Winter, or maybe it's Yinter; it is after all the most yin of all the seasons: dark, quiet, still, deep, cold and bare. The rawness hints at the very essence of life. This essence or taste, the rasa of existence is contained within the element of water.
In the 5 elements system, water conveniently brings us full circle. And as we dive into Winter the qualities of water expressed through adaptability and strength can be felt within as we are encouraged to pause and become still. Nature bares herself. Casting off her pretty accessories of leaves, flowers and berries she transforms them into layers of blanketing shelter to protect and conceal the inner transformations occurring beneath her barely moving skin. Deep within the Earth seeds are being planted.
Winter directs us toward this quiet pool within; to our own source, our essence of self-identity. It's here we can plant our self seeds through awareness of what we've become and how perhaps far this may have veered away from our original desires or what truly feels right, resourced and wholesome. Now is a good time for internal work to become our focus. Starting a meditation routine or to establishing a mindfulness practice are ways to effect this. One way to consider this in the context of mindfulness is to set an intention and then to pay attention to that in everything you do in the context of "does it align with my intention"? This greater awareness lends itself to reflection. Inevitably we notice what activities, people and thoughts replenish us & fill up our cup and what depletes us - where are the leaks?
The seeds we plant during this inner journey will need energy to germinate and sprout. It's not only about manifesting them come Spring but also about having a reserve of energy to maintain the impulsion that brings them into fruition. Think of a time when you were reluctant to share an idea for fear of it being too early. Were you concerned that you might not be able to make it happen and it might remain a pipe dream. Think also of a plan that you did share and then lost interest in? Perhaps the initial excitement propelled by the secrecy of preparation dwindled once it was out there in the world. There is great intuition in knowing when a seed needs more to maintain it's growth and achieve it's full expression. The concentration of power is held more potently and kindled more strongly in the dark - we see this in many mystical rituals and ceremonies that are shrouded in concealment.
In this most yin like of seasons energy is gathering. On the surface we see dormancy, inertia, but within, alchemical transformations are occurring. Cold and dark are prerequisites for storing and preserving energy in preparation. It is the internal force accumulated now that will empower the seed to burst forth in Spring and bud and grow and flower beyond it's initial bloom.
Water's essence is it's ability to adapt with effortless ease to changing circumstances, to alter it's form, to find or create a new path. It also expresses the power of strength, sheer force at times but also continuity and persistence, the wearing down rock to forge a way through. This transparent, unadorned element is said to contain the code to all life. Water has memory* and responds to external influences allowing itself to be melded by the earth and to take upon the shape of whatever container it finds its' way into. This ability to adapt, to reinvent requires strength and and stamina and both need energy.
When we have enough we feel strong and courageous, able to act and find the self-will or determination to keep going. We see obstacles as possibilities to be overcome rather than blocks that scupper plans and force us to give up. Not having enough causes us to feel depleted and if we lack resource then fear can become the obstacle that stops us. A healthy amount of fear is necessary to protect us from danger and prolong our lives so that we can reap the benefits of the seeds we are planting, but too much fear and our energy stores will be drained.
For over 5000 years the Chinese have associated the emotion of fear with the element of water and in the 5 elements system and the meridian system which underpin yin yoga, a depressed water element relates especially to the fear of not having enough. If we are unable to complete plans, to bring dreams into reality or we feel unprepared to meet the challenges we might face along route, then it indicates our energy reserve is dwindling. As we prepare our seeds we need to ensure we have enough energy stored up to survive Winter.
The kidney and urinary bladder are the yin and yang organs that belong to the water element and the season of Winter. The meridians which connect to these organs are channels which carry energy or qi (pronounced chi). The kidney meridian has a particular type of qi, called jing. Jing is essence, or life force so it's vital these channels inparticular are in balance to maintain our energy reserves and provide access to the areas in which our true inner strength, courage and wisdom lie.
All backbend poses activate the kidney meridian and all forward bends the urinary bladder. These meridians govern the efficacy of water in the body for hydration and elimination. There are specific points where the meridian channels run close to the surface: 27 on the kidney line and 67 on the urinary bladder line and these are typically used by acupuncturists to treat disorders. Acupuncture requires a great deal of skill and training but since we are not sticking needles in ourselves we can safely apply pressure to these points either by direct pressure or through stretching or compressing the tissues by placing the body in certain positions. (Please note some points are contraindicated particularly for pregnancy)