sweet beans

Two things about having a kidney stone are true: 1) you are likely to have another; and 2) you would do anything to not have another.

Enter Dr. Low, nice but overworked and generally unhelpful urologist.

My appointment was to hear analysis of tests that were done to find out why my body is making stones. Did I mention I’ve had five, and that the last one took me to the emergency room for the night? I would do anything not to have another.

Dr. Low’s unfortunate assessment was: Medically there’s no reason for your body to make stones. You don’t have any of the risk factors, all of the levels in your urine are normal… there’s really nothing we can do for you.


But on the way out, Dr. Low gave me some parting advice. He said that although there’s no hard medical evidence behind it, some people believe that sleeping on the opposite side from the kidney that has had the stones (stones are often out of only one kidney) will help boost blood flow and general openness of the stone kidney.

I’m sure he had no idea what kind of left-side-sleeping-obsessed monster this advice would create.

God forbid I wake on my right (stone) side… How long have I been here? What’s that funny feeling, is it pressure? Was that a twinge of pain? And off I go into a stream of dazed thoughts about how I probably just suffocated that kidney into making 3 more stones.

Let’s just say I’ve taken it a little far.

We do this in many areas of our lives. We get a little black and white, bouncing between extremes.

I see it in class. An overcompensation. How an instruction like Find a little more connection through your outer heel will have people walking bow-legged. 

I think this comes partly from being out of touch with subtlety, but mostly from wanting to please, wanting to do well and get it right. Wanting to be better.

That’s what I want. I want to be better—-healthy, well, stone-free.

Ironically, this wanting to be other than I am is a 3rd chakra phenomena. It shows up in many aspects of my life and could be, in some way that I do not understand, related to having kidney stones in the first place.


Chakras are centers or mass groupings of energy in the body that correspond to nerve ganglia branching out from the spinal column.

The 3rd chakra, called Manipura, or lustrous gem, is in the midsection of the torso—solar plexus and kidneys.

It is all about how we relate to and understand ourselves. It’s where we access our intuition or “gut” feelings. And it controls the entire processes of digestion, assimilation and temperature regulation in the body.

In a “healthy” 3rd chakra, we have appropriate self-esteem, self-respect, and self-discipline, ambition and action, autonomy, spontaneity, the courage to take risks, generosity, and proper metabolism.

It’s dark side is fear of rejection, criticism, looking foolish and failing to meet responsibilities, as well as anxiety and extreme polarized judgments (good/bad, right/wrong).

What’s a kidney to do?

My teacher Mary Paffard often says that we are a 3rd chakra culture —- adrenalized and perpetually close to burn out.

The irony of that is we are also a culture of intense insecurity.

Where do you land and how you can respectfully help yourself?

If the 3rd chakra is overly excited, “hot” emotions like anger, hatred and excessive attention to power can take over. Passive backbends and easy supine twists can help cool and soothe the 3rd chakra. The simple act of placing the hands on the low belly and feeling the breath can soothe the fight or flight response and help promote relaxation in the body.

Effects of 3rd chakra being deficient can be low self-esteem, digestive issues, a feeling of powerlessness and eating disorders. Strong poses (done with mindfulness and kindness) like Sun Salutations, Warriors, Plank and Boat pose can help create warmth, a sense of embodiment and energy.

A basic 3rd chakra question is, Do you like yourself?

Notice how you answer, and also how you feel about the question or your answer. Maybe you feel poked and you can soften the eyes and feel your breath. Maybe you feel dull and you can sit up tall and let your energy rise.

Let me tell you, it’s worth getting to know your 3rd chakra.

Not to say that you will have a kidney stone (although stones have been rapidly on the rise for the past few decades).

But this path and practice are about knowing oneself, finding middle ground and living life fully amid the risk and loss. The confidence and discipline to do this live in your 3rd chakra.


Well, I’m off to have a glass of water (hydration is the numero uno prevention strategy for stones).

If you found this helpful, please pass it along! And I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Have a great day!


18 Responses to “sweet beans”

  1. 1 Teacher Goes Back to School April 13, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    so many things to say…

    1. i LOVE that hello kidney.

    2. i think my 3rd chakra energy got a bit stirred up this weekend because my week went a little hell in a handbag the last 2 days. or it felt better this weekend and returned to the hell in a handbag because i need to hang with mary more.

    3. i do believe i am in GREAT need of some passive heart openers. good thing i’ve got that bolster and eye bag just waiting for me at home.

    4. it’s funny. i listened when i asked “do i like myself” and i heard a yes. then i had a hard day (complete with a hard neck and throat) and that answer was less definite. the hardness/defensiveness made that more questionable.

    5. ugh. stress is kicking my ass and i’m so looking forward to a break soon.

  2. 2 Nancy A April 13, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    feeling immensely tired as well with a low grade pain in my low back. maybe there’s something in the water?

    definitely need a break.

    I love how you tied so many things together. this was a terrific post!

  3. 4 JennaFrancisco April 14, 2011 at 2:49 am

    I’m feeling your pain, sort of (kidney stones are worse, so I hear) because I recently learned I have gallstones after having 2 attacks, one of which got me in the ER, too. In an effort to not have attacks, I’m on a strict no-fat diet (no fun), and because my gallbladder will fool around with these stones and likely make more, I have surgery scheduled for May. Really don’t want it–just recovered from a second C-section and may have too much scar tissue to have laproscopic gallbladder surgery… but at least then I won’t have to worry about it anymore. Knowing the stones are there and an attack can come is a terrible feeling. I also had to laugh a bit about the sleeping because while pregnant, I had to avoid sleeping on my stomach, on my right side, and on my back. You can imagine the dreams and thoughts I had about avoiding those 3 out of 4 sleeping positions!
    And yes, we are definitely a 3rd chakra culture. Thanks for the chakra lesson, and take care of you. xo

  4. 5 madyoga April 14, 2011 at 4:03 am

    This was gorgeous, wonderful. Thanks for being out there exploring the third chakra in the extreme for the rest of us.

  5. 6 blogasana April 14, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    @tami – i know, isn’t it a sweet little kidney?! mmm, interesting that a hard day impacted your answer, or at least your response to the question. a ‘depends on’ answer… and yes, you fully deserve a break. will be good to see what your answer is after a rest. xo

    @nancy – so much this season that could be stirring things up, huh? hard to know. and so important to listen. thanks for sharing…

    @leili – <3

    @jenna – oh my goodness!! i'm so sorry. i've heard gall are awful too! yes, knowing that pain is possible at any moment is a real mind game. i'm there, too. love your pregnancy sleep story :) thanks for sharing and i hope your surgery goes smoothly. xoxo

    @mads – thanks and you betcha :)

  6. 7 Sam April 15, 2011 at 5:11 am

    This was a great post! So interesting. And I do hope you are feeling better soon.

    Last weekend was absolutely fascinating. After day one, exploring the 5th, I felt energized, day two whooooooped me. Not so much instantly, but the following two days I was exhausted. My back was sore, and it’s not like we did anything muscularly out of the norm. I’m still trying to figure out why I reacted that way. And until then, trying to spend a little more time sending breath back there. ;)


    • 8 blogasana April 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      sam, wow – what incredible feedback from your body! this is one of the reasons i’m so in awe of mary’s work — like you said, it’s not that we did anything out of the norm, but she has a way of getting IN there!!! i hope the fruits of the weekend continue to unfold. thanks for reading!!

  7. 9 Jen Saunders April 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I think your teacher, Mary, is a wise woman. We are a group of walking adrenal depleted zombies…

    ps – I love the Hello Kidney!

    • 10 blogasana April 15, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      Jen – right? it’s so true. adrenal.depleted.zombies. cheers for teachers like us who are sharing yoga in a way that helps balance that =-) hug!

  8. 11 Thais April 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    sorry ab the stones =/ but great post!! i am doing my own mini chakra series and it really is amazing how much we learn about our bodies from studying the lotuses. and stay off that right side! =P

  9. 12 Mel April 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    I read this post a couple days ago, let it sink in, and I’m still not sure how to comment other than to say based on this –

    “A basic 3rd chakra question is, Do you like yourself?”

    – I think I’ve had an intensive 3rd chakra year! The good news is more and more I think I’m coming up with a positive answer to that question.

    Thanks so much for this – so much information and a great story (wishing you clear kidneys!) you wove it all together beautifully.

  10. 13 Cassidy Castleman April 16, 2011 at 7:20 am

    I too, got a kick out of the hello kidney graphic. And I’m sorry to admit that I got quite a chuckle at your expense after reading about your “left-side-sleeping-obsessed monster.” Although kidney stones are clearly not a laughing matter- I hope you never have another one!

    Upon asking if I liked myself- I quickly answered “of course!” perhaps before I was even done asking it. I’d like to think my 3rd chakra is balanced, but its fair to say that it falls into the overactive category- although I hope not too much.

    I came across a wonderful definition of humility years ago I’d like to share. It was something along the lines of: “true knowledge of yourself as you are.” While some people rather obviously have either a too high or too low opinion of themselves (overactive or deficient 3rd chakra), I think most of us struggle to strike a delicate balance between the two.

    Your words about “knowing oneself, finding middle ground and living life fully” really struck a chord with me.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  11. 14 Cassidy Castleman April 16, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    After reflecting on this further, and sleeping with my hands over my lower gut- I’ve come to the conclusion the my 3rd chakra, rather than being balanced, is more like a pendulum swinging wildly between extremes.

    One day I may be self-righteous and over controlling, and the next I might be self-destructive and brutally unforgiving and unaccepting of myself.

    Fortunately, I can occasionally strike a balance between the two …

    As the saying goes- even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  12. 15 blogasana April 17, 2011 at 12:19 am

    @thais – thanks, girl! enjoy your series. nothing like learning about the chakras by being aware of how we live in/through them. have fun!!

    @mel – mmm, an intense 3rd chakra year… i’m glad positive answers are coming out of it! would love to hear more…

    @cassidy – i love that every time you comment you share something awesome. thank you for that. “true knowledge of yourself as you are” is a fabulous definition of anything! that’s yoga (i think). i relate to the pendulum swing… my teacher talks about how we (culture) are actually addicted to extremes… we find neutral really challenging (boring, unexciting) and often create extremes for ourselves. i think the middle place is hard to feel because it isn’t up against an end. this life is quite a ride! (if you want to get better at math, solve math problems.=)

  13. 16 Cyndra April 19, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Thanks Michelle! I am so struggling with the idea of liking myself lately because I am spending so much time alone! Your blog is so helpful! Sending love and healing thoughts your way hoping they can help your kidney find some peace. XO

    • 17 blogasana April 19, 2011 at 4:18 am

      oh cyndra… miss you so. i’m sorry your transition has been hard. time alone (but you’re such good company!!) can be so isolating. i don’t want to take that experience and reality away from you… but a reminder to reach out to your sisters here… i know any of us would love to hear from you and share in life’s stuff. sending a hug…

  1. 1 In Case You Missed It Edition! Volume 27 « Teacher Goes Back to School Trackback on April 18, 2011 at 4:20 pm

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