With Ease and Grace Through the Cold winter
Maybe you feel a bit down, your energy is low and the days are long, cold and dark on the Northern Hemisphere.
What to do to cheer up your mood?
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In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is the time of the ELEMENT WATER. Water can be soft and weak, but also powerful, violent, quiet, moving, clear or murky. Water embodies these opposites without contradictions. Water is the source of life and we can not survive a few days without it.
Water element is reflected in our body in the deep structures, such as tissue layers, bones and bone marrow. The energy goes back to the moment of conception. Thus, the Chinese consider the "kidney essence" as energy from our ancestors, which is passed from generation to generation.
In Shiatsu the Water Element is connected to the Kidney and Bladder meridian.
The Kidney Meridian is a yin energy channel, that brings the Ki (Qi) from the Earth towards the Heaven. It starts from the inferior aspect of the small toe, runs across the sole of the foot and emerges along the arch of the foot to circle behind the inner ankle and pass through the heel. It ascends the medial side of the lower leg to the medial side of the knee crease, climbs upward along the innermost aspect of the thigh and penetrates the body near the base of the spine. It runs upward over the abdomen and chest. A second branch begins inside at the kidney, passes upward through the liver and diaphragm and enters the lung, that continues along the throat and terminates at the root of the tongue. A smaller branch leaves the lung and joins the heart, here connects with the Pericardium Meridian.
At home you can roll up a blanket and place it underneath the shoulder blades. As you lay down on the floor, elevate your heart and head. Bend your knees and open them to the side while the soles of the feet are touching each other. Goddess pose is a wonderful restorative posture to pause and imagine that Mother Earth gives you everything. Use a blanket to cover yourself, maybe you have an eye pillow, too to enhance your yin-yoga experience.
An easy but profound exercise on the go or at your work place:
Rub your palms together and create heat. Imagine the color red in your palms and feel the warmth. Place your hands on the area of your kidneys for a few seconds, take a few deep breaths and then repeat this exercise a few more times.
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How can you protect your Kidneys?
Rest whenever you can, listen to "body-scanning" relaxing exercises before you go to sleep. Have at least 7-8 hours uninterrupted sleep. Reduce the time watching tv, phone or tablet, and even reduce your social media consume. Dimm the light in your room and open your window for a few minutes before bedtime. Whatever feels good for you, listen to relaxing music, write in your journal, read a good book, meditate, pray or write a gratitude list about the day. Small rituals practiced over a period of time will truly enrich your experience.
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The Bladder Meridian
It is a yang energy channel, that "starts at the inner side of the eyes and ascends across the forehead to the vertex of the head. A small branch enters the brain, while the main meridian continues to descend along the back of the head and the back of the neck. It runs 1,5 Cun (1 thumb width) away on both sides of the spine. The meridian enters the body in the lumbar region and connecting with the Kidney. It runs on the middle of the backside of the leg, circles the outer ankle and runs along the outside of the foot and terminates on the lateral side of the tip of the small toe, where it connects with the Kidney Meridian". - Ted J. Kaptchuk from the book Chinese Medicine - The Web that has no Weaver.
The Bladder Meridian is responsible for adaptability, the endocrine system, the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the autonomic nervous system.
If you are interested to have a shiatsu treatment, feel free to book your appointment on my website.
Colors of the Element Water are dark blue and black.
If you look around, notice how many people wear dark clothes in winter. When I pick up our children from school, I am shocked noticing how the color black still rules the fashion code among young people.
Be creative and use more colors in your wardrobe! A red hat, orange socks, yellow gloves, a colorful scarf, whatever you like! Don't let all the grey and black to drain your energy.
Pay attention of the sounds around you. Moan is a sign of depleted energy, depression and exhaustion. The sense organ related to the Element Water is the ears. Just notice the shape of your ears and your kidneys. Listen to the sounds around you, practice mindfulness and meditate on "Nadam", a Sanskrit word for inner sound.
In Winter the energy moves inward, many animals hibernate, plants have a rest period, Qi (Ki) sleeps deep in the Earth. It is wonderful to allow yourself to rest and restore.
Masunaga's Shiatsu concept is rooted in the classical Zen Shiatsu Theory, where the Bladder and Kidneys are equal partners and have the task of promoting the driving force. The Kidneys send the commands through hormones and the Bladder releases them through the nervous system. - Carola Beresford-Cooke
What if the Element of Water is out of balance?
In my Shiatsu-practice experience, edema and back pain are the number one trouble makers. Spine disease in general is associated with Element Water imbalances.
Herniated disc, anxieties, organ bladder and kidney disease, depression, stiff joints, balance disorder, dizziness, tinnitus and problems with ambition and willpower (too much or too little) are also alarming signs of imbalance.
It is a big topic, but know, it is ok have fear. It is a natural reaction of your body. Share your thoughts with your family and friends or/and seek professional help.
Hormones in the adrenal glands regulate water balance in our bodies and also stress management. Learn to keep stress under control. Regulate your breath and mind through Pranayama (breath control) techniques. There are amazing books on the topic, I recommend you the book "Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art" by James Nestor.
You can start with deep belly breathing and three-part-yogic breath before you try more advanced forms of Pranayama techniques.
Box-breathing: inhale for 4 count, hold for 4, exhale for 4 and hold for 4 counts.
Harmonize your body and mind with 4 count inhale, 7 count hold and 8 count exhale.
Reduce stress with a 4 count inhale and exhale as long as you can (maybe 8 or 10 counts). Slowly increase the time of your practice and always check how you feel. Learn safe techniques from a certified yoga instructor.
A well-rounded vinyasa class keeps you strong and flexible. But pay attention to your needs. Maybe a Yin-yoga or a Restorative-Yoga class are even more beneficial depending on your day, mood and physical and mental condition.
Shoulder stand is in general great for boost immunity, good circulation and for activate the thymus gland. Forward folds reduce stress and a long (at least 10 minutes) Savasana, corpse pose round up your daily mindful movement.
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Practice breath of fire, Kappalabhati and Agni Sara in the morning.
Eliminate cold food, ice cream and ice from your beverage!
Avoid white sugar and flour.
Drink more hot tea and warm water.
Add more spices to your dishes.
Stimulate your digestion by using more ginger and black pepper.
Don't drink too much water.
Eliminate salt, because it retains water in your body.
Try to go gluten free and avoid raw food for a while.
Home cooked, blessed, warm food is miracle for the body. If you like Thai or Indian recipes, try new ideas!
Avoid milk (if you are not already use plant based milk options), because it is also cooling.
Try chai tea and fresh ginger-lemon tea.
Cook apples and other fruit with your gluten free oat meal.
For your happy, healthy skin:
Heat up a small amount of black sesame seed oil or coconut oil and rub your belly clockwise in the morning before taking a shower. This daily abdominal massage works wonders. Go to a sauna and sweat out the toxins once in a while.
Nurture yourself with a restorative yoga class, a shiatsu treatment, a nice get together with good friends, a hot tea or a big bowl of home cooked soup. Nourishing does not always mean eating. All mental stress reduction start with a small step, practice mindfulness. What about a brisk long walk in the park or a sauna. Pay attention to that feels good for you at the moment and listen to your inner voice.
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If you feel inspired by my blog, please feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch through my website.
Stay healthy, warm and relaxed!