QIGONG & KIDNEY HEALTH [2003-07-06]
The kidneys play a very significant role in our health. We are all aware of their role in filtering our blood, regulating water, regulating blood pressure, and excreting metabolic wastes. We are also aware of the thousands who suffer from kidney failure and depend on costly and cumbersome dialysis machines to do the job for them. Others who are more fortunate can benefit from kidney transplantation, but this is infrequent since organ donation pledges are still relatively small here compared with other countries.
There are other important functions of the kidney, like producing erythropoietin, which is essential for blood-cell production, and regulating minerals in our body.
QI, KIDNEYS & HEALTH
In Chinese Medical Theory ( CMT ), the kidneys play a vital role in sexual health, including the ability to function sexually, and fertility. They are the source and store of the "vital essence" or qi which governs growth, development and reproduction.
The acupoint K1 ( Yongquan ), on the kidney meridian near the centre of the sole of each foot, is the entry point of qi absorbed from the earth. The kidneys store the qi tapped from this source.
The kidneys also determine marrow and bone health. Diseases affecting these tissues cannot recover fully without having strong kidneys. Modern medicine now concurs that bone and marrow health are both intimately related to the functions of the kidneys.
Sexual vitality is very much related to overall health. I have explained earlier that sexual energy is actually qi, and not physical energy. Excessive loss of seminal essence or qi will weaken the kidneys, and consequently, general health. It is important for those who are sexually active to make sure they are charged with qi.
Although physical stamina is important in the sexual act, many reasonably fit men are sexually unfit. Over 40% of men above age 40 have erectile dysfunction ( ED ), that is, they are unable to achieve and maintain a good erection necessary for satisfying sexual intercourse. Those that have diabetes and cardiovascular diseases may improve if their diseases are treated, but there are many with no known physical or psychological problems.
Qigong is an excellent alternative to drugs for these men. Women will also benefit from doing Qigong exercises which enhance kidney health.
Just above the kidneys are the adrenal glands which produce many hormones. They also produce the sex hormones and their precursors. After menopause and andropause ( and after female and male castration ), the adrenals take over from the ovaries and testicles respectively as the main source of sex hormones. So it is not surprising that in CMT, sexual health is related to kidney health, whereas in modern medicine there is little connection between the renal ( kidney ) and adrenal functions apart from their physical juxtaposition.
QIGONG EXERCISES FOR KIDNEY & BLADDER HEALTH
The stationary exercises you can do to improve kidney health include "carrying the moon" and "lifting the sky" described in previous articles. Although these exercises were described for spinal health, they also invigorate the kidneys. Exercises that stretch the lower abdomen also invigorate the urinary bladder.
Qigong massage for the kidneys is done by placing the palms ( best if you warm them first by rubbing them together ) on the kidney areas on both sides of the lower back, with the finger tips about 3cm away from the spine on each side ( acupoint Shenshu B23, which is an important connection between the bladder and kidney meridians, is about 3 cm lateral to the spinous process or spinal protrusion of the second lumbar vertebra ). Slowly massage in circular motions around the area for 12 rounds while doing relaxed abdominal breathing. Smile to your kidneys and actively send healing qi to them. Repeat the massage in the opposite direction, and you can repeat the entire process if desired. You can do this exercise while standing or sitting.
For enhanced effect, you can then do the "kidney breathing". Imagine that your hands which are resting on your lower back are actually grasping the kidneys. As you inhale, imagine the kidneys expanding in your hands while they "inhale" qi. As you exhale, imagine the kidneys doing likewise. In this way, while you breath in air, your kidneys "breath in" qi. Repeat 12-20 times.
If you do these exercises while standing, after the massage and "kidney breathing", you can then rest your hands and gyrate your hips gently like a slow hula-dance. Continue smiling and sending qi to the kidneys, and to the bladder too. Rotate your hips in the opposite direction in sets of 12-20 gyrations.
The step-point variations of the Qigong walk ( described before ) are also good for kidney health. The advantage of doing the walk is that you can do the exercises for extended periods without getting bored, and you get multiple benefits from the qi flowing through multiple organ channels.
There are special exercises for the kidneys and sexual prowess that cannot be described here. These exercises also improve bladder control, which is a common problem among older men and women. Both men and women develop urinary sphincter weaknesses with age. Urinary symptoms are worsened by prostate enlargement in men and utero-vaginal prolapse in women.
WATER, THE ELIXIR OF LIFE
The kidneys the main regulators of our water content while the bladder regulates its discharge. We also lose water through our lungs, skin and bowels.
At birth, the body is 70% water ( the cells are 90% water ). As we age, we dehydrate, and by the age of 70, we are not even 50% water ( cells 70% ) - all shriveled and wrinkled up.
We may survive for a month without food, but barely a few days without water. So not only is water the source of all life, it continues to be important in maintaining life, and therefore health.
Adults are advised to drink 6-8 glasses (1½-2 liters) of water a day. But that is sufficient only to survive. If you want to be healthy, you should aim for 8-12 glasses (2-3 liters) per day, especially during hot days or if you exercise and sweat a lot. Many health enthusiasts advice drinking 12-16 glasses (3-4 liters) to help the kidneys excrete metabolic wastes and avoid having kidney stones.
Water therapy is popular in many cultures. One such therapy involves drinking 1-2 liters every morning before breakfast to flush out all toxins before starting the day. Throughout the night, when we sleep, we are relatively dehydrated since we do not drink for the duration of sleep. That is why the first morning urine is always concentrated. Thus it is good to start the day with plenty of fluids to correct this dehydration.
In Sufi Healing, water therapy involves drinking about 5 liters of water within a few hours. This can be very discomforting. However, it is not just for physical therapy, and is accompanied by spiritual acts ( prayers and supplications ) under supervision of the healer. Those with certain medical problems cannot undergo this therapy.
The subject of water is not simple anymore. We are deluged with choices between filtered, distilled, reverse-osmosis, alkaline, activated, ionized, clustered, structured, magnetized, micro, nano, mineral, oxygenated, ozonised, pi, qi, resonant and even aura water. Singapore has nuwater. And I'm sure there are many more that I have yet to discover. Not to mention the "healing" water from holy places and holy men! You should know what is really beneficial before you spend the money to buy the gadgets that produce these treated water.
Dr Amir Farid Isahak