Week Four: Snake
The energy of the snake is flexible and flowing, its attitude is cautious but persistent. These traits can help us to find our way around obstacles in our lives.
The primary element stimulated by the exercises we will be learning is the water element. This element relates to the kidneys and bladder, the ears and bones. The stimulation of the kidney and bladder meridians are quite clear in the movements you will be doing, as is the massaging of the organ of the kidneys. The effect on the ear and bones is more subtle and comes from the role the kidneys have in regulating salts in the body (bones) and supporting the spinal column and the nerves inside it (ears). The relationship between the ears, the water element, and the snake movements is perhaps a little ironic as snakes have no external ears. But they do have an inner ear, and vibration is conducted to it through its bones. In a sense, the snake listens with its whole body. Similarly the flexibility you will develop doing these movements will help your whole body to become more sensitive and able to ‘listen’.
We will again look at how some of the other elements are stimulated by these movements, in particular wood…
This Weeks Practice Sessions:
This week will be spent practicing Snake ‘warm-up’ exercises. These exercises will help you to start to feel the energy of the Snake and will prepare you for further Snake movements next week.
The movements are simple to learn but can be quite physically challenging. Start by just doing a few of each movement. Take a break if you need to and then do some more. With persistence the Snake movements develop great flexibility and fluidity of movement but you should work gently with your own limits, extending them gradually.
Start each practice session with the Alignment, Centering and Opening exercises and then do as many repetitions of the Snake exercises as you comfortably can. Then finish with more of the Alignment, Centering and Opening exercises.
Note down in your practice journal what you learn doing the exercises and how they make your energy feel.
Snake Rolling Spine Stretch
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Reach your hands up above your head and lace your fingers together with the palms facing upwards. Twist to one side and look behind, then repeat alternating sides.
Next turn your palms down and lower your hands close in front of your body. When your hands reach as low as they can comfortably, extend them forward and up in a rolling motion until they are high above your head again. Repeat as many times as you wish.
Now change direction. From the position with your hands high above your head reach forward out and then down in a rolling motion. Then draw your hands up close to your body with the palms facing upwards (you will need to turn your hands over at about the level of your mouth to continue the upward rise).
Finally, from the position with the hands high reach out to the side and make a large circular motion bringing the hands low close to the ground and then up on the other side. Repeat alternating directions of the circle.
Snake Creeps Down
Bring your palms together in front of your heart with the fingers pointing upwards. Turn the fingers of one hand downwards. Lower this hand down your centreline and when it gets close to the ground bend your legs and extend your foot on that side out as wide as is comfortable.
Glide your hand out in the direction of your foot with your hand as close to the ground as you can. As you keep sliding in this direction allow the arm to raise to shoulder level. Shift your weight across to this side and bend the knee of this leg while straightening your other leg. Extend your other arm behind you.
Bring the hand of your rear arm up and over your head and then slide it along the arm extended in front of you. When your hands meet put your head between your arms and lengthen your whole body.
Lower the rear arm so it is now close to the ground.
Repeat on the other side starting at the point where you begin to glide your hand out towards your extended leg.
Repeat alternating from side to side as many times as you wish.
From the position with both hands extended in front of you, put the knee of your rear leg on the ground. Turn in the direction of the leg which is in front and twist to look as far behind you as you can. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and open and your palms facing down. This will focus the force of the turn into your lower back, massaging your kidneys. The arm on the same side as your front leg with reach out in front as you turn, the other hand will slide backwards along the arm but still stay in contact.
Untwist back to your start position and continue twisting to the other side by turning your hips and changing the leg that has the knee on the ground. Twist all the way to look behind on the other side.
Repeat alternating side to side.
Stand facing back to the center again. Keep your arms touching one another. Extend one arm forward and let the hand of the other arm rest by the extended arms elbow. Allow the whole body to be relaxed and soft with the knees slightly bent. Make small circles with the extended arm.
Repeat alternating arms. As you extend the other arm, keep your arms in contact by letting them slide over each other.
The earlier movements rolling your spine, opening your hips, and twisting at the waist will have helped to connect the force of these movements through your whole body. As you stand making small swaying circles see if you can feel the coiling of the movement moving through your whole body, from your ankles and feet up through your legs, your waist, your torso and arms. Your whole body swaying and coiling gently like a snake.
This whole body swaying and coiling is what gives the fluidity to the snake movement. Parts do not move independently. When one part moves it has a flow on effect on all the rest of the body which also gently moves and adapts.
The kidneys have an important role in regulating salts within the body. Sometimes when we think of salt we just think of common sodium chloride, or maybe if we extend this a little further we might also include potassium. These electrolytes have a very important role in our ability to transport and use water in our body, but our kidneys role in regulating salts includes more than just these. It also includes other minerals like calcium, magnesium, and all the other minerals vital to our functioning. One of the places we see the largest amounts of these minerals is in our bones. To keep our bones healthy and well mineralised they need to be exercised like any other part of our body. The twisting and bending forces put on the bones in the snake exercises stimulate them to renew and replace the minerals in them while massaging the kidneys responsible for processing those minerals at the same time.