Yin Yoga poses for kidney health and fatigue

According to Chinese medicine, there’s a connection between kidneys, adrenals and fatigue. Here you will find 4 static Yin Yoga poses that stimulate energy flow to the kidneys which are great for people with adrenal and chronic fatigue (CFS).

Connection between kidneys, adrenals and fatigue according to Chinese medicine

Yin Yoga, unlike other types of yoga, is based on a Chinese theory of meridians. In Chinese medicine ‘meridians’ are the energy channels or pathways that run through the body. They form a network, and if a network is disrupted or if blockages occur, the body and the organs will not function properly and imbalance arises. Each of the vital organs has its associated meridian. Since kidneys and adrenal glands are regarded as the body’s most important reservoir of essential energy, kidney meridian’s deviations and disruptions have major energetic consequences.

“When the kidney meridian is depleted, all the meridian energies in the body often become reversed, literally flowing backwards, causing you to feel utter exhaustion.” Donna Eden, author of Energy Medicine.

Rosanna Commisso, a yoga practitioner who was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue, explains the relationship between kidneys, adrenals and exhaustion associated with the two above conditions. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is based on the idea of balance, our bodies contain both Yin and Yang energies which should remain in balance for us to be in a healthy state. In TCM adrenal glands are related to kidney energy, thus adrenal fatigue which may also become chronic can result in be both kidney Yang and kidney Yin deficiency.

“Kidney Yang relates to the reactive, sympathetic nervous system and the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine. In contrast, Kidney Yin is the parasympathetic nervous system relating to the secretion of cortisol. Just as the body requires some degree of Yang adrenaline hormone to create motivation to react both to normal as well as life threatening stimulus, it also has a continual need for the Yin hormone, cortisol to buffer the effects of stress. In the early stages of stress, the body increases its production of cortisol, while in the later stages its secretion of cortisol is severely diminished. This lack of cortisol is diagnosed as Kidney Yin Deficiency.” (read her full article Adrenal Fatigue – A Chi Perspective)

The key to stimulating energy flow to the kidneys are the urinary bladder and kidney meridians. Yin Yoga poses that focus on the spine can be very effective at stimulating and nourishing the kidneys.

But before we jump into the description of the poses, here’s an important note for those who are new to Yin Yoga.

How to do Yin poses

“The first principle of Yin Yoga is – every time you come into a pose, go only to the point where you feel a significant resistance in the body. Don’t try to go as deep as you possibly can right away. Give your body a chance to open up and invite you to go deeper. After thirty seconds or a minute or so, usually, the body releases and greater depth is possible. But not always. Listen to the body and respect its requests.” Bernie Clark

Yin Yoga emphasises the importance of finding your own edge. The poses are not supposed to be comfortable, but neither should you experience pain. So, your edge is when you are feeling the stretch or the compression, but not feeling the pain. You can always modify the poses by reducing the intensity or just come out of the pose.

Yin poses are held from one to five minutes. If you are a beginner or have been experiencing severe symptoms of fatigue, start with a minute and a half – you can always extend the length of your practice when your body is more used to it.

When holding the pose, focus on your breath and try to relax into the pose.

You can do each pose separately or as a flow in the order suggested below.

Yin Yoga poses for the kidneys

A quick side note:

However beneficial yoga may be, it is not a cure for kidney problems and fatigue, but rather a wonderful way to help you restore a balanced energy flow in your body targeting a specific area or organ. These are just some of the poses that focus on stimulating the kidney meridian. Try them for yourself and see which ones work best for you.

butterfly

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Illustration: Denise Ullmann

This pose is good for the kidneys and prostate gland and is recommended for people suffering from urinary problems. It releases and stretches the lower back and opens the hips.

Getting into the pose: Sit on the mat or on a cushion to elevate your hips. Bring your feet together and move them a little further away from you so that you have a nice diamond shape between your legs. Here you may need some props to place under your knees for some extra support. If you are flexible or would like to have a deeper stretch –  bend all the way forward, drop your head and release your neck completely. Keep your back rounded and relaxed. This pose is great for releasing and stretching the lower back at the end of the day and it also opens the hips.

For a more restorative option, place some cushions or a pillow under your chest or your head – this will give you a feeling of being fully supported. Build the height that feels right for you and surrender completely into this pose.

Benefits: The butterfly pose is one of the most therapeutic yin yoga poses, it affects six energy meridians in the body and also decompresses the spine.

The more relaxation you attain and the longer you hold the pose, the more it will benefit your joints and connective tissues.

If you are experiencing any unpleasant sensations, at any point feel free to come up a little higher or even lie down on your back in a reclined butterfly pose.

Keep focusing on your breathing and see if you can let go a little bit more.

Coming out of the pose: Engage your hands to push yourself up, slowly walk your hands towards yourself. Gradually roll up the spine and open your eyes. Put the props to the side and use your hands to lift your knees up.

Take a few seconds just to be still and notice how are you feeling after coming out of this pose.

sphinx

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Illustration: Denise Ullmann

This pose stimulates of the sacral-lumbar arch and tones the spine.

Getting into the pose: lie down on your belly and place your elbows underneath the shoulders. If this is too much, slide the elbows forward to reduce compression in lower back. Extend your neck, relax your shoulders and breathe normally – we will hold it for only a minute. Avoid this pose, however, when you have bad back or if you have a headache; if there’s any sharp pain, come out of it and just lie down on your stomach, which is still a gentle back bend.

Benefits: Sphinx pose strengthens the abdominal organs and also stimulates the kidneys and the adrenals which are responsible for our energy level. So as you are holding this pose you can direct your breath to your back, expanding the back of the rib cage and massaging the kidney area with your breath.

Coming out of the pose: To come out, lie down on your belly, head to the side and relax for a few seconds. Keep breathing into the lower back and the back of the rib cage. Keep expanding it with your breath. You may wish to counter this pose by getting into child’s pose to release your back or move on to the next pose described below – the caterpillar pose.

caterpillar

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Illustration: Denise Ullmann

This pose stresses the ligaments along the back of the spine, compresses the stomach organs, which helps strengthen the organs of digestion, and stimulates the kidneys.

Getting into the pose: Sit on a mat or on a cushion with both legs straight and fold forward over the legs, allowing your back to round. Drop your head and keep your arms extended and relaxed. If you prefer a more restorative option – place some cushions or a pillow on your knees to support your chest or your head, or both. Additionally, if your hamstrings are very tight, put a rolled blanket under your knees.

Give into gravity – feel the weight of your head if you are not using any props, let go even more with each breath naturally coming even closer to the knees.

If you chose to use the props, allow yourself to completely release into the pillow or cushions supporting your chest or the head.

Coming out of the pose: Engage your palms to push the floor away and slowly roll up.  Once you are up, lean back on your hands to release the hips and then shake out the legs.

sleeping swan

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Illustration: Denise Ullmann

This pose is a vigorous way to open the hips, allowing gravity to do the work. It targets the Liver and Kidney meridians because these lines come through the inner groin

Getting into the pose: From a tabletop position (hands and knees on the mat) slide your right knee between your hands and extend the left leg behind you. Lean a bit to the right, and check in with how your right knee is going to feel. If the knee is fine, flex the right foot and move it forward; if the knee feels stressed, bring the foot closer in toward the right hip. Now, centre yourself so your weight is even. Place your head on your hands or on a cushion or a block for extra support. Do this pose on both sides.

Note: If hips are too tight, that is where the pressure will go. If this happens, bring the front foot back, more toward or under that hip.

Coming out of the pose: Use your hands to push the floor away and slowly come up. Release your legs and take a few moments just to be still and noticing the new sensations in the body.

*some descriptions of the poses are adapted from YinSights (yinyoga.com) by Bernie Clark.

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