Article by: Beth Blessing
The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and marks the beginning of winter. This year it was Tuesday, December 22nd. In the Midwest, winters are cold and often lacking in abundant sunshine. This often times leaves us feeling sluggish and unmotivated. However, there are foods and exercises that can help keep us balanced through this restful, slow moving time of year.
During the winter months, we are driven to seek inner warmth whether it is sipping on hot tea, throwing on a warm sweater, or gravitating towards foods that energetically keep our inner flame hot. Core warming foods, along with salty and bitter flavors, dominate the food choices throughout the cold winter months. These flavors promote a sinking, centering quality and core warming foods stimulate the digestive fire which creates heat.
Most bitter foods are not wholly bitter, but combinations of bitter and other flavors. These foods include lettuces, turnips, celery, carrot tops, leafy greens, rye, oats and quinoa. Sometimes the bitter flavors are found in the protective coating, such as the peel from citrus and the outermost leaves of cabbage. Salty foods include tamari or soy sauce, seaweed and barley, plus any food that is prepared with the addition of salt. Warming foods include cloves, fennel seeds, anise seeds, black peppercorns, ginger (dried or fresh), cinnamon bark, walnuts, black beans, onion family (garlic, onions, scallions, leeks), quinoa, chicken, lamb, trout and salmon.
Although the winter months are a time of centering and resting, it is still important to stay active enough to keep the body flexible and the mind clear. Yoga and stretching is a great way to exercise through the winter months. Yoga can help relieve tension, create core heat, and keep the joints flexible. Mountain Pose, Chair Pose, and Tree Pose are examples of poses that require stillness and strength, as well as stability and quietness. They will help warm you up, activate your core, and keep you in balance during the winter.
Exercise along with a little fine tuning in the diet allows the body to get ready for the cold months ahead, and keeps the body and mind in balance while waiting for the subtle warmth coming in the spring months.