Today, December 21st, is the Winter Solstice. The Chinese term for Winter Solstice literally means the “extreme of yin” since Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Symbolically this node is represented by Hexagram 24, which is comprised of one Yang line at the bottom of 5 Yin lines. Hexagram 24’s name is Return – Fu (復). What is returning? The Yang and the light are returning. One of the basic laws of Yin-Yang theory is that of mutual transformation. When something reaches an extreme, then it naturally reverts to the opposite. Now is when Yin has reached its extreme thereby giving birth to Yang. This is why Winter Solstice is the time of many important holidays about lights, about birth and about renewal.
The turning points of Yin and Yang during the year (the Winter and Summer solstices) are important times for protecting our health and wellbeing. What can we do then to stay healthy during this time period? One basic recommendation is go to bed early and sleep a little longer. Winter, and particularly the Solstice, is the time of year that is most yin, a time when we should be getting more rest and experiencing more periods of silence, both physically and mentally. Finding more time for rest and reflection puts us into harmony with the Yin of Winter. That being said, too much sleep is also not great. Sleep (which is Yin) when excessive damages the Yang, which is why some of the early teachings says excessive sleep injures the Qi. The typical recommendation is that 8-9 hours of sleep is plenty for the average healthy person.
Even though Winter is the time of Yin stillness, as mentioned above the Winter Solstice marks the birth of Yang. Because movement is Yang it is important for us to “persist in moving” during this time of year. Appropriate exercises include gentle movement such as Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga. “Yoga for Health” located in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons offers a wonderful variety of all of these!