If you live in the northern hemisphere, chances are you’re experiencing the effects of winter. (For our southern hemisphere friends, read on, and tuck the info away for yourself for 6 months from now!)

Those who’ve followed me for awhile know that I am a huge fan of the 5 Elements theories of Chinese Medicine. The easiest way to understand that: it’s a seasonal approach to understanding and supporting the body, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Winter is represented by the element of water. It is associated with the kidney system, which includes the kidneys, the reproductive system, the (urinary) bladder, bones, teeth and ears.

What’s all that mean?

Simply put, this is the season where the kidneys are “quiet”, or as I like to put it, could use a little extra TLC. Look at nature. Everything has gone dormant. The trees dropped their leaves, bears are hibernating, many plants and animals have gone underground and silent. It’s a time of re-grouping, regenerating, recharging.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing different ways to support the kidneys. Today the focus is on the physical side of things. Here are my favorite ways to give the kidneys a little hug:

  1. Yoga Twists
    You can do seated poses like Ardha Matsyendrasana (sitting half spinal twist or seated half lord of the fishes). I myself like to do these lying down, simply so I keep good spinal alignment in the process. Easy to do, simply shift your Ardha to Supra. When teaching yoga, I liked to remind my students that Supta Matsyendrasana (or lying lord of the fishes pose) was like giving the kidneys an extra hug. Think of it like you’re wringing out a washcloth, squeezing (gently!) your insides as you deepen your twist.
    For those unfamiliar with yoga, one good online resource is Yoga Journal. They have an easy step-by-step on Ardha Matsyendrasana.
  2. Rebounder
    I love rebounding for so many reasons. It helps move things through the body, gets the circulation going, empowers the lymphatic system…the list of benefits is lengthy! While there are some who do entire routines on the rebounder (there are even rebounder classes!) even just 5 minutes a day can make a difference. While the quality rebounders are an investment (a few hundred dollars), you can occasionally find top quality gently used ones online, so search your local exchange groups.
  3. Qigong
    I’ll be honest, I am more familiar with Tai Chi than Qigong. However, the deeper my learning of the 5 elements becomes, the more I learn about Qigong and understand how it connects to the teachings. It has tremendous health benefits, and I love that there are practices to target the seasons and systems. My friend and fellow coach, Julie, will be creating some videos of practices to target specific organs for each season. Until then, if you simply do a search for “Qigong and kidneys” you’ll get a lot of resources to use and bookmark.
  4. Pummel Your Kidneys
    Not sure this one has an actual name, but it’s a technique taught to me by my acupuncturist years ago. The kidneys are situated toward the back, and about at the level of the waist. Make a fist, and using the side, gently beat on your back. (For the “side”, think of where you’d draw a face to make your hand into a talking puppet.)
  5. Yoga Ball
    As a personal trainer, I was a big fan of the yoga ball. It was great for creating core strength and stability. If you go back to #4, think about how that might be beneficial for the kidneys. Support, right? Also, the yoga ball helps to support the body as we adjust to new movements. Using the yoga ball, I like to lie on my back, almost like I’m doing a supported backbend. It’s a great way to open up the chest, but works that entire torso area. Then I flip it around and do two things. One is simply lie on my stomach and really let my arms and head hang. It’s the counter pose to the backbend.
    Another great move to work up to is the pike using the yoga ball. But that’s another post for a different day.

Besides the kidney love aspect of each of these, there’s another thing they have in common. You can do each of these in your house. No gym membership required, no need to go outside in the cold. The good news is it makes it easy for pretty much everyone. (The bad news is…I just took away any excuse!)

I know I don’t like exercising in the cold and from what people share with me, I am not alone in that! Yet I love having something that can help me stay on track, and give my body a boost. So during this season, show your body a little love, and give those kidneys a hug.