As the weather gets colder, I’m taking more and more care to keep warm in my core. I know that staying warm here is the secret not only to feeling toasty all over, but also to feeling comfortable, supported, energised, creative and strong.
One of my favourite ways (on top of my Yoga and Qigong practice) of achieving this overall sense of well-being is wrapping my belly up with one of my much-loved ‘Haramaki’ cotton tubes or fleecy Cherishing Womb Wraps. If I’m feeling particularly in need of being held and nourished, I sometimes wear both.
Haramakis (translating literally as ‘belly wrap’) have been used for centuries in Japan. The word originally referred to a type of metal armour worn by soldiers in feudal Japan; it later became a tube of fabric, worn by old men around their belly as an unfashionable undergarment. More recently, these soft, stretchy tubes have been elevated to a fashion item in Japan, featuring bold designs to be worn on top of clothes. But simpler cotton versions are still worn under clothes for their health benefits, covering from the Kidneys to lower back or hips. Several different brands now available in the UK – including original Japanese ones (I have a Kokoro Haramaki – see photo above) and Western variations (I have a multicoloured selection of the Tube by Harry Duley – see photo to left).
Cherishing Womb Wrap
These are long pieces of fabric are designed to be worn over clothes, wrapping and tying around your middle. They are made in a range of colours in cosy fleece (for the Winter) or pretty cotton (for the summer). The Winter ones even have a little pocket in the back to hold a hot water bottle (which can feel so soothing during Moontime). These lovely wraps are made by Claire Taylor at Cherishing Everything, who felt the need for clothing that could hold and nurture her and celebrate her gentle feminine strength.
(I loved these wraps so much that Claire has given me a small, colourful selection to offer locally. So, if you live in the Cambridge area and want to avoid postage costs from Cherishing Everything, do let me know if you would like one. The price is the same as buying from Claire – £25).
Why keep your midriff warm?
Because it keeps you warm and there are numerous health benefits, but also because it just feels so deliciously good and right to be held here. Even better than you might imagine or than I can describe – perhaps because us women are always running around supporting others, so our bodies take a big grateful sigh at this supportive and nourishing gesture of self-care.
The only way to find out how a Haramaki feels is to try one.
Key for our health, fertility and creative power
Here’s a closer look at why keeping our midriffs warm with wraps is so important for our health and well-being – and why exposing our tender centre to the cold (as is the scary fashion trend among teenage girls) does us such great harm.
Haramakis and other belly wraps cover:
- our Kidneys, which are the guardians of the original energy we received when we were conceived, thus the source of the energy that animates all other organs and tissues. They are like the batteries of our body. Cold drains their energy, thereby depleting our overall reserves. When our Kidneys get cold, it is like the fire going out in our system, so we always feel cold, lack energy and lose our motivating drive. Worse still, as the Kidneys are the organs most intimately connected to our female sexual health, Coldness leads to all kinds of reproductive system problems, including low libido and fertility issues.
- our vital energy centre (our Hara in Japanese or Lower Dantian in Chinese), located two inches below the navel and back into the centre of the abdomen. The Lower Dantian provides the driving force to circulate energy around our body. Coldness here is a sign of low vital energy and causes stagnation in our core, so whatever energy we do have does not circulate freely. This, in turn, affects our blood circulation. As a result, we feel cold, weak, tired, apathetic and slide into ill-health.
- our Womb – our Womb space is closely linked to our Kidney energy. A ‘Cold Womb’ is one of the key patterns underlying infertility in Chinese medicine. But our Womb is not only a cradle for physical babies; it is the source of all our creative and nurturing power as women. When we allow this sacred space within us to freeze over, we lose our capacity to connect with this gentle, yet unstoppable, strength in our centre. In addition, Cold stagnation in our Womb is a cause of painful menstrual cramps.
- our lower back – pain in the lower back is often a sign of Kidney energy imbalance.
- our small and large intestines – internal Cold makes it very hard for our digestive system to do its job of digesting food. It results in sluggishness, leading to pain, bloating, constipation, loose stools and other symptoms of digestive disharmony.
So the health of our whole body depends on being warm in our centre.
Wearing a Haramaki and/or Womb Wrap is a wonderful way to protect and nurture our centre’s radiating warmth on a daily basis – and to help to restore warmth and well-being to cold Kidneys, Dantians, Wombs, backs and digestive systems.
But these wraps cannot do miracles. If we continue with other habits that let the cold in, our body will continue to struggle to maintain its warmth – and to heal or fend off the imbalances mentioned above.
Other tips to nurture your internal warmth
- If you feel cold, get warm – this may seem obvious, but it’s important to know that when you are cold, your energy is contracting and stagnating further, further heightening your greater tendency to feel cold (and lethargic etc). So, if you feel cold, be sure to get warm as soon as you can, for instance by moving about, putting on more layers, having a hot drink or warm shower or bath or even heating the room.
- Keep your feet, hands and head warm – in addition to your middle, its also particularly easy to be attacked by the Cold through your hands, feet and head, so take care to keep them warm. Be sure to avoid walking on cold floors, else a key energy point on your soles will take that coldness straight to your centre and your Womb space. And try not to sit or lie on those cold floors either. I also highly recommend keeping your wrists and calves warm, as you’ll feel chilled all over if you get cold here. Make your own unbulky leg (and wrist) warmers with cut-off old (or even new) kids tights – they work a treat …
- Don’t swim during your Moontime – the Chinese never swim when menstruating because the Womb (ie the cervix) is ‘open’, so it is particularly susceptible to being invaded by the Cold.
- Avoid cold food and drinks and raw food – this is a hard one for westerners. But one of the key ways that we chill our system and our Dantian is by consuming food and drink straight from the fridge. This is because this compromises the hot stomach’s capacity to start the digestive process and because an energy point in the mouth takes the Cold straight to the Dantian energy centre in our abdomen. Raw food has a cooling and weakening effect on the body. So food is generally best eaten at least lightly cooked – and, as the weather grows cold, long-cooked hearty soups and stews etc are wonderful for nourishing and keeping warm. Ice-cream is one of the worst things you could possibly eat – combining cold, sugar and fat. Sorry!
- Learn Yogic breathing techniques – Learning to breathe deeply so that both our thoracic and pelvic diaphragms can move freely with our breath massages all of our vital organs, keeping them healthy. Yogic Ujjayi breathing warms us from the inside out and Reverse Abdominal Breathing is a powerful way to create heat and energy in our centre. These are best taught in person, so find a good teacher who can help you.
- Take daily exercise – try to do something every day to get your energy moving, circulating and building, rather than stagnating and draining. This does not mean you need to do an intense workout (which can potentially be draining), but to listen in and to honour the changing daily movement needs of your body.
I invite you to follow these tips and to treat yourself to a Haramaki or a Cherishing Womb Wrap to keep your middle warm. Not only will be the cold months of Autumn and Winter be so much more bearable and enjoyable, but you’ll be taking a positive step towards building strong and stable energy in your core to warm and motivate you from the inside out.
If you have any questions or would like to buy your Cherishing Womb Wrap from me, just drop me a line. I’d be delighted to hear from you.
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