues.
Winter is also a time to eat a bit lighter to counter the heaviness that the Water element brings. You could regularly skip dinner on the same day once a week, or simply reduce your portions. Look, too, for lots of color as always in your food, especially greens for their detoxifying action.
Now that it is winter, nurture yourself by keeping warm both inside and out. Even here in San Diego, where it is sunny and warm much of the year, we still need to boost our inner fires to stay balanced, healthy and well.