What To Do When You Get a Little Too Much Winter
…and how to support proper function in the kidneys and bladder
We may be tropical-loving-palm-tree-hugging-brazilian-bikini-boasting beach travelers, but we are still fans of good old fashioned seasons. We love a shut-down-everything blizzard day or zipping up and hitting the mountains, and especially those brisk sunny days swooshing through the streets of a wind chilled city.
But we admit that it doesn’t take long for one to feel, well, a bit over it. Sometimes this simply means you need to get outta town. Obviously, we have some suggestions. But if that is not possible then we have a few recommendations below on how to get your inner world working optimally during an entirely-too-long winter.
According to Chinese Medicine, our bodies have specific functions and needs that correlate to the seasons. There are specific channels (meridians) in the body which carry chi (energy) to our organs, supporting their optimal function. If these channels are impeded by any kind of muscular tension in the body, misalignment in the skeleton or emotional/psychological tension they will not function properly, and can have negative side effects. An overdose of cold, imbalanced diet, electronic heat, or lack of sunshine can irritate certain organs and their functions in the body, and leave us feeling even worse.
For every season there is a corresponding organ and element that is highlighted as important to “monitor”. This organ and element in the body can easily come out of balance and throw us off. The organs in the body are supported by specific channels (meridians) which can be stimulated and supported through asana practice.
For the winter months, this tradition focuses on the kidneys and the bladder. The element correlated to the winter months is the element of water.
Below we share some simple advice from “Staying Healthy with the Seasons” by Elson Haas coupled with some postures recommended by Sarah Powers from “Insight Yoga” for the meridians of the kidneys and the bladder.
Props you will need:
1 mat, 1 blanket, 2 blocks & a warm room.
LOCATION OF THE MERIDIANS
Kidneys: The kidney meridian begins on the bottom of the foot. It then runs along the inside surface of the ankle behind the ankle bone, up the calf and thigh, lateral to the genitals, then next to and parallel to the center line of the body, onto the chest and along the sternum, ending beneath the clavicle.
Bladder: The bladder meridian begins at the inner corner of the eye, travels up over the head and down the neck, down the back in two vessels, both parallel to the spinal column, then over the buttock and down the back of the thigh and calf and along the outside of the foot, ending at the edge of the little toenail.
20 MINUTE WINTER ASANA SEQUENCE
1. Tarasana:Releases the Inner Groins, Opens the Lungs, and Quiets the Mind.
Begin in Tarasana. Support your forehead with a block or two, and scrub the forehead skin down towards the nose with the block to quiet the mind. Make sure your hands can rest on something. Stay 1-3 minutes. You can support the outer knees with blankets, pillows or blocks if there is tension in the hips, groins or knees.
2. Paschimottanasana: Opens the Hamstrings, Opens the Lungs, and Quiets the Mind.
Extend the legs enough to hold onto the outer edges of the feet. If your low back is sore or hamstrings too tight, prop your seat up on a blanket. Hollow the belly and fold over the legs. Extend the legs forward keeping the connection between the hands and the feet. For some they may straighten, for some they may remain slightly bent. You can add a blanket or block to support the head if it doesn’t reach the legs. Stay for 1-3 minutes.
3. Reclinging Eagle Leg Wrap Twist:Helps with Varicose Veins and Detoxes Abdominal Organs.
From a reclining position, double wrap the right leg over the left, scoot your hips to the right so they are in line with your shoulders, drop the knees to the left and turn to the right. Use your hand to externally rotate the top leg at the hip. Focus on the exhalation. Stay 1 minute. Change sides.
4. Upa Vista Konasana with Side Bends: Opens the Lungs and Tones & Lengthens the Legs.
Extend your legs out into a wide legged straddle sitting upright. If your hamstrings are tight, prop your seat up on a blanket. Flex both feet. Support your left forearm with a block inside the inner left leg. Lift your right arm up and over your head and lean to the left, spinning your chest to the sky, opening the right side of the body. Hold for 1 minute. Change sides.
5. Sphinx:Opens the Chest & Throat, Stretches the Front Body, and Resets the Sacrum.
From your belly, prop yourself up on your forearms. Ground your hands, especially the knuckles. Broaden the upper chest. Spread the collar bones apart. Gaze down the direction of the tip of the nose. Extend your legs back behind you. Press your toenails down. Draw your upper chest through your arms as you pull the floor towards you. Hold for 2 minutes.
6. Supta Virasana Supported: Opens the Front Body, Releases the Groins, Widens the Low Back to Release Compression, and Improves Digestion.
From hands and knees, place knees together, heels apart. Sit back between the heels. Lie back on two blocks - one medium height under the shoulder blades, one highest height under the occipital ridge under the head. Double wrap the arms and let the hands rest on the forehead, gently guiding the forehead skin towards the nose to ease the nervous system. Repeat with opposite wrapping of the arms. Stay for 2 minutes each side.
7. Modified Shoulder Stand: Calms the Mind, Drains the Legs from Virasana, Resets the Sacrum, and Opens the Chest.
Come to bridge pose. Bring two blocks underneath your sacrum, stacked on top of each other on their lowest, widest height. Lift your legs over head, keeping the torso arched and not collapsed. You should feel the chest pressing towards the chin, the back arching, and the belly hollow. Stay for 5 minutes. Bend your knees to come down, lift hips, and remove blocks. Rest in constructive rest, with knees together, feet mats width apart, hands on belly.
GENERAL ADVICE FOR WINTER
- Replenishment, Resting, & Reflecting.
- During winter months, pay special attention to dreaming. Dream journals are helpful. With longer nights, our dream world speaks to us more loudly.
- Balance activity to stay warm and restful activity to replenish the system. It is essential to match activity with rest.
- Yin – conserve energy and resources. Yin activities strengthen ability and cleverness.
- Diet: warming and substantial - whole grains, less fruit, steamed veggies, ocean foods like seaweed, and soups. Avoid cold foods. Include Barley, Black Beans, Dried Ginger, Millet, Miso, Quinoa, Walnuts, Aloe Vera, Cinnamon, Clove, Kidney Beans and Water Chestnut.
- Indoor exercises.
- Teas and warming, energizing herbs are helpful to maintain balance.
- Pay attention to having a good balance of sexual activity: there can be a water imbalance if too much sexual activity or not enough.
Keeping the Water Element in Balance:
- Keep warm
- Stay quiet
- Sleep well
- Be at home
- Look within
- Balance preserving & giving
Activities that Disrupt the Water Element:
- Late nights and parties
- Lack of rest and sleep
Remember that your body is not separate from the elements of the earth and the changing of the seasons. Everything touches us in some way or another, and the art of yoga is learning to be with all that is around us. To let us be touched by the world, and to find a way to be in harmony with it. Experiment with these guidelines above. We hope you enjoy what winter has to offer us all.
And when you need a break from the cold, we’ve got you covered too.