In the Northern Hemisphere winter has started. This is the most Yin time of the year, the days become darker and colder.
Like what’s happening in nature, this is the time to activate hibernation mode and rest your body. It’s time to renew and regenerate the energy located in the kidneys, known as the life force Jing in Chinese Medicine (TCM). In winter, nature moves into a more quiet season. Similarly, we find our essence and purpose for the next season in these cold months. According to TCM, this season is related to the water element and the Kidney meridian (Yin) and Urinary bladder meridian (Yang).
At a physical level, back pain, especially lower back pain, or neck pain can be a symptom of imbalance of the water element. When we stop to think about its origin, the importance of myofascial pain becomes clear.
Myofascial Release (MFR) is a technique that treats skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles. This releases the tension in the connective tissues (fascia) that wrap, connect and support the muscles (myofascial). It is composed mainly of collagen fibers with a gel-like viscosity necessary for pain free movements. Some of the benefits of MFR are the improvement of the physical function, neuromuscular coordination, postural stability, reduction of pain and stiffness, increase of the hydration of the tissues and blood circulation.
A trigger point can be defined as a spot that triggers pain with an impact on particular problems. Successful treatment of trigger point is marked by restoration of full pain free range of motion of the affected muscle.
This technique can be combined with Yin Yoga practice integrating ball techniques with yin yoga poses. In this practice I invite you to a sequence of ball rolling and compression followed by a release posture targeting the kidney and urinary bladder meridians from Chinese Medicine.
PROPS: You’ll need a pair of blocks and one or two tennis or foam balls. Use a ball with a hardness level adaptable to you and if you feel any pain stay in the pose without the ball. Avoid any injuries and if you’re pregnant, avoid the abdomen area.
Other useful props: bolster, blankets, sandbags.
Find a quiet place, let go of any worries, expectations, stress and anxiety and allow yourself to be and to feel the present moment for the next hour.
Use the suggested playlist for the practice or stay in silence and let’s begin.
1. Meditation pose (5 min)
Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and start to look inwards. Feel your body, observe your mind and be aware about every inhalation and every exhalation naturally slowing it down. Without any judgement, accept every sensation in your body and every thought coming up to your mind and allow it to pass by.
Stay for 5 minutes in your meditation pose and set an intention to the practice.
Add on: Start by tapping the urinary bladder first acupuncture point (BL1). On the face, find it in the depression superior to the inner canthus and softly press it using the thumbs for four full breaths.
2. Reclined butterfly (10 min)
Lie down on your back with the spine on the floor or resting in the bolster. Bring your feet together, let the knees fall to the sides and if you need use the blocks as a support for the knees. Relax the back body completely. If it’s more comfortable for you, feel free to stretch your legs slowly on the floor.
Hold the pose for 10 minutes. If you use any support, bring it to a side, stretch your legs and arms and stay for a couple of minutes integrating the sensations.
3. Suboccipital compression (3 min)
Using two blocks as shown in the photo, rest the occipital bone on the edge of the block. Slowly move the neck to one side and then to the other side like a soft massage.
Stop moving the neck and stay for 2 more minutes. Remove the blocks to one side and stay in this pose for a couple of minutes to feel the sensations coming out of the compression.
4. Scapula rolling and compression (4 min)
Choose to do both sides at the same time by using two balls or do one side and then the other using just one ball. Place the ball in the scapula area on the upper back body and roll it until finding a spot with some tightness and relax the muscles against the ball feeling the compression. Hold it for 4 minutes or if you choose to do one side each time, stay for 2 minutes each side.
Remove the balls to one side, hug the knees to the chest and slowly find the way to a seated position and then to a standing position.
5. Dangling (4 min)
Slightly bend your knees and fold forward, rolling the spine forward. Grab opposite elbows and relax completely the upper body feeling the stretch after the compression.
Hold the pose for 4 minutes. Move slowly, bring your hands to the floor, bend your knees, find a way to sit and from there lie down on your back for a 2 minutes rebound.
6. Lower back rolling and compression (4 min)
Like the previous pose, choose to use both balls at the same time or do one side and then the other. Place the ball in the lower back and roll it until finding a spot with some tightness feeling the compression.
Hold it for 4 minutes or if you choose to do one side each time, stay for 2 minutes each side. Feel the difference in each side and observe.
Remove the balls to one side, hug the knees to the chest and slowly find the way to a seated position.
7. Squat (4 min)
Bring the hands and feet to the floor. Separate the feet more than hips distance apart to a squat pose. Feel free to use a block or bolster to seat and allow the spine to round forward.
Hold it for 4 minutes. Slowly rise up, lie down on your back, stretch the legs and arms and stay in a rebound for 3 minutes.
8. Quad rolling (3 min)
Roll onto the right side of the body, bend your knees and place one block and a ball between both legs and start to roll the ball through the left quad. When you feel some stiffness, maintain the ball in that spot feeling the compression. Slide the block and the ball to the side and lie on your back, stretch arms and legs. Stay for a full breath and switch sides.
Roll onto the left side of the body, bend your knees and place the block and ball between both legs. Start to roll the ball through the right quad and like the previous side stay in compression if you feel any stiffness. Stay for around 3 minutes. Remove the supports to one side and lay down for a couple of minutes before coming to a seated position.
9. Butterfly (5 min)
From the seated position extend the legs forward. Feel free to move your legs if needed and start to bend the knees to the sides in a butterfly legs shape. You can place a blanket as a support to your seating bones and separate your heels from your groin so your legs stay in a diamond shape. Use the bolster as a support to your abdomen and chest and start to flex over the bolster. Walk your fingertips slowly on the floor coming forward or to the sides allowing the spine to round and hold the pose for 5 minutes.
Slowly rise up, move your legs and start to extend your back body into the ground staying in a rebound for a couple of minutes relaxing completely and observing the sensations.
10. Savasana (10 min)
Extend your legs into the ground using all the space that you need to relax in a comfortable position. If you feel tension on the lower back use the bolster below your knees as a support helping to relax the spine. Stay in Savasana as long as you feel your body asks for (at least 10 min).
Release any tension in your physical and mental body, feel your natural breath and if your mind starts to reach you with a lot of thoughts just observe, accept them and let them go away. Let go of any physical tension, any worries and relax. After the time you decide to give yourself in final rest, start to awaken your body with slow movements, extend your arms overhead and stretch your arms and legs.
Take your time, keep your eyes closed, come to a seated position and take a few moments to observe with curiosity how you feel right now. Bring your hands to the center of your chest, feel your heartbeat and remember your intention to the practice. Bow your head to your heart and thank yourself for taking this time to be with you.
After the practice, take your time to rest and it’s very important to drink plenty of water.