The wonders of Kidney Yang

kidney yangKidney Yang is like the Winter Sun

The Kidneys are associated with the Water Element. Winter is the season of the Water Element. Yang refers to light, the Sun, heat, and fire. So, “Kidney Yang” may seem like a paradox at first glance.
Every Organ has both a Yin and Yang aspect. To understand Kidney Yang, observe the Sun (Yang) in the Winter. How are the light and heat of the Sun different in winter than that of the summer? Observing nature in these ways contributes to our understanding of the nuances of Yang as it’s expressed through each Organ and Element.

kidney yang

The light of the Winter Sun on a river in Maine

The Kidney Yang warms the body

The heat from Kidney Yang keeps us warm. Sometimes Kidney Yang is referred to as “Essential Fire.” Essential Fire is said to be the “true heat,” or “real Fire” that comes from the Kidneys, rather than the Heart.
We notice the value of the light and heat from the Sun more in the depths of winter than we do in the summer. Perhaps it is a little more obvious how essential the Sun is when we are feeling so cold. Kidney Yang is the basis of our metabolism, our “get up and go,” and our will to express the potential of our life.

Observe the Winter Sun

We have the same option to feel, contemplate, and wonder about the cycles of the Sun as the ancients did. Chinese medicine is based on observation, understanding, and connection with the Universe.  Through that understanding, we come to know ourselves as “mini-universes” of Yin and Yang expressing ourselves as human beings. By wondering about the Sun in winter, you can come to know more about Kidney Yang within yourself and others.
kidney yang

Cindy Black

Cindy Black is the Founder of Big Tree School of Natural Healing and the author of Meridian Massage, Pathways to Vitality. She is appreciated for her ability to make the complex accessible, fun, and practical.


  1. Gayathri on May 12, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Cindy- I learn so much from your shared insights and have a pointer for contemplation especially when you use precise metaphors in this way- Kidney Yang to the Winter Sun- how awesome! I think of things in terms of qualities and attributes so this is great-Thank you!
    so if someone who lives in the Pacific NW, where sunlight is a rare commodity for most part of the year and is quite intense in the summer but has a different quality than the summer sun in florida, would this show up as a Kidney Yang depletion generally for much of the population in the Pac NW for example (is this why everyone here in Seattle drinks so much coffee all the time to promote Kidney Yang somehowI wonder-although coffee feels counterintuitive as a diuretic but the bitterness and?) 🙂 But the general build of people here are a heavier (not obese) and larger than most in other parts of the country. Just pondering? thank you for your responses in advance. Cheers! Gayathri

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT on May 13, 2016 at 10:11 am

      Thank you for writing, I appreciate reading your insights and observations!
      Yang energy is up, and uplifting, like the Sun or a warm fire. Caffeine has similar immediate affect of lifting up – however, it is not pure Yang, so it is said to have its downside. But, as you are witnessing, many people turn to it in order to get that “Yang boost” that they may not be getting from the environment and their internal resources
      Coffee does not promote Kidney Yang, it acts like a substitute (although it really is not).
      The things your are noticing speak to the importance of living in harmony with Nature and the environment we find ourselves in. For this reason, there is a great emphasis on making small and sometimes large, lifestyle changes with the seasons – and acknowledging that things change with seasons. Modern culture tries to keep all things functioning (including ourselves) at the same level and the same way all year round – so we end up living out of harmony with Nature and deplete our energy (and Kidney Yang) over time.
      The simple adage (yet challenging to live) of “sleep when you are tired, eat when you are hungry” is a great guide to moving toward harmony. And doing this without the use of things to boost our energy (caffeine) – the idea would be to take a nap or get more rest if we are tired. On the other end, we not take sleeping pills as we would honor being awake – over time, we would find our harmony with Nature again – eating when we are hungry, sleeping when we are tired, and that rhythm would change with seasons. In the summer, there is more daylight, so we would be awake later into the day-night, in the winter, with shorter days, we would go to sleep earlier. And many more little changes through all fours seasons.

  2. Jo on February 17, 2016 at 3:09 am

    How does this relate to the kidneys, Cindy?

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT on February 17, 2016 at 2:01 pm

      Hi Jo,
      The Kidneys in Chinese medicine are very different than the kidneys in western science. From Chinese medical view, Kidney Yang is heat and warmth of the Kidneys – it relates directly as “Kidney Yang” is a function of the “Kidney Organ System”.

    • Jess Cudar, L.Ac. on February 17, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Hello Jo.
      The Kidney Organ System in Chinese medicine is so much more than just the physical organs themselves. There are many interrelated parts included within the Kidney Organ System. For instance, the Kidney Organ System: Stores the “Essence” or “Life Force,” regulates growth and development, nourishes bones and marrow, regulates water metabolism, opens into the ear, houses will-power, manifests as hair on the head, and it is related to the emotion of fear. Also, having an imbalance within the Kidney Meridian and/or Organ System does not necessarily mean that you have a problem with the kidneys from a western medical perspective. Remember that in Chinese medicine, we are working with the energetic imbalances, which rarely indicate a problem with the physical organ. So when Cindy writes about “Kidney Yang,” it can be related to the kidneys themselves but as you can see, there is a lot more to it than just that. I hope this helps!

  3. rachelle on February 4, 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Hi Cindy, this is a crazy question, but would people have the same experience if they lived in a warm climate the qwhole year?
    Just food for thought.
    Thansk Rachelle

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT on February 4, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      Rachelle – that is a great question!
      I live in a warm climate (Florida, US) and the light is definitely different in the winter. The Earth is moving around the Sun regardless of where on the planet we live.
      In each local area, the seasons have their nuances. If you pay close attention to the light, the air, the plants, bugs, animals, stars, planets, precipitation, etc. you will have your direct experience and learning of Yin and Yang shifting with the seasons.
      Thanks for asking, this is an important question to clarify.

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