Revitalize Your Kidney Qi with Roe
If you’ve ever taken a Yin class with Roe, you know that she often draws inspiration from certain aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, including the Meridian System. But what exactly is a Meridian and why should I care about stimulating them?
The Meridian System and Yin Yoga
According to the ancient system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), meridians are invisible pathways through which our inherent energy flows. This energy is known as Qi (or chi). The meridian system creates a comprehensive network of rivers of energy that interconnects the tissues and organs of the human body. The strength and healthy flow of qi through the meridian system is essential to our overall sense of harmony and balance. In TCM, disease and illness are often attributed to a deficient or stagnant qi in the body. A regular yin practice is a significant way of stimulating our qi and amplifying our healthy flow of energy.
“It is only by Qi that the planets move, the sun shines, the wind blows, the elements exist, and human beings live and breathe. It is the cohesion of the bodymindspirit and the integration of the myriad aspects of each individual human being. It is spoken of with reverence because it is the basis of life and when gone awry, the basis of disease.”
Dianne M. Connelly
Each Meridian has a Yin and complementary Yang pair. In this practice, Roe will guide you through yin postures that stimulates the Kidney Meridian and its pair, the Urinary Bladder Meridian. Though these organs have completely different anatomical functions, their energetic and emotional qualities are intimately intertwined.
The Kidney Meridian
The Kidney Meridian begins in the little toe of each foot. It travels through the sole, the arch, and up the inside of the knees and thighs and enters our torso near the tailbone. It continues up along either side of our spine, connecting internally with our bladder and kidneys, to our throat ending at the root of our tongue.
The Urinary Bladder Meridian
The UB Meridian begins at the inside of our eyes. It travels up across our forehead and enters our brain. From here it travels down our back on either side of our spine. An internal branch connects to the kidneys and urinary bladder, while outer branches run all the way down the back of the legs ending at our little toe in each foot.
Energetic and Emotional Qualities
The Kidney-Bladder pair is the foundation of balance for all other organ pairs. This pair is our storehouse of vital energy that must remain in balance for our system to work harmoniously. Within our kidneys, according to TCM lives our Jing, or essence. Jing is said to be the foundation of all life. Some believe it to be connected to our ancestry and our inherited constitution. Our prenatal Jing, the energy stores that we are born with, are constantly being depleted simply by living life. Additional stress and illness consume your prenatal Jing more rapidly. We can accumulate postnatal Jing through mindful living and practice like Yin Yoga. Jing is said to be the key to longevity in TCM, which is why stimulating our Kidney Qi and replenishing our Jing is so important.
When our Kidney Qi is balanced we are able to access our innate gentleness, openness and inherent wisdom. The kidneys are associated with our willpower, ambition and level of energy. Conversely, when our Kidney Qi is out of balance we feel the emotion of fear. In this state we have trouble completing tasks, we have less energy, drive and enthusiasm. We might feel disconnected from ourselves and have a diminished sense of self worth and power.
Luckily, this yin practice requires very little energetic effort yet stimulates and nourishes our Kidney Qi and offers our minds a fresh perspective. As you move into this practice, keep the meridian lines in mind. We stimulate these energy channels by both stretching or compressing the targeted areas of the body. Aim to keep your body and mind soft throughout this practice. Remember, Yin yoga is a passive practice so there is no strain or pushing necessary. Let your body be your guide.
Kidney and Urinary Bladder Sequence
Butterfly: 3-5 Minutes
Begin in a seated position slightly elevated on a folded blanket to lengthen through your spine. Bending at your knees, you will draw the soles of your feet to touch. Send your heels further away from your pelvis to create a longer diamond shape with your legs. This broadens the experience for the inner thighs and the Kidney Meridian that travels here. Fold forward until your body’s first point of resistance (a feeling of stretch) and allow your body to relax into the fold. It can be helpful to rest your forehead or chest on a bolster or block in order to find a sense of release and ease.
To exit the shape, inhale and slowly roll yourself back up to your seat. Pause a few moments in a neutral position to allow your body time to absorb the nourishment along your inner thighs. I often say, don’t move until you’ve watched any lingering sensation settle.
Modification: If folding forward here is not available to you for any reason, find a Reclined Butterfly to achieve the same stimulation and nourishment.
Dragonfly: 3-5 Minutes
Begin in a seated position with a folded blanket underneath your sit bones. Open your legs as wide as they are willing to go – far enough open that you feel sensation along the inner thighs. If your hamstrings are tight, feel free to bend your knees and support the joints with a rolled or folded blanket. Hinge forward from your hips and relax. I recommend a prop, like a bolster, to bring the earth closer to you. Find relaxation here.
To exit slowly walk your hands back towards your pelvis and roll to your seat. Pause and allow sensation to settle. When you draw your legs back towards one another use the help of your hands to guide you.
Modification: You can find Dragonfly lying on your back with your legs up the wall if folding forward is not available to your for any reason.
Half Saddle: 3 – 5 Minutes Right and Left
Begin seated with your legs long out in front of you. Beginning with your right leg, draw your heel towards your outer hip. We are looking for sensation in the quadriceps and are stimulating our Kidney Meridian as it flows along our lumbar spine and perhaps along the inner thigh. This shape can be intense on our knees, so move slowly. If you feel sensation immediately, stay seated upright. As your body allows you may lean back onto your elbows or back body. The addition of the bolster under the length of your spine can offer a great amount of support.
To exit Half Saddle ground your palms next to your sides, softly engage your belly and press your self to your seat with your chin tucked towards your chest. After a pause here, shift your weight to your opposite hip to re-extend your right leg. Repeat with the left.
Modification: Saddle does not work for everyone. An alternative is a side lying quad stretch. Additionally, Sphinx Pose targets the same area of our Kidney Meridian and is accessible to most everyone.
Spinal Twists: 3-5 Minutes Right and Left
Roll to your back body. Bend at your knees and bring the soles of your feet to the floor. On an exhalation, melt your knees to the right. If your knees are hovering above the ground place a bolster or blanket there to support your weight. This also helps if you have any low back sensitivity. Here we are targeting our Kidney and UB Meridians along both sides of our spine and our torso.
To switch sides, softly engage your belly to draw your legs back through center and melt them to the opposite side. Take any props you used with you.
Following your spinal twists, let yourself drop heavy into the floor. Relax your body and mind into ease, absorbing the nourishment of the practice and the calming effect of delibrite rest. Savasana is the most nourishing and significant posture of them all, I urge you to stay here for at least 3 minutes.
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