Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Everything starts in water. It is the womb and the source—the place where all is possible and from where all energy emerges. As such, it is also the energy of water where all healing cycles begin. In Energy Medicine Yoga—a system of yoga that combines energy work with asana—we explore where energy is stuck, and how we can get it to flow. And we focus on the organ systems and meridians that correspond with water: the Kidney and Bladder.
Kidney is the meridian system that leads all the others. The first acupuncture point on the Kidney meridian, Kidney 1, is the point on the base of your foot where energy enters the body. The energy then rises up to the end point of the Kidney meridian, called Kidney 27, which is a junction point for all the other meridians (located in the hollows below the tips of your collarbone). Kidney 27 is considered the “on” button of the body, and thumping or tapping or deeply mass-aging this point awakens all the energies of the meridians and gets your body’s energy moving forward. If your body’s energy isn’t moving forward, you are working at a 50 percent deficit, meaning the body can’t heal itself. It’s moving against its own energy. It’s like rowing against the current of a river.
Bladder, which is the longest meridian in the body, governs the nervous system. The Bladder meridian goes along the spinal column twice, once along a path that corresponds to your physical body and once along a path that corresponds to your emotional body.
In terms of psychology, the water element is the energy of the baby, the philosopher, and the king. This can be powerful, potent, and, when out of balance, dangerous. The main emotion that causes problems when water is out of balance is fear. And fear (along with anger, which is the wood element) can be one of the most debilitating and dangerous emotions.
Winter, the season associated with water, can be a fiercely lonely time. Holidays can bring up old hurts and make us feel disempowered or fearful. Turning our fear into hope, trust, faith, or courage is the balm we need to help us thrive through this season.
Working the Kidney and Bladder meridians through the following sequence will help you emerge from loneliness, depression, and fear into hope, growth, and abundance. In the depth of water, if you can hope for one small thing, it can help pull you out of the water. That’s what you need when you’re in that deep. It only requires you to believe that the possibility for change exists. This is the power of water. It is the start. It is the place where all potential lies.
1. Crown Pull
You can do the next two moves standing or sitting. Press your fingers into the center of your forehead, and with a strong pressure pull them apart. Continue this along the cen- ter seam of your skull all the way around to your neck.
2. Spinal Flush
Continue this pressure with your fingertips down your neck and the sides of your spine. Then pull your hands, with pressure, up over your shoulders. Continue down your sternum to where your ribs meet. Drag your fingers around to your back again, and then massage your thumbs down either side of your spine to your coccyx. Brush o your back three times.
3. Calf Clear In Cobbler’s Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Sit and place your feet loosely together, knees out to the sides. Leave space to reach the soles of your feet with your fingers. Find the slight indent where the ball of your big toe meets the ball of your second toe (Kidney 1). Press in deeply with your thumbs. Press and release this point deeply several times.
4. Sedate Triple Warmer, Seated
Still seated in Cobbler’s Pose, take a slight twist toward your right. Now wrap your right hand around your right leg, holding just below your knee (covering Stomach 36). Wrap your left hand in front of your torso around your right elbow (Triple Warmer 10). This will cause your body to twist slightly toward the right. Hold 1–3 minutes or until you feel the synchronized pulse. Then switch sides.
5. Control Points for Triple Warmer
Snug both feet in closer so you can reach them with your hands. You may need to put
a bit of padding under your feet. Hold your right foot on the side edge of your pinky toe (Bladder 66). Hold your right hand with your left hand, covering the base of your fourth fin- ger (Triple Warmer 2). On an inhalation, allow your heart to open to the sky.
6. Blowing Out the Candle
Squat with a rolled-up blanket or mat under your heels. Hug your arms around your knees. Inhale, bowing your head down. Look upand exhale with the sound whoooo. Do this 3 times. Think about something you’re afraid of and visualize yourself blowing out a candle, a rming that you have the courage to be in the dark or unknown.
7. Cat and Cow Poses
Then come forward onto your hands and knees. Inhale and lift your spine into an arch. Exhale and sink your spine into a hammock. Do this several times. Take a few breaths to arch your spine side to side as well, making the body into a crescent moon shape.
8. All Fours to Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Come back to neutral on all fours. Inhale here, then exhale and lower your butt to your heels. Inhale and come back up to all fours. Do this 3 times. This is a perfect pose to introduce or practice using Mula Bandha, or Root Lock. On the exhalation, engage the bandhaas you sit back onto your heels. Repeat this 3 more times.
9. Child’s Pose Weaving Heaven
Start in Child’s Pose. On an inhalation, lift your body up to stand on your knees with your arms up overhead. Exhale and weave your arms back and forth in front of your body as you release into Child’s Pose. Inhale to all fours. Exhale to Child’s Pose. Do this 3 times. Feel the energy and your breath moving in you like a wave.
10. Bean with Head Heal
Come slightly up and forward from Child’s Pose and walk your elbows forward. Rest your head in your hands, with the heels of your hands on your cheekbones and your palms over your eye sockets. Breathe here for as long as feels good. Now lift your head slightly and press your thumbs into the inside upper corners of your eyes, where they meet your nose. This is the first point on the Bladder meridian. Hold here and breathe for several moments. Release back into Child’s Pose; bring your hands into fists behind you and deeply and strongly massage your kidneys, at your low back, just below your bottom ribs.
11. Child’s Pose Side Stretch
From Child’s Pose, lengthen your arms out in front of you and walk them slightly to the right, stretching your whole side body. Repeat on the other side.
12. Rabbit Pose (Sasangasana) with Heel Pulse
From Child’s Pose, cup your hands over your heels. Press your fingers in and massage your heels and the bottoms of your feet, which will release stored shock from your body. Use the pressure of your fingertips pressing into your heels to pull your body back as you lean forward with your weight coming to the crown of your head. You can hold behind your knees if that feels better. Stretch your whole spine. Then release back into Child’s Pose.
13. All Fours to Child’s Pose to All Fours to Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
From Child’s Pose, inhale to all fours and exhale to Child’s Pose. Then, inhale to all fours and exhale to Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat this 3–5 times.
17. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Lie on your belly. Lift your head, neck, shoul- ders, and arms o the floor, and then lift both legs from the floor, engaging your leg and butt muscles strongly. Arms can be straight out in front of you, out to the sides, or along your body with your palms facing out. Hold for
5 breaths and return to the floor, head on your hands, and rock your hips.
18. Foot to Butt
Still lying on your belly, come up on your elbows. Reach back and press your foot with the same-side hand down toward your butt. Make sure to press both hipbones down to the floor. Hold for several breaths, stretching the front of your quadriceps. Switch sides.
19. Cat and Cow Poses
Come onto your hands and knees and do a few more rounds of Cat-Cow to release your back. Arch and concave your back in con- junction with your breath.
20. Camel Pose (Ustrasana) with Water Hold
Come to stand on your knees on some extra padding. Lift your heart center up. Bring
your hands into Triple Warmer/Heart Mudra (thumbs in your heart center, fingertips in the hollow at the base of your throat). Keep your hips pressing forward, as much in line with your knees as you can. Extend your right arm up and over your head to come behind you. With your thumb and your bent index finger squeeze strongly on either side of your Achil- les tendon on your right foot—thumb on the outside, index finger on the inside. (Note: Do not massage your Achilles tendon if you are pregnant.) Now extend your left arm up and over and hold the other ankle the same way. Hold for 3–5 breaths. To release, reverse the pose. Repeat 1–2 more times.
14. Knees-Chest-Chin, or Inchworm
From Downward-Facing Dog, lower your knees, then your chest, then your chin to the floor. Your butt will be up in the air. Make sure your elbows are tucked in to your side bod- ies. Try to breathe as deeply and smoothly as you can. Hold for 5 breaths. Then bring your weight into your hands and bring yourself forward, and release flat onto the floor.
15. Triple Warmer Rock
Lower onto your belly. Make a pillow with your hands and rest your forehead on them. Rock your hips side to side. This releases the fight-or-flight response in your body by calming the Triple Warmer meridian.
16. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Bring your hands under your shoulders and slowly start to lift your torso up using the muscles in your back to curl into a backbend before you engage your arms. Come up as high as feels comfortable. Strongly engage the muscles of your butt and legs. Legs stay on the floor. Hold 3–5 breaths. Release down to your belly with your head on your hands and rock your hips side to side.
21. Three-Point Kidney: Sedate in Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendransa)
Start in a seated position, legs stretched out in front of you. Bring your right knee up so your right foot is flat on the floor, then cross your left leg under your right. Inhale and lengthen your left arm up and extend it past your right knee to reach your left foot. Place whichever thumb is reaching your left foot to hold under the ball of your foot (Kidney 1). Wrap your other fingers around your big toe, touching the base of your big toenail on the inside edge (Liver 1). Hold these points lightly for 2–3 minutes. As you inhale, con- tinue lengthening your spine; as you exhale, deepen the twist. Release, counter-stretch to the other side, then take the pose to the left.
22. Strengthen Kidney: Half-Ankle to Knee
Starting in a seated position, with your legs stretched out in front of you, cross your right ankle over your extended straight left leg, directly above your knee. Bring your right hand to “cu ” over your mid-calf (Kidney 7). Bring your left hand to “cu ” under your wrist (Lung 8). Lean forward from your hips and hold 1–2 minutes. Switch sides.
23. Control Kidney: Cobbler’s Pose
Bring the soles of your feet together, knees apart. Bring your thumbs into the centers of the upward-facing exposure of your Achilles tendons (Kidney 3); bring your fingertips to rest on the sides of the balls of your feet as shown (Spleen 3). Lean forward into the pose, bending from your hips, not your waist. Stay for 1 minute. Tip: You can do all three holds for Kidney strengthening in Cobbler’s Pose.
24. Seated Cortisol Breath
Take a comfortable seat with a bit of padding under your butt to raise your hips o the floor slightly, and allow your spine to easily settle into its natural curves. Take a few deep, clearing, and centering breaths. Now inhale deeply, as much as you can, and pull your belly in. At the top of the inhalation, when it feels as if you can’t inhale any more, sni in 3 more quick breaths. Exhale completely. Now inhale completely and exhale all the air out until it seems as if you have no air left in your lungs. Again, keep your belly pulled in. Exhale 3 quick exhales, pushing out 3 more puffs of air. Inhale completely. Do this again, both directions, 2 more times. This helps to balance the cortisol levels in your body.
25. Cortisol Thread Thru
Bring one hand to your crown. Bring your other hand one inch below your belly button. Open your thumb and middle finger two inches so they cover the points 1 inch below and 1 inch to the side of your belly button. Inhale and pull your top arm up, then exhale, lowering that hand back to your crown and pulling your other hand out from your belly. Do this back and forth, as if you are pulling a piece of thread up and down between your crown and the cortisol points on your belly. Repeat several times. This balances cortisol levels as well.
26. Moving Bridge with Water Neurolymphatic Clear
Lie on your back with your feet on the floor, knees up. Have your feet a foot or so from your buttocks. Inhale and raise your hips to the floor, and lift your arms up until they are resting on the floor behind you. Exhale and release your hips back to the floor at the same time as the arms. Repeat 5 times. Inhale, hips up, arms up. Exhale, hips down, arms down. After the fifth time, keep your hips up, but allow your arms to return to the floor. Continue breathing smoothly and slowly.
While resting from moving Bridge Pose, shake your hands o . Exhale through your mouth, making the sound whooo. If it feels good to you, come up again into Bridge for 5 more breaths.
27. Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) or Leg-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Either bring a block under your sacrum and lift your legs straight up into the air, or bring your butt to the edge of a wall and roll onto your back, lengthening your legs up the wall with or without a block under your sacrum. Ask your body what it needs at this point in the practice. Bring your hands behind your head. Massage deeply all along the occipital ridge, the bone at the base of the skull. You may notice several sore spots. Massage these.
Remain lying down and bring your thumbs or your first 2 fingers into the main electric points—located in the 2 deep hollows on either side of the ropy tendons at the back of your neck, where it meets your skull. Allow your elbows to relax down to the floor. Rest here for 2–10 minutes.
You will start to feel warmth, heat, tingling, pulsations, electrical impulses, or vibrations under your fingertips. Don’t remove your fingers, even if they feel funny or hot, until you are ready to come out of the pose.
28. Laughing Baby with Calf Massage, Then Kidney 1 Pulse
Lie on your back, fold your knees into your chest, release your low back, and breathe deeply. Start to lift your feet into the sky for laughing baby, and as you do so, massage again your soleus muscle (the fleshiest part of the calf), where it starts to thin out (the ten- don guard reflex), and your Achilles tendon.
Note: Do not massage your Achilles tendon if you’re pregnant. End with your knees bent toward your armpits and your feet facing the sky. Hold on to your feet and press your fin- gers into Kidney 1 (under the ball of your foot). Pulse this point a few times, then hold, press- ing into Kidney 1 with your hands as your knees descend deeper toward your armpits. Stay here for several breaths.
29. Blowing Out the Candle, Reclining
Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Inhale and lift your head up to your knees. Exhale with an audible whoooo, and release your head back down to the floor. Do this 3 times.
30. Body Cross
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor. Make a large X on your body. First, squeeze the muscle on the top of one shoulder, then “slice” through your body to the opposite hip. Make an X by repeating the same squeeze and slice on the other side. Do each side again.
31. Hook Up
Place one finger in your belly button, one finger at your third eye, and press both in and pull up. Take 3 full deep breaths, in your nose and out your mouth.
32. Corpse Pose (Savasana) Prep with Water Neurovascular Reflex Points Hold
Lie on your back with your legs slightly apart. You can put a rolled blanket under your knees and a block under your top arm for support if you like. Before you fully surrender to the pose, bring one hand to cover your forehead, as if you were taking your temperature. Bring your other hand over the lower curve of your skull. Hold here for at least a minute or as long as feels good to you. This helps release the emotional residue of water: fear. You can bring to mind something you’re working with, or just allow the hold to do its magic. When you feel ready, release your arms down to your sides.
33. Corpse Pose
Let the body relax completely. Let your trace of awareness rest on any new sensations or feelings that are occurring in your body. Don’t try to identify them; just let your awareness rest with these newly awakened energies. They may appear as color, light, warmth, heat, sound, or even smell or taste. Remain here for 5–15 minutes.
34. Pranayama: Sam Vritti
Come to a comfortable, supported seat. Sama vritti means “equal breath.” The goal
is to make the length of the inhale equal to the length of the exhale. This practice helps bring disciplined awareness to the breath. To help you equalize your inhale and exhale, put a count to your breath. Slowly and evenly, count 1, 2, 3, 4 as you inhale, and then exhale to the same number of counts until the inhale and exhale are even. As your breath capacity deepens, the count will naturally get longer; continue to make inhales and exhales the same length. This breath helps bring your body and nervous system into balance and brings more equanimity to your practice. You can do it at the start or end of your practice.
Sit and listen for 5–25 minutes. First listen to the farthest sounds, and then listen to sounds closer and closer in to your body. Then listen to the sounds coming from inside your own body. Finally, listen or feel your own heartbeat. Keep your awareness here for the remainder of your meditation.
Excerpted from The Energy Medicine Yoga Prescription, by Lauren Walker. Sounds True, August 2017. Reprinted with permission.