The title of this post is somewhat ambiguous. A harshly frigid and snowy Winter has been consistently upon us here in the Northeast since the end of December; it has not abated, so how could it be “back?”

If you read “Winter’s” as a possessive, rather than a contraction, the story becomes clear. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney and Bladder meridians are seasonally associated with Winter. The Bladder lines run from the inner corners of each eye, over the crown of the head, and down the back of the neck, along each side of the spine, through the center hamstring and calf, and end at the pinky toe of each foot. Its yin partner, Kidney, runs upward from the sole of the foot (between the second and third metatarsal bones), through the inner leg, thigh, and groin, and ends just below the boney knobs at the center of the clavicle.

When the Bladder/Kidney element, Water, flows strongly and steadily, our back, legs, and feet remain healthy, and we are confident and relaxed. If the Bladder and Kidney become imbalanced, we likely will feel the repercussions in their anatomical representatives; psychologically, we may feel vaguely fearful, timid, or restless. And the inverse is true: If the back, inner leg, or foot becomes injured, the imbalance will register in the organ system of the Water element; corresponding mental and emotional consequences ensue.

Wintertime is ironically hard on its season’s meridians: Just as water freezes in the cold, our backs are likely to stiffen. Further, the body’s own “water line”—the kidney and urinary tract—may be adversely affected, which could result in infection, incontinence, or water retention. Therefore, it is prudent to give some extra care to your back, inner thighs, and feet throughout a long Winter.

A self-care regimen is crucial, but sometimes even the most consistent precautionary treatments are not enough to weather the actual Winter storms. For example, I have been tending pulled lower back and leg muscles for the past couple of weeks; the exact cause-and-effect remains a mystery, but I am fairly certain that an odd combination of twist-and-stretch went awry. My own remedies and a chiropractic visit began to yield significant improvement, and then…

Our area was socked with a foot (or more) of snow two days ago. Inevitably, I had to dig my car out of its packed-in white nest; the shoveling continued further into the parking lot after a snowplow pushed walls of snow in front of my car. As I shoveled away, I was mindful of my back and legs, grateful that their condition had improved enough to allow the hour-long dig. That evening, I bathed my muscles in an essential oil and arnica blend; smoothed out my body’s fascia on a foam roller; gently stretched, and invoked healing thoughts and prayers.

I do not want to think about what the state of my back would have been today had I not done everything I could to baby it yesterday. Even so, this Silent Sunday ushered in achy stiffness—Winter’s Back. Fortunately, there is a mudra specifically for back pain.

The finger positions are fairly simple; however, each hand creates a different mudra. Acting in tandem, the two halves create a synergy that reflects the union of the Universe’s healing wisdom with our pranic reserves. These stored energies come to the fore when we are injured or ill; I think of them as the white blood cells of prana.

A self-care regimen is crucial, but sometimes even the most consistent precautionary treatments are not enough to weather the actual Winter storms. For example, I have been tending pulled lower back and hip muscles for the past couple of weeks; the exact cause-and-effect remains a mystery, but I am fairly certain that an odd combination of twist-and-stretch went awry. My own remedies and a chiropractic visit began to yield significant improvement, and then…

Our area was socked with a foot (or more) of snow two days ago. Inevitably, I had to dig my car out of its packed-in white nest; the shoveling continued further into the parking lot after a snowplow pushed walls of snow in front of my car. As I shoveled away, I was mindful of my back and legs, grateful that their condition had improved enough to allow the hour-long dig. That evening, I bathed my muscles in an essential oil and arnica blend; smoothed out my body’s fascia on a foam roller; gently stretched, and invoked healing thoughts and prayers.

I do not want to think about what the state of my back would have been today had I not done everything I could to baby it yesterday. Even so, this Silent Sunday ushered in achy stiffness—Winter’s Back. Fortunately, there is a mudra specifically for back pain.

The finger positions are fairly simple; however, each hand creates a different mudra. Acting in tandem, the two halves create a synergy that reflects the union of the Universe’s healing wisdom with our pranic reserves. These stored energies come to the fore when we are injured or ill; I think of them as the white blood cells of prana.

Because this mudra is designed to help a sore back, I like to hold it when lying on the floor, legs elevated against the wall or on a chair. You can allow your arms to be on the floor at your sides, or shoulder level; keep the palms facing up. My preference is to place the backs of my hands at the tops of my thighs, right at the juncture of the groin; I feel a connection to the First and Second chakras with this position, and thus quickly sense the mudra’s energy in the low back.

As with any mudra, part of its power stems from your devoted intention. Visualize the area you are treating; surround it with color (e.g., black and blue are the colors of the Water element: I like to think of a lake at night, with a brilliant Full Moon infusing the water—and my back—with a healing glow); and breathe deeply, extracting pain and stiffness as you inhale, and exhaling it down and out of your feet.

To create the mudra, curl the left index finger into the left thumb, so that the fingernail rests against the first joint of the thumb. This is a variation of Gyan Mudra, which establishes our communication with the Universe, and opens us to its offerings. On the right hand, you will touch the tip of the right thumb to the tip of the middle and pinky fingers; keep the other two fingers extended. The pinky finger is associated with the Second Chakra, which physically corresponds with the low back, i.e., kidney and bladder. The second finger carries the quality of patience, which is a great aid to healing from any injury.

Again, this configuration establishes a potent channel for fresh prana to clear and revitalize the Bladder/Kidney meridians. Stay with the mudra, eyes closed and gazing at the Third Eye, for as long as you like; aim for a minimum of 3-5 minutes, breathing deeply. Give your body a chance to receive the energy, and to release muscle tension into the ground that supports you.

Happy Sunday…

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