Take a deep breath in … and a long, slow breath out. In all parts of life we find duality; inhale and exhale, day and night, light and dark, right and left, hot and cold, summer and winter, white and black, air and water. Line up all of these elements into two columns and you’ll find that they come under YANG and YIN. Just about any naturally occurring element can be attributed to either of these energies.
Yang is the active, changing and masculine energy. Yin is the passive, accepting and feminine energy. In yoga we experience Yang in Vinyasa through movement and heat, where as Yin is experienced through grounding and cooling poses or in the Yin practice. We are all made up of these two energies just as we have a right (Yang) and left (Yin) side. Sometimes one is more prominent, but essentially they are both always there.
Whether you are male or female, finding the balance of these two energies can be challenging.
In the Western World, our culture is Yang in its nature. It so ingrained in us to succeed and we strive to be the best through demonstrating ambition in a conventional way. We even breathe in a more Yang way by inhaling more than we exhale. When we neglect to exhale fully, it’s harder to relax, it’s harder for the body to function efficiently and we linger in a state of stress or the fight or flight mode.
In yoga we focus on the breath as a means to enter meditation, commence the practice with a centred mind and soul, and to also observe ourself as we enter and exist a pose. The breath remains the anchor for our practice. When I guide or ask my students to use a count (like 4, 5 or 6) to even their breath, it’s amazing what a difference it makes to the length of the practice, but also to how present and relaxed students are.
What about Yin Yoga? A Yin class can definitely help to invite the feminine energy to your life. The poses are mainly conducted on the floor as a way to ground, they are also done with a cool body allowing the stretches to work with the connective tissues, not just the muscles. This kind of practice can evoke emotional release and gives the student the space to be with themselves in meditation and reflection.
The essence of the Yin practice teaches us to accept and surrender.
If you prefer a more dynamic practice, work with the Yin chakras – Sacral, Heart and Third Eye. In recent Vinyasa classes we have included Parivrtta Trikonasana (Reverse Triangle), Parivrtta Utkatasana (Chair pose with a twist) and Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Standing Forward Fold with Twist).
- Get creative. Creativity is part of our Yin energy. This could include drawing, singing, writing music or anything that creatively resonates with you.
- Be close to water. We know that water is incredibly grounding, but do you know how healing water can be? Water is yin in energy. It can teach us to go with the flow, to trust in the direction that we are heading. Around the time of the new moon water can be even more important as we shift into the darkness of this Yin event. Visit the sea side, swim, bathe or place salted water by your bedside.
- Nurture. Be the nurturer or be nurtured. Allow the maternal side to come through as you spend time with your pet, children or partner. Or schedule some time with those who you know will look after you or book in for a massage or healing session.