5 Elements Yin Yoga: Water Element
By: Kali Basman
Yin Yoga is a practice which encourages a softening or surrendering of activity and an observation of present moment awareness. Integrating the Chinese Five Elements into the practice enriches the paradigm of Yin Yoga as a healing modality, as we are each an embodiment of Earth, Fire, Water, Metal & Wood. During circumstances of imbalance, we can utilize the wisdom tradition of Yoga Asana to organize the skeleton and relax the musculature in specific ways which awaken and enliven gentle self-inquiry and a lubrication of the connective tissues and pathways for immunity, longevity, and vitality.
In a world that’s ever shifting, may you use this practice to find stillness.
In thought patterns which engender suffering, may this practice allow you to see the unity of all things, from the shifting of the seasons to the suppleness of the spine
Water Element & the Kidney Meridian: Approaching Equanimity & Restoration
The wisdom of water is its incredible strength, it carves rock and shapes the entire earth, but without force. Water element allows for adaptation to all of life’s changes, challenges and stresses. Like the flow of water, a balanced practice empowers us to govern emotions, rather than letting emotions govern us.
This is sometimes called ‘radical impartiality’: water energy enables us to act effectively in regard to a problem despite emotional responses, from a place of stable clarity, and to continue to advance or retreat appropriately. To act consciously, rather than react unconsciously. Allowing feelings to be there, without suppressing or indulging them.
Do I know when to stand my ground and when to surrender? Am I making choices which deplete my vital energy, or allowing spaces to replenish and revitalize my system?
Each element is most dominant in a particular season. The winter, which is also the season most dominant in YIN energy, is also the home of the water element. Just as a bear hibernates in winter, the water element of this season asks us to engage in renourishing activities.
Located below the lowest ribs on the back body, the kidneys are responsible for waste removal and filtration of blood. Kidney energy effects all of life’s processes from birth onwards. It is essential for growth and maintenance of general vitality, creativity, youthfulness, and sexuality. Kidney energy controls the Chi, or essence, and thus gives stamina and vigor to the entire bodymind.
Constitutional Personality Types:
- Excessive reactivity and perpetual state of emotional responsiveness (opposite of equanimity) highlight an imbalanced water type. Fear, stress and anxiety drain the system of motivation, so they are unable to cope with issues that arise.
- They tend to create stressful schedules and unrealistic priorities to take on too much beyond their capacity. A continuous build-up of stress and a consistent strain on adrenal glands and nervous system can drain them.
- Physical symptoms of imbalance: Kidney deficiency is more apparent in winter. If fatigued or unbalanced, water types are less able to stay warm and grounded and nourished when the water element is intense. Weak kidney chi can manifest as yellow palor to the skin, blue bags under the eyes, a craving for salty food, and aversion to the cold.
- Emotional symptoms of imbalance: Fear, panic attacks, phobias, feeling overwhelmed.
Balanced Water types:
- They trust in the flow of life. They are typically morning people, as they awake full of vigor. They are motivated and thus flow around obstacles with a skillful balance of effortlessness and determination.
The water meridian or the kidney channel begins at the sole of the foot and curls around the inner ankle before ascending up the inseam of the back of the leg. As it reaches through the inner groin it branches up the front of the spine and chest to end just below the collarbones.
A Yin Yoga practice to support and balance water element typically tends to emphasize vitality support. As the kidneys filter toxins from the blood, our aim in a water practice is to support the flow of blood and Qi uninterrupted, alongside front and back bends and lengthening of the inner leg line.
Try some of these water element postures!
- Half dragonfly (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana)
- Caterpillar (Paschimottanasana)
- Sphinx (Salamba Bhujangasana)
- Seal (Bhujangasana)
- Bridge or supported bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
International yoga teacher Kali Basman (kalidurgayoga.com) enriches the paradigm of Yin Yoga to integrate distinct aspects of Self into an innate wisdom practice to awaken a rich inner life and radiate with ritual. Her offering honors Yin Yoga as a tool to surrender to our intrinsic wholeness. On the textured path of mindful healing, Kali is celebrated for her integration of the 5 Elements and Chinese Meridian Theory with self-inquiry, embodied Anatomy, Buddhist Philosophy of Equanimity, and sharp intellect.
Want to practice with Kali?
Learn more about her upcoming 5 Elements Yin Yoga Teacher Training in Tulum on March 26-31.
Use code KulaStar to receive $50 off.