The winter season brings us to the most introspective time of the year, literally when the energies are moving inwards to a more dormant state. But this time is full of potential as the Water element it represents, is the source from where all energy and life emerges. In the 5 Elements System, the two meridian and organ systems that correspond with water is Kidney & Bladder.
Kidney is the meridian system that leads all others. The first acupuncture point on the K meridian is the point at the base of the foot where energy enters the body. Interestingly it is called ‘Bubbling Spring’ and the only acupressure point on the sole of the foot and connects to with the electrical grounding and healing energies of the Earth. The end point of this meridian is a junction point for all other meridians and is considered the “on” button of the body, one of the most important energy flows in the body which awakens all the energies of all the meridians - that’s why we start our yoga practice with the 4 WAKE UPS (from the Energy Medicine Yoga system), tapping at these two points under the collarbones.
The qualities of water: If we look at the qualities of water, which is most easily observed in the winter season (rain-ice-frost-snow), we can gain insight into the energies at play at this time of year. Winter is the time of little or no growth, a time to rest, hibernate and wait patiently. So, we conserve our energies – not overly expend them, its mostly about being rather than doing, more introvert than extrovert. Winter being the coldest time of year as the sun’s rays hit the earth at a shallow angle, meaning little possibility for energy and light; along with the long nights and short days, there is little potential to warm-up for action, no wonder inertia can set in, we move less, we want to stay indoors and cosy up.
Coming ‘in’ is the key to connecting to our inner self and the inner potential that lies dormant there, waiting to be awakened. It can also be a lonely time for some of us as with the movement of water inwards, with it a natural emotion is one that sinks and contracts: the Emotion of FEAR
Fear is deep and visceral and is experienced low down deep in the body, affecting the low back, pelvis and hips. Think of the idiomatic expressions of fear that are suggestive of its cold watery nature, a chill down the spine; bowels turning to water; breaking into a cold sweat; blood turned cold; frozen with fear, shaking like a leaf. Fear is a natural emotion and has served us well on the evolutionary path we have taken that has helped us survive as a species. However, when fear becomes paralyzing or traumatizing, it affects our K/B energies and the organs and systems become imbalanced. So, we can use the K/B practices to help keep the energy flowing on an even keel.
Organs of Kidney & Urinary Bladder: Both these organs comprise of our waterworks. Kidneys being responsible for detoxing the body (along with the Liver); aligned to the fight-flight-freeze response of the stress system, in close association with the adrenal glands (part of the endocrine system) located on top of the kidneys; also the K&B are a key part of our sexual & reproductive health.
The water element governs teeth, bones & body fluids. Bladder being the longest meridian in the body, governs the nervous system. This is of tremendous importance as the Bladder goes along the spinal column twice, along a path that corresponds to the physical & emotional body. In Yoga philosophy, this meridian is also highly important as it traces the lines of the 2 secondary main Nadis (energy pathways) of Ida & Pingala.
Pingala is the dynamic male principle, operated by left brain, processes information logically, sequentially and functions according to time sequence. The Ida Nadi is the passive female principle, the right hemisphere is concerned with intuition, mental creativity and orientation in space. Through the practice of Pranayama and other Hatha Yoga practices, these 2 nadis are activated/balanced. Apart from directly influencing the nadis through pranic flow and Hatha Yoga, other factors such as lifestyle, diet, desires, thoughts and emotions do affect the Nadis – another huge subject!
Yoga Winter Water Practices and You
Whatever we practice during this season, it must be from a very grounding, centering and balancing effort, obviously with a lot of inner reflection – we need to be more in (yin) than out (yang). So, it’s not just about the asanas we choose, but how we intentionally practice them.
To keep the K/B energy pathways strong & flexible, the spine needs to be stretched in all directions – forwards-backwards-twists-lateral on a daily basis. There is no wonder that many people suffer from lower back problems during this time. Another way to support your lower back is to keep your belly/kidneys warm – so wrapping around an extra layer of clothing there is very beneficial.
Other useful postures & practices for this time of year are:
Squats: take us deep into the body and challenge the use of our hips/pelvis/legs/lower back
Spinal Twists: keep them gentle, they can be still deep, listen to your body as you work, never force, use breath to ease in
Forward Bends: give and intense stretch to the whole back of the body; can be challenging if you have tight hamstring and/or a stiff back; remember to bend knees to release the pull on the back
Core strengthening: any core strengthening will in turn strengthen the lower back
Yin sequence: if you want to go all the way with a yin practice, doing some or all of these would be a great start; better to do less number of postures for more time, i.e. 30 minutes practice do only 3 or 4 postures. Choose from: Butterfly; Sphinx; Saddle; Caterpillar; Dragonfly; Twisted Roots; Happy Baby; Child; Savasana
Yoga Nidra: spending time following a guided relaxation is an investment into your physical-emotional-mental health & well-being. Even if we do practice a bit of yoga stretching at home – be honest – how many people give themselves even 5 minutes of Savasana afterwards? My winter choice for relaxation is a luxurious 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra! Ahh!
Meditation: any contemplative practice that encourages an introspection with self-acceptance and with an act of gratitude especially as we enter into the new year - as we have a lot to be grateful for.
Come and enjoy the Winter Practices!
Be Kind to Yourself!