The Taoist Approach to Protecting Your Kidneys

Winter and your kidneys are connected.

According to the Chinese Theory of the 5 Elements, we are currently in kidney season. The Five Elements Theory, also know as Wu Xing, is an observation and diagnosis of the interaction between Yin and Yang energy through the 5 Elements. The Elements being Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood.

Each element has characteristics associated with a season, an emotion, and a sensory organ, in addition to many other associations.

Kidneys are associated with the winter season, the emotion of fear, and the sensory organ of the body, the ears. The theory is that kidney energy is highest during the winter months.  Also, when experiencing fear, kidney energy is depleted. When a person has unexplained ringing in the ear, it can be because of a deficiency in kidney energy.

In Wu Xing, the kidney is a Yin organ with the urinary bladder considered its Yang related organ. A simplified way of explaining the difference between a Yin organ and a Yang organ is that a Yin organ pulls Chi (energy) out of what we consume, and a Yang organ processes the physical waste of that consumption.

The kidneys serve as the body’s natural blood filter, removing waste and diverting it to the urinary bladder to be eliminated from the body. The process of producing urine allows the kidneys to excrete wastes, such as ammonium. At the same time, the kidneys reabsorb water, glucose, and amino acids, as well as produce hormones. The kidneys also take part in regulating the body’s acid base balance and blood pressure.

When the kidneys are depleted due to being overworked, it can cause fatigue. However, very few people associate fatigue with depleted kidney energy and usually force their way through it. Over time, the kidneys can become weak yet display no real symptoms or outward signs of this weakness.

For example, one sign of weakened kidney energy is lower back pain, but kidneys are usually the last things considered, if at all.

Causes of Weak Kidneys:

Western medicine says some of the most common causes for a weakened kidney would be diabetes, high blood pressure, obstruction of urine flow, and other kidney diseases. Chinese medicine highlights the issues that lead to the manifestation of these problems; poor diet, poor exercise habits, and exposure to certain toxins.

In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered the “root of everything”. Their primary purpose is to store the primordial “jing” (essence) inherited from our parents.

One of the primary purposes of Taoist Internal Arts is to guard “jing”. Arts, such as Tai Chi, which cultivates movement from the hips, and Baguazhang, with its twisting, turning, and coiling, are highly effective in helping to not only keep the kidneys healthy but also make them stronger. Chi Gong, energy work that focuses on breathing, can promote good blood flow and keep the kidneys exercised through expansion and contraction of the pelvic and urogenital diaphragms.

Lower backpain

Lower back pain? This could be caused by an overworked kidney, damaged by high blood pressure, diabetes, and even kidney disease.

Try This Taoist Breathing Exercise:

  • Simply lie on your back.
  • Make loose fists and place them under your back just below the floating ribs.
  • Breathe into your lower back (region where the kidneys are located) and feel the muscles in the lower back pushing into your fists.
  • Keep your fists there until you feel the muscles in your lower back expanding and contracting comfortably.
  • Once you feel you have control of those muscles, you can remove your fists.
  • “Breath into your kidneys” for a few minutes, giving them a nice light massage with each inhale and exhale. This will place more awareness on your kidneys.

Do not overdo this exercise. It does not take much to stimulate the kidneys.

If you feel your kidneys are overstimulated, or even if they feel fatigued, you can stand up, make loose fists, and massage your kidneys with the back of your hands.

Massaging the kidneys in this way when you wake up in the morning is a good habit to develop.

Most importantly, show your kidneys some tender loving care. The Body Ecology Diet is conscious eating that will build kidney health and lead you away from the harmful foods that put an undue burden on your system.

Foods to Nourish Your Kidney Jing:

Taoists hold “jing” in very high esteem and guard it vigorously, as it is considered a treasure.  Be mindful of maintaining your kidney essence.
By Tony Costa, 4th Degree Black Belt BaguaZhang
Recent Articles by Tony Costa exclusively for Body Ecology:




Based on the Chinese Theory of the 5 Elements, winter is the kidney season. The kidney energy is thought to be highest during the winter months, making this the ideal time to care for your kidneys and overall health.

When your kidneys are overworked, they can easily become fatigued, causing lower back pain. This kidney stress is easily triggered by conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and even kidney disease. Fortunately, you can use a simple Taoist breathing exercise to stimulate your kidneys and bring them back to optimal health!


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