Winter is the ultimate yin season. The start of astronomical winter is 21st December, the Winter Solstice. However, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, winter usually begins during early November. This year, the beginning of winter was 7th November (known as Lidong, the first solar term of the season). In nature it is a time of stillness. Most of the trees are bare, the days are shorter and animals go into hibernation. Though we may not be able to go into hibernation until Spring, we can follow the cues of nature by slowing down, conserving our energy and choosing to embrace this opportunity for introspection and restoration.
The organs associated with Winter in TCM are the Kidneys (yin organ) and Urinary Bladder (yang organ) and the element is Water, the most yin of the five elements.
The kidneys, located below the lower ribs at the back of the body are known as ‘the Root of Life’. They are also the home of our ‘Jing’ or Essential Essence. Jing is inherited from our parents and is considered to be the substance that comprises all life, governing growth, maturation, reproduction and decline. The urinary bladder, located in the pelvis works with the kidneys in the processing and elimination of liquids in the body, storing the urine produced in the kidneys. In TCM, the Urinary Bladder is referred to as a reservoir storing the water from the body.
The Kidney and Urinary Bladder Meridians
In an upward direction, the Kidney meridian lines begin at the little toe of each foot, running through the soles, up the insides of the legs and enter the torso by the tailbone. From there the lines continue to travel up through the centre of the body, crossing the kidneys and urinary bladder and onwards up to the throat, ending at the root of the tongue.
The Urinary Bladder lines travel in a downward direction, beginning inside the eyes, flowing up the forehead and crown of the head into the brain. They then continue down the back with one branch going into the lumbar spine, connecting with the kidneys and urinary bladder. Meanwhile, outer branches flow down the backs of the legs, ending at the little toes.
Fear is the primary emotion associated with the Kidneys, Urinary Bladder and Water.
Given the position of the kidneys, imbalanced Kidney Qi can sometimes appear as and be mistaken for lower back problems. Physically and emotionally, imbalanced Kidney and Urinary Bladder Qi can also look like fatigue, bloating, anxiety, worry, depression, and finding it challenging to deal with new situations.
When we show the Kidney and Urinary Bladder channels some care, we can feel more relaxed, calm and courageous with a stronger sense of stability and emotional balance within ourselves, as well as greater willpower to accomplish our goals and overcome obstacles.
In Winter there can be a sense of things being at their end, but experience tells us that in the stillness and darkness of this season, there is cultivation happening beneath the surface that will emerge when it is ready. This Winter, allow yourself space for self-reflection, rest and a willingness to let of fear so that you too may cultivate the seeds of goodness and abundance you desire and deserve, ready for the renewal and growth of the coming Spring.
Show Your Ears Some Love
In TCM the ears are the sensory organ connected to the Kidneys and it is advisable to keep them warm in the cold weather. It is said that stimulating the ears by massaging, pinching and flicking them can be beneficial to kidney and overall health. Try massaging the ears for about five minutes each day during the daytime. Doing this shortly after waking, either lying down or sitting up is one way of making this a part of your daily routine. (Avoid this practice if you are pregnant):
Rub your palms together to warm your hands then place your palms over each ear. Take several deep, steady breaths here.
Gently rub the front and back of each ear with your warm hands.
Using your forefingers and thumbs, massage your ear lobes and gradually continue your massage up the outside and top of each ear. Repeat this four to five times.
To complete your practice, use your forefingers and thumbs to pinch the top of each ear or gently flick the ears up to five times.
Yin Yoga for the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder – Butterfly Pose
Sit on the ground with your back straight and your legs extended. You can sit on a block or folded blanket here if this feels more comfortable for your lower back. Place the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to fall out to either side so that your legs are in a diamond shape. Bring your upper body forward, allowing your back to round. Come as far forward as your body will comfortably allow without forcing or straining.
If you would like to add some support:
– You may wish to rest your forehead on a yoga brick(s) or bolster.
– Place a brick or rolled up blanket under each thigh if your hips feel particularly tight.
Remain here for three to five minutes. To exit your Butterfly Pose, on an inhale gently uncurl back up to sitting.
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