Winter is a full expression of yin in Traditional Chinese Medicine, when our Water element dominates. It is like the seed resting dormant in the earth as it waits to burst forth in springtime. Winter is a time to slow down and gather energy; a time for instrospection and creativity.

Water is the most essential element of life. Water is gentle and flowing, yet water is powerful enough to cut through stone, so there is much strength in water. When our Water Chi is strong life flows easily; we are creative, we trust our instinct, have strong willpower and are powerful yet calm and gentle.

The kidneys are our yin Water organ and urinary bladder our yang Water organ. The kidneys contain our jing or life essence, which is made up from our pre-natal jing determined from our DNA and our post-natal jing that we gather from the food we eat and the air we breathe. Our stomach and spleen (Earth element) are largely responsible for our post-natal jing.

In our 24-7 Western lifestyle, our Water element is the element most prone to imbalance. Over-exertion, lack of sleep, cold weather, stress and excessive consumption of coffee and stimulants will all deplete our kidney energy.

Have you ever noticed that when you are tired your willpower is weak? This is a classic example of water element deficiency. Other symptoms of water element deficiency are feeling fearful or withdrawn, lower back pain or weak knees, urinary problems, low libido, ringing ears, osteoporosis and bone disorders.

So how can we keep our water element balanced and healthy?

  • Eat warm and salty foods, seaweed, brown rice, walnuts, parsley, kidney beans, mushrooms, leafy greens and fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Minimise coffee, sugar and processed foods
  • Rest
  • Protect the body from cold invasion particularly in the soles of the feet (kidney 1 point), the kidneys (in the back just below the ribs) and the greater yang (around C7 vertebra at the base of the neck)
  • Practice slow deep breathing
  • Exercise such as qi gong and tai chi which increases chi (my slow flow class is the perfect class to nourish the water element).

In the Chinese 24 hour cycle, 3 – 5pm is bladder time. This is the best time of day to tap into your water element’s creativity. 5 – 7pm is kidney time, so nourish your kidneys with a light, warm meal (soups are ideal).  Beware strenuous exercise at this time of day – it will deplete your kidney energy!

As the weather turns colder I start to crave more salty and fermented foods. Now I understand that this is my body asking for the foods that will balance my water element. The more I take the time to really listen to my body, the more I notice my body telling me what it needs to maintain homeostasis (balance within an organism). This is one of the benefits of yoga and meditation – bringing your awareness within and simply observing.

Yoga postures to stimulate the bladder meridian:

The bladder meridian starts in the inner eye, travels over the head then down the side of the spine and back of the legs to end on the little toe. Basically the whole back of our body is supported by our bladder meridian, so forward bends are excellent postures to gently stretch our bladder meridian. You can do standing forward bends (uttanasana), seated forward bends (paschimottanasana) or an upside down forward bend in shoulderstand (halasana).

Watch my youtube instructional video on paschimottanasana here.

Yoga postures to stimulate the kidney meridian:

The Kidney meridian starts on the sole of the foot (K1) and travels up the posterior inner leg and then close to the midline up the front of the body ending in the hollow just below the collarbone (K27). Wide leg forward bends (prasarita padottanasana or upavistha konasana) will lengthen the leg aspect of our kidney meridian and kurmasana (turtle pose) with straight legs will work the whole of the kidney line as we work towards lengthening the front of the body in this deep forward bend.

If you’ve ever felt the urge to curl up into a ball to stay warm in winter, then now you know why – you are giving your bladder meridian down your back a good stretch.  Just make sure you are also wearing a scarf, warm socks and keeping your kidneys warm around your waist!



“The Zen of Touch” – Gwyn Williams, PI Productions Photography (2011)

“Five Elements Six Conditions: A Taoist Approach to Emotional Healing, Psychology, and Internal Alchemy” – Giles Marin, North Atlantic Books (2006)

Zenthai Shiatsu Training Manual 2017 – Gwyn Williams

1 Comment

  1. Nicole

    Thank you for such beautiful and informative posts, Tracy. I always enjoy reading your newsletters and blog and always learn something that helps me be more mindful and balanced in my week.
    Thank you for sharing!


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