Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kidneys: The Root of Life?

Yep. That's what they've been called.

Well, not in the mid-west where I'm from.

We picture the kidneys as...well...big honkin' kidney beans that hang out inside of us somewhere. Who knows, maybe that's what's causing the intestinal gas.

The kidneys are each about the size of your fist. They are located near the middle of your back, just behind the lower ribcage. We are born with two of them - one on each side of the spine. (One is usually up a little higher than the other, if that helps the visual.)

They're important, very important. The poor things are constantly, constantly working to keep your blood composition in a healthy balance. They regulate the volume of water in your blood. They make sure important ions and other substances are at the right level and at the correct concentration in the blood stream. They remove yick from your body - yick is a personal technical term meaning: the junk you've put into your body in the form of polluted air, fast food, chemically-ridden city water, and stress. The somewhat real technical terms are: urea, toxic substances, ammonia, etc.

The kidneys even help regulate your blood pressure, help maintain calcium (very important for women in my age group) and they also stimulate the creation of red blood cells - the ones that carry oxygen everywhere in the body - i.e. really important for healing.

But in eastern medicine, the kidneys do this and more. The kidneys store what is called "Essence" or "Innate Jing", or if you will, hereditary energy you received from your parents. Kinda like other things you inherited: hair and eye color, skin coloring, and short stubby little brittle nails that never grow long enough to scratch an itch with. (Thanks a lot, Dad.)

This hereditary energy is expended throughout your life. When it's gone, you're gone.

So, it's important to maintain your Essence for as long as you would like to live. And you do that by not using it up eating poorly, breathing poor air, driving while talking on a cell phone, etc. You can't increase your Essence. It is what it is. You can, however, take hereditary energy supplements. But not from the local drug store.

These supplements come in the form of qi, life energy, and you get it from eating good foods, breathing clean air (sorry, I know most of us can't fully control our immediate environments), getting good amounts of exercise, and ridding yourself of stress.

So, how does one rid stress from their lives? Get a good teacher and practice tai chi. Or yoga. Or glass blowing. Or kite flying. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it: helps you breathe deeply and evenly, keeps your sitting heart rate low, maintains healthy blood pressure, and keeps your mind clear. Clear of thoughts that cause emotional stress - like constant ridicule, or judgemental thoughts (which come in many different forms including humor), anger or hostile thoughts, panicked thoughts of insecurity, and thoughts of inferiority.

There are a lot more, but you get the drift.

These kinds of intense emotions really rock the kidneys (never say 'stone' to a kidney).

They do it figuratively and physically.

The adrenal glands lay on top of each kidney. They kick into gear when we choose to feel stressed out. They start shootin' out hormones like an AK-47 on fire. When they start vibrating, the kidneys do too. That's why we always feel like we have to go to the bathroom when we're really nervous.

So here's a good starting exercise to bring health to the kidneys. This is one of many qigong (energy work) exercises from Master Yu-Cheng Huang:

Info you'll need to know for this exercise:
Laogong Point - the laogong is located on the palm of the hand. If you take your middle finger and touch your palm, you've found it!

It really helps, when doing the following exercise, to be as relaxed as your body can at this moment in time. The shoulders are in their natural position - not forced back, the feet are relaxed and not clenching the floor, breathwork is slow and even. The pelvis is slightly tilted forward to round out the lower back. The crown of the head is the tallest point of the body.

1. Bring your attention to the palm of your hands. Don't picture your hands in your head. Feel them. Concentrate on the laogong point. Imagine yourself bringing energy to this point. Now, place the palms of your hands or the laogong points on the back over the kidney area.

3. Take a nice breath in expanding the belly, not the chest. As you do this, imagine energy entering into the laogong. Exhale and imagine the energy releasing into the kidneys. While breathing, the hands move...rub...from the kidneys to the coccyx (tailbone). When inhaling, the hands move up, when exhaling, the hands move down. Repeat this exercise between 9 and 36 times.

4. When the hands are at the kidneys and you have inhaled, imagine that you have sealed the energy in the kidneys and count to 9. Imagine that energy now moving to the dantien while your hands move around the sides of the body and create an inverted triangle with the thumbs and index fingers on the dantien. Allow you mind to seal the energy in the dantien.

If anything, this exercise allows you to take a moment to breath - even if you can't imagine the energy, can't feel the palms of the hands, can't imagine sealing anything, anywhere. It's okay. It takes time to settle into new practices. Give it time.

So now let me ask you a question: When's the last time you had a glass of water?

Well, go get one. Hold it high and toast your kidneys. They've been working hard.

Don't forget to drink the water.



  1. Hiya Lucy, for years I've started every single morning with a very large glass of warm water - half hot, half cold. And sucked it down. Its a great way to rehydrate yourself after sleep and your kidneys love you for doing so.
    Namaste :)

  2. OOOhhhh, Svasti, you are much better to your kidneys than I am to mine. I start every morning with two cups of coffee. If my kidneys had little fists of their own, they'd be shaking them at me.

    I'm going to try your method...and win back my kidneys' love!


  3. Lucy, I drink at least 32 oz. of water/day...along with coffee and various juices. Having passed kidney stones, in the past, the size of my thumbnail, I'm always sure to hydrate regularly. Great blog!