Sanctuaries

Winter — it’s a vibe

Welcome winter by aligning to its vibe. Inside and out, it’s all about the energy.

“Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season in which the world takes on a sparse beauty and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing these deeply unfashionable things — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — is a radical act now, but it’s essential.

“This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. If you do, you’ll expose all those painful nerve endings and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don’t, then that skin will harden around you.

It’s one of the most important choices you’ll ever make.” — Katherine May

Clear some space

“While away long cold evenings with energy clearing sessions,” says Jean Haner, author of Clear Home, Clear Heart. Traditionally, the Chinese favour a deep house clean before Chinese New Year in February. “In winter, the world’s energy naturally goes inward, and so does our own. We can use this positively and do some inner work to release old stuck emotions, pain or stress from our past, and any baggage that we’re still carrying.”

Use Feng Shui at home. To re-set your space to suit your winter mindset, Jean suggests: “Add warm colours, even in little ways, such as a red pillow on the sofa or a yellow duvet cover. The twinkling holiday lights many people put up in winter are actually feng shui to keep energy in balance, as are lighting candles and having a fire in the fireplace. Clutter clearing, especially in the rooms at the rear of your home, is especially beneficial in winter.

Work, rest & work

I’m already deep into my winter habits,” says Katherine. I go to bed early, and wake, like clockwork, at 1.30am, padding downstairs to read. I’m also burrowing deep into work, another thing that comes in winter for me. I can’t concentrate in summer. Winter is when I get my head down and I’ve been busy recording a new season of The Wintering Sessions.”

Take care of the qi

Qi in traditional Chinese medicine is the ‘life force’ flowing through the body’s channels or meridians and is thought to be the ultimate measure of one’s vitality.

Up until the winter solstice (around 21 December) is the yin part of the year cycle, so this is when you should be in your quietest contemplative state, nurturing yourself with a slow pace, early nights and nourishing warm foods,” says Katie Brindle at Hayo’u. “We start work a bit later in the winter to align with the advice of rising later and going to bed earlier. This results in much less illness at work, because we are in balance and supporting our immunity.”

“I go out a lot in the summer, but socialise perhaps once a week in the winter, ideally for Sunday lunch. I go to bed early and deliberately luxuriate in the indulgence of it.” At Hayo’u, she moved the staff Christmas party to Chinese New Year, “where the energy has shifted towards the expansion of spring”.

Change your pace

Adjust your exercise choice to fit with the winter pace. The adrenal glands can replenish without intense daily aerobic exercise but, simplistically, qi (of which there are four types in the body) is activated by exercise. Katie says: “Avoid sweating excessively as the contrast between having the heating up high then going out into the freezing cold leads to imbalance. Winter is about conserving energy.” Try dynamic meditation forms, such as qigong or yoga, and gentle walks to warm the core and encourage the flow of Qi.

Fall in love with a foot bath: “A washing–up bowl will do.” Chinese medicine believes that soaking the feet is a detoxifer, says Katie. “The slightly raised body temperature unblocks energy channels. In herbal foot baths, the skin absorbs elements and these travel through energy channels to target points. Add a magnesium mineral compound to charge up a bowl of warm water. Magnesium helps the brain produce neurotransmitters that induce sleep and reduce stress.”

Winter, in the Taoist text of the Tao Te Ching, is the season of ‘returning to the root’, so perhaps it’s time to embrace that vibe. And remember, each day brings us closer to spring.

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