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  • Alison Dalziel

The Five Elements - WATER



The element or phase of Water in Chinese medicine is related to winter. It is the most Yin of all the five elements and at the same time the most fundamental. As we know, water covers approximately 70% of the earth's surface and is highly significant in sustaining life, making up around 60% of the body. As babies, we hold a greater percentage of water within our body but as we grow older, the level of water declines, in line with our level of health and vitality.


Winter is the time of year when growth is at a minimum and nature rests, waits and hibernates. There is a necessity to conserve energies during this time, in order to be ready for the surge of activity in springtime. It is possible to recognise signs of winter in one's self, such as wanting to spend more time indoors, wrapped up warm, or a reluctance to get up in the dark hours of the morning. It is natural and even advised by ancient traditions in China to live by the seasons. The Ling Shu, or Spiritual Pivot, (part of one of the great classics of Chinese Medicine), advises:


"It is desirable to sleep early and get up late, to await the arrival of sunlight..."


"In, winter, one should avoid cold and remain warm and refrain from perspiring so that Yang energy will not be frequently attacked by cold energy. This is the way of nourishing life in response to the energy of winter..."


"The energy of winter is cold; it commands “closure/conservation”. The illness of perverse energy can penetrate deeply into the musculo-skeletal system".


Ring any bells? Many of us experience an increase in our joint pain and muscle aches during the cold winter months.



The Water element also corresponds to potential. It is considered to be the power or hidden potential which gives life to all in nature. It is like the seed which contains the blueprint for life, waiting to flourish. This is the essence of Water and winter. The patience to wait in restful contemplation, conserving energies and nourishing that essence within.


Nowadays, many of us live our lives full speed ahead in a culture which encourages action and reaction, response and rapid productivity, with little time for reflection, stillness and restoration. This busy lifestyle is very 'Yang' in nature and as Chinese medicine encourages the balance between Yin and Yang, it is also important for us to nurture the 'Yin'. Taking the time to restore, rest and nourish yourself especially during these months of Winter, will give you the chance to replenish your reserves, leaving you more capable of meeting these daily demands.















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