Chinese new year is the seen as the birth of the year in the Chinese Lunar calendar. We can think of the year in two halves – the yin half in which the days get shorter and colder, and the yang half in which the days get longer and warmer. Though the yang half begins on December 22nd [after the solstice] its only really noticeable from now that nature is beginning to get ready to get out of bed.
In the Chinese solar calendar the year is marked by 24 solar periods of approximately 2 weeks. This was an agrarian calendar for farmers. The first is 4th of Feb which is called the beginning of spring, it doesn’t feel like it in terms of temperature but the increased light and signs of activity in the garden [you have to look close] give a clue or two.
February 19th marks the second solar period known as Rain Water. This suggests that along with the increase of yang there is damp and so one must still protect ourselves, particularly our digestive system and kidneys, so keep warm and eat well!
Traditional East Asian culture places strong emphasis on aligning ourselves with nature, so different seasons require different patterns of behaviour. A lot of this is straight forward; as the year gets going we should get up earlier and move about more, exercise more, eat what’s in season, initiate new plans and unlock creativity, start new projects etc.
There are also more specific actions that may appeal more to Chinese medicine nerds such as stimulating specific points, drinking particular herbs, performing particular exercises etc. One such exercise described in the 16th century Daoist work Tsun –Sheng- Pa- Chien that is suitable for practising during the first two solar terms is as follows:
Sitting cross legged, both hands crossed and pressing on the thighs. Turn the head left and right 15 times, knock the teeth together, breath and gargle the air in the mouth, swallow 3 times.
Knocking the teeth, gargling and swallowing etc. sounds a bit crazy to the uninitiated ! A simpler version that I tried is simply turning the head 15 times each way while pressing on the thighs cross legged then breathing deeply through the nose and out through the mouth [keeping the tongue touching the roof of the mouth behind the teeth]. You can also combine the turning of the head with the breath, just breathe in and turn outwards on the out breath and back to the centre on the in breath. Finish with a long relaxed out breath. Don’t push the air out let it leave you naturally.