Watching the sun brazen its' way through the assembly of storm clouds on Sunday morning, steeped in silent wonder at the transforming scene rising, I felt the cold chill of Winter caught in rapture of life's moistened essence. Well maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but Winter does direct us into this dark, quiet pool of a harbour within. Her frosted fingers point to something underneath as the shortened days offer up an invitation to rest, rejuvenate, reimagine and take an energy meter reading.
Winter is the most yin of all the seasons. Yet while it appears on the surface to be in dormancy, the external cloak of stillness it wears hides an underbelly of activity - energy regathering within like some secret underground rebellion organising itself for battle.
In the 5 elements system which underpins Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we are offered a map to navigate the subtle energetic rivers whilst we semi-hibernate in postures sustained by the flow of breath and the sensations that call from deeper recesses. Winter is the seasons associated with the element of Water. The tributaries which relate to this element and season are the Kidneys (yin) and the Bladder (yang). Together they offer a connection to the source from which all life springs.
The Kidneys are the body's blood filtration system and consist of two bean shaped organs each the size of a fist. They are situated just below the rib cage either side of the spine. Kidney health directly impacts all the fluid systems of the body. Their yang partner, the bladder, like all yang organs is hollow; it works quite simply as a transportation system carrying away the waste water.
According to TCM theory the kidneys house essence - jing. Jing is considered to be our life force. We inherit this pre-natal gift of jing from our parents. Once the jing account is expended, that's it, We Are Done, or undone! The Kidneys are regarded as the mansion of fire and water, the palace of yin and yang and the connection of life to death. Jing rules production of the bone marrow and is therefore directly related to growth. The bone marrow produces red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body delivering nutrients and maintaining life. The harmony of yin and yang, flow of essence and removal of toxins is essential for physical, mental and emotional well being.
Excess heat can weaken the kidneys as can over spending on energy. This is particularly connected to the degree of stress we experience. When stress is prolonged or extreme it can easily turn to exhaustion as the adrenals that sit on top of the kidneys churn out hormones that create a high state of alert in the nervous system by invoking our sympathetic response - fight and flight mode.
Now unlike nature we don't tend to alter our patterns of living according to the seasons. As much of the animal kingdom is hibernating right now, we do the opposite - cranking up the dial, especially towards the festive season.
For balance to reign in the house it is vital to cultivate periods of precious time for stillness. This time allows us to see through the exhaustive clouds of activity and become more aware of where we are over expending our energy and what conservation practices might need to be implemented. When we are continually depleting our reserves and failing to re-nourish through rest and nutrition and mental reflection, our life essence seeps out. In a yoga practice the simple act of deepening into longer held, low to the ground poses can instigate a shift. Dragonfly, wide leg seated forward fold for example, targets the inner thigh area and lower back and with props to support the chest we might lean in and find there an opportunity to press pause ... sensung how our moment to moment our own flow proceeds.