Welcome to the final article of the 5-part series on how to apply the practice of Yin yoga to our meridians to harmonize our body and mind. We have previously discussed the Liver, Spleen, Heart, and Lung meridians. This week, we’ll cover the Kidney meridian.
The Kidneys are a Yin organ and their paired Yang organ is the Urinary Bladder. The Kidneys stand out from the other organs in that they are the root of all the Yin and Yang energies within the body’s organs and tissues. The Kidney Jing (essence) is the first energy to be introduced to the body of the fetus. It becomes active around the fourth lunar month of fetal development. This essence encompasses the fetus’ unconscious reservoir of innate and intuitive intelligence, will, and other life-forces relating to divine love, power, and spirit. The signs of deficient Kidney jing in children can manifest as slow physical development, poor bone development, and mental dullness. For adults, the symptoms of deficient Kidney jing include brittle bones, weak knees and legs, loose teeth, poor short-term memory, premature graying/ hair loss, and low sex drive.
Interestingly, the Kidneys provide the capacity and drive for strength, skill, and hard work. In other words, the Kidneys house our willpower. A person with an adequate amount of willpower demonstrates perseverance, determination, and a tenacity to complete personal goals. Those with a deficient level become indecisive, fearful, submission (often with a blind to authority), and have a tendency to procrastinate. Conversely, people with an excessive amount of willpower often tend to be fanatics, forcing their power, rules or philosophy onto others.
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The Kidneys can be easily injured by excessive exposure to cold and damp weather/environment. As well, the Kidneys functions can deteriorate by irregular sleep patterns, fear, excessive caffeine, sex, drugs, alcohol, and smoking. During cold seasons, eating too much salty or cold foods has a draining effect on the Kidneys.
The Kidney meridian starts underneath the small toe circling the inside of the heels and ascends along the medial side of the lower leg and thigh, until it enters the body into the coccyx and the lower lumbar vertebrae. From there, it moves up and then down exiting the body near the pubic bone. From there over the abdomen, it divides into two branches. The first branch penetrates the Kidneys, while the other branch continues to ascend within the spine before entering into the cerebral cortex. From the Kidney organs, two additional pairs of channel emerge internally. One pair goes down along the ureters before spirally wrapping the Urinary Bladder. The other set goes up into the Liver, diaphragm, and the Lungs. It then spirally wraps the Heart and travels up via the throat, stopping at the root of the tongue.
The agent of the water element, the Kidneys represent the prenatal virtues of rationality, clear perception, self-understanding, self-confidence, and wisdom. After birth, the Kidneys store the acquired emotions of fear, paranoia, terror, panic, horror, loneliness, and insecurity. Eliminating excess fear allows the congenital virtue of wisdom to prosper.
Yin poses that help restore Kidney imbalances are those that target the spine. I have selected four easy-to-do poses that target this area. When you practice them, hold each posture for 3-5 minutes and rest for 1 minute in Child’s pose or Corpse pose (Shavasana) after each.
How to get into the pose:
Start by lying on your stomach. Place your forearms on the floor with the elbows just ahead of your shoulders. Propping yourself up, notice how this feels in your lower spine. If the sensation is too strong, move your elbows further ahead lowering your chest closer to the floor. To intensify the pose, you can transition into the Seal pose by slowly pushing your hands into the floor and lifting your elbows off the floor.
You can keep the legs together or apart. Keeping the legs together helps release the sacrum while having the legs apart helps deepen the sensations in the lower back. You can rest your head on a block or in your hands.
Getting into the pose:
Start with sitting on the heels. Slowly lean back on your hands, creating a slight arch in the lower spine. If you can lean further back, come down onto your elbows or all the way onto your back. If your ankles are complaining, try putting a blanket under them. You should skip this pose if you feel pain in your knees and ankles.
If the full Saddle is too intense, try straightening one leg for Half Saddle. You can bend the straight leg and place the foot on the floor. A deep variation is to hug the top knee toward the chest.
I find that most people like putting a bolster or blocks under the spine. The bolster or block helps alleviate the pressure in the knees and lessen the tension in the thighs.
Getting into the pose:
Start by lying down on your back. Lift your hips and support them with your hands. Allow your back to round and your feet over your head toward the floor. Shift the weight of your body onto your shoulders and make sure your neck feels okay. If your legs are touching the floor, your hands can come to the floor behind the back. Hands can be apart or together.
If your feet do not touch the ground, you can do the pose close to the wall and place your feet on the wall. Placing the feet on the wall helps keep the body in the pose while relaxing into the spine.
Getting into the pose
Start on all fours then place one knee behind the other and sit back between the heels. You may need to adjust to stack the knees on top of each other. From there slowly lean forward, allowing the spine to round. If you feel some uncomfortable sensation in the bottom knee, do the Half-Shoelace with the bottom leg straight. If the top knee complains, place a blanket under that knee. The simplest variation would be sitting cross-legged and fold forward.
Before you go...
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Creator of Soulful Yin Yoga Method, Annie has been certifying yoga teachers since 2013. Through her own healing journey, Annie has become an expert in the emotional side of yin yoga and Chinese meridians. She calls for a heart to heart approach in her yin yoga classes through storytelling and genuine self-reflections.