The winter solstice this year is on Tuesday, December 21st. The first official day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day of the year. The moment we are furthest away from the sun. The embrace of the natural movements of the seasons as well as the acceptance of the unpredictable nature of the pandemic is an essential ingredient in keeping in balance with the winter season. Balance itself is at the core of well-being in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In TCM, winter is associated with the element of water and with the kidney and urinary bladder organ systems. The Institute of Classical Five-Element Acupuncture describes winter as
“a time of self-recollection, when we can go inside to that place where we are unadorned essence. Water, the element that corresponds to winter, points us to that dark, quiet pool within ourselves where our essential self-identity resides. We can use the energy of this season to more deeply discover the essence of our self.”
Easier said than done, I’ll admit. It’s become a cliche to say at this point, but the fact remains that we are living through such a unique time that it may be more difficult than normal for you to look inward, to sit quietly, to self-reflect, to be still. Haven’t we had enough of the alone time? The embracing boredom? The inward reflection time? But it is essential to allow yourself this time of latency and contemplation, to give yourself this moment to recharge and restore, ease stress, anxiety, depression and build up your immune system, something we all think about these days. So how do you get there?
Acupuncture, which identifies specific energetic patterns in your body and brings them back into balance, and Chinese Herbal Medicine can bring relief to your conditions and help you tap into your inner self. As mentioned, winter is associated with the kidney and bladder organ systems, so many of the conditions we see in the winter months correspond to an imbalance in these organs. Read on to learn about some popular kidney acupuncture points and how unblocking them can lead to a release from physical and emotional pain.
KD 1: Kidney 1 is the lowest acupuncture point on the body. It is located on the sole of the foot and thus is vital in grounding us—it is bringing in energy from the earth. When activated, it clears heat from the body, tonifies yin energy, and can treat symptoms such as headache, stress, mania, panic attacks, and insomnia, as well as menopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes.
KD 3: Located on the inner ankle, Kidney 3 is also called Tai Xi or “Supreme Stream.” When activated, this point can alleviate everything from lower back pain to tinnitus to frequent urination.
KD 7: The Kidney 7 point is located just above KD 3 on the inner leg and activating it can help regulate the water passages in the body and resolve internal damp. As such, it can treat night sweats, edema, and lower lumbar region back pain.
KD 9: A few inches further up from KD 3 than KD 7, KD 9 calms the shen (or spirit) and clears the heart. If there is a blockage at this point, you may experience mania or manic psychosis, anxiety, hernias, or pain in the lower leg. It is one of the acupuncture points that really targets mental and emotional pain. KD 9 is also known as “Beautiful Baby Point” and is used during pregnancy to encourage the release of toxins and support the developing baby’s growth.
KD 24: Now we move up from the leg and onto the chest: KD 24 is on the chest, about 2 inches to the side of your midline. A blockage at this point may manifest as a respiratory illness (cough, asthma, constricted breathing) or as spiritual/existential deadness or loss. This point is also known as the “Spirit Burial Ground” for just this reason.
KD 27: Kidney 27 is located on the upper chest, just below the collarbones and activating it can help with cough, shortness of breath and feelings of fear and anxiety. In addition to acupuncture, you can easily use acupressure on this point. So whenever you are feeling particularly anxious or afraid, run your fingers along the underside of both of your collarbones. Start towards the middle and go outward. When you come to a slight depression, you’ve found KD 27. You can apply gentle pressure there for 2-3 minutes and allow yourself to breathe.
To learn more about the water element from a TCM perspective and ways to help bring yourself back into balance this winter, check out our blog post: Slowing Down & Filling Up: Winter & The Water Element in Traditional Chinese Medicine