In TCM we have a thing called “The Dao” as described so beautifully in the quote above.
Anytime we move away from our center we take on aspects of yin or yang. Since life is forever changing, existence is never static, what is yin and what is yang are always changing too.
Rebalancing is the return to center and good health.
We live in a busy world in modern society
There are constantly distractions of some form or another. Things to think about, to do, to achieve, to strive for, deadlines to meet, places to get to which often can serve as stessors.
When we spend more time in sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system than parasympathetic (rest and nourish) we can find ourselves living with chronic stress. Long term chronic stress can have sad consequences for our mental and physical well-being.
The practice then has to start with self awareness, and being able to take moments to pause and notive that we are indeed moving away from center. Then choosing to live a life that allows you to calmly make you way back into a state of balance. As life is always in flux and everything is temporary, then our mission becomes one of tuning in regularly, and working our practice into being one of a lifetime of awareness. Introception.
The Journey Inward
This sequence is dedicated to finding balance in our Kidney and Urinary Bladder meridian lines. These organs are considered in Chinese Medicine to be the foundations of Yin and Yang balance for all of the other organs.
Let’s explore a little about our Kidney Energy first!
Our Vital Energy
reproduction and development. They are also a storehouse of our vital energy and need to remain balanced for all of the other organs to function well.
The essence of the kidneys is a precious substance, which is, believed in TCM to be, inherited from our parents and also partly replenished by the Qi extracted from nutritious foods.
This essence after birth controls growth, sexual maturation, fertility and development
All healthy practices like yoga, healthy diet, rest and balance will help to replenish this essence. Overwork, stress, poor lifestyle choices can all weaken kidney essence. Letting the mind get lost in worrying or being fearless about the future or analyzing would could go wrong, or things that we have no control over would create a deficiency in our Kidney Chi. Then creating an imbalance in our healthy functioning of the organ and other organs affected by Kidney, and inevitably makes us experience even more fear! A catch 22 situation.
The Kidney: A Storehouse of Jing
Jing is a form of life force energy that is with us in finite quantities from the time we are conceived, but naturally declines as we get older.
In times of need, your stored bank of King acts as a form of back-up energy for your primary power source, the life force called Qi, which we extract from the air we breathe and the food and drink that we consume.
In that sense you might think of Jing as being similar to the back up battery that automatically jumps into action if the electricity supply to your phone or computer cuts out temporarily.
Using your Jing as your back up power source means that the rate of its natural decline speeds up, especially if you have been working long hours, or leading a stressful lifestyle or neglecting your diet.
Yin offers us this beautiful chance to meet ourselves exactly where we are, moment by moment, shape by shape.
We invite ourselves into a shape, find stillness, relax the muscles, slow down our breath and witness our thoughts begin to also slow down
A mantra that I like to add to my classes as a reminder to my students is:
– Nowhere else to be
– Nothing else to do
– Nothing else to think about
An invitation to be witness to just you and your breath, this moment in time and nothing more.
It is then in thee moments of stillness, surrendering to what is, rather than trying to shape or control the moment, that transformation begisn to happen. The practice becomes about something so much more magical than simply the shapes.
It becomes about coming back to center!
Turning Down the Noise
When we consciously choose to give our nervous system a break, we are allowing our entire system to recalibrate
To give our nervous system a true rest we need to feed the nerves minimum stimulation possible. Then add to this maximum opportunity to rest and recharge, allowing our nerves a real chance to pause. This then allows us to find a better sense of balance as we feed them minimum stimulation possible and maximising rest and rejuvanation.
A healthy nervous system can lead to improved immunity, greater resilience, and an increased sense of well-being, and a calmer state of mind.
I want to share with you some tools to help you to manage our feelings of fear and worry that sometimes appear when we exist within this state of change and uncertainty.
- Blocks (2)
Reclined Butterfly (5 min)
We start the practice in Reclined Butterfly. Lay your bolster behind you runnng parallel to the direction of your yoga mat. Feel free to add a folded towel or blanket, or even a block under the far end of the bolster to elevate your head a little if desired. Rest a block on either side of your mat half way down (these can be swapped for cushions or pillows). Leave a small gap between your lower back and the bolster, and then slowly lower yourself down onto the bolster. Once comfortable here, bring a bend into the knees, soles of feet come together for butterfly shape. Gently lower your knees out to the sides of your mat, resting them onto the props and adjusting their position and height as needed.
Take a deep inhale through the nose, drawing energy into your lungs and a relaxed exhale as you allow your body to settle into the shape. Allow the shoulders to relax down either side of your bolster, gravity doing all of the work for you. Relax the fingers and toes. Soften the space in between the eyebrows, the corners of the mouth and eyes. Relaxing tongue away from roof of mouth. With every breath allow tension to melt away from your mind and body. Take a moment to arrive into the here and now, letting go of everything that was happening in the moments before this one. Bring your awareness to the breath now, energy coming into the center of your body. Notice the gentle rising and falling of the chest, and saying to yourself “I am aware that I am breathing in. I am aware that I am breathing out”. Notice the body relax, the thoughts slow down. Linger in this place of stillness, with nowhere else to be.
At the end of the shape, bring hand under thighs and guide them together, gently moving props from left side and rolling to pause on your left side a minute or so.
Wide Knee Childs Pose (5 min)
Push the ground away from you with your hands lifting you up. Take the knees nice and wide, feet touching where possible, bringing a bolster between your thighs. Feel free to add a block on first or second height under the head of the bolster. Then gently, lazily almost begin to melt forward over the props. Arms can lie forwards or behind you with fingers towards toes, as you feel most comfortable.
Make any adjustments you might need, then settle into stillness. Take time here to notice where and how you are feeling the shape, where feels really comfortable and at ease and any areas of resistance. Breathe into the back of the lungs, the lower back where the kidneys sit beneath the ribs. Guiding energy inwards, recharging your supply. Nothing else to do, just you and your breath in this moment in time.
At the end of the shape, gently guide yourself away from the props either coming into simple child pose with knees together or lying on your belly using arms as a pillow. Pause and notice any sensations there may be to experience.
Sphinx (5 min)
If you are in child pose gently lower yourself onto your stomach, legs straight behind you. Bring your elbows roughly under your shoulders, heart reaching forward. Choice to rest one or two blocks under your forehead, or perhaps a bolster under your ribs. Eyes closed or a soft gaze to one centered area of focus. Spend a few minutes here lingering in stillness, noticing space arriving into the heart and lung areas, a gentle compression in the lower back. Kidneys govern the general health of the lower back so know that this discomfort is ok. Please don’t stay with pain though (short, sharp shooting sensations). Feel free to straighten the arms bringing the hands to the mat for Seal pose, or rest blocks under your forearms to extend the backbend further. If in seal the hands closer to your body gives a deeper bend, hand further away may allow more ease. Explore what works best for you, all ways are valid.
At the end of the pose, lower yourself to your belly making a pillow with your arms. Childs pose can feel really nice or perhaps some cat and cows before stillness.
Half Shoelace (5 min per side)
Use your hands to push the ground away from you, bringing yourself up to a seat this time, bottom to the floor. Extend the left leg away from centre, reminding it to relax. Bend the right knee and place the knee roughly on top of the straight leg, with foot resting to the floor on the outside of leg leg. This doesn’t need to be perfectly aligned, you can even rest sole of foot to inside of left thigh if needed. Have your props within reach. Inhale sitting tall, then on your exhale lazily curling forward through the spine and then filling the gaps between your head and the mat. Sometimes it might just be a block or two under your forehead. You may need to place a block either side of your leg on the height that suits you best, resting a bolster on top. Bring the props closer to you to support a more elevated seat or further away to find more depth in your shape (without force remember, surrendering only to where your muscles stay relaxed). As time and gravity do their work, you may notice space arriving into the back of the tissues along the spine and straight leg. Feel free to move deeper into the shape as your body allows. When the shape ends, changing sides, enjoying a brief pause of 10 breaths lying down in a mini savasana.
Dragonfly (5 min)
From savasana, draw your knees into the chest as you gently roll to your left side, eventually finding your way up to a seat. Once upright, begin to move your legs as wide away from centre as you can. (You can swap this shape for butterfly if you feel as though you can’t roll forward or experience discomfort in the knee or lower back). Have your props within reach. Take a long deep inhale and on the exhale lazily curling forward through the spine and then filling the gaps between your head and the mat. Sometimes it might just be a block or two under your forehead. You may need to place 2 blocks between the thighs on the height that suits you best, resting a bolster on top. Bring the props closer to you to support a more elevated seat or further away to find more depth in your shape. As you feel space arriving feel free to self adjust to where your body needs to be. Nothing forced.
At the end of the shape, gently roll yourself up to a seat. Bring a hand under each knee to bend them and guide the feet out ahead of you and then windshield wiping the feet from side to side for a minute or so.
Simple Reclined Twist (5 min per side)
Come to lie on your back with your block and bolster on the right side of your mat. Draw the left knee into your center, as you reach your left arm to the left side of the room. Using your right hand gently guide your left knee across your body to the right side of the mat. Fill any gaps with either a block or a bolster or perhaps both, then relax your right arm down to the mat also. Direction of your head is wherever feels comfortable for your neck, try to allow your shoulders to relax down to the mat where possible. Closing your eyes as you arrive into this place of simply being. Noticing where you feel sensation, and as that eases, feel free to make adjustments to how you are using your props. Between sides, pause for a count of 10 breaths in savasana before slowly making your way to your second side without any expectations about how that might feel.
At the end of the second side, slowly bring the bolster behind your knees (optional), allow your feet to fall freely inward or outward, your arms coming to a comfortable place alongside the body. Closing your eyes, allowing the whole of the backline of the body to melt down towards the ground. Coming into this state of ease, calmness, simply being.
Position a block under the shoulder blades. The legs can extend out with or without props. The arms can rest to the belly, sides or overhead. Alternatively, to create more space in the upper back, cross the arms over the chest. Switch the arm on top when you are halfway through the pose.
When the time is right, make your way to a savasana position that feels supportive and helpful. Feel the open space you have created with your practice to feel more connected to who you are in this moment. This time will be a beautiful way to settle into confidence and personal understanding.