Last week, I posted about a Yin-Yang retreat I took to West Virginia where I realized I needed to better honor the yin aspects of my character, as I'm more naturally a yang person. Since I provided a pretty simplistic discussion on the differences between yin and yang, I wanted to break it down further for those who are interested.
First, to refer to yin and yang as if they are opposing forces is a bit misleading. These energies actually flow from one another, and as the illustration below shows, you cannot have yin without yang (there is no light without dark).
Nothing is entirely yin and nothing is entirely yang (not even me). We label something yin or yang through comparison.
With that in mind, let's break down associations with each energy.
Yin: Dark, the moon, shade, rest, water, cold, winter. A yin yoga practice is more passive. Poses are held for 3-5 minutes so that deep tissue (e.g. ligaments, fascia) can be released.
Yang: Light, the sun, brightness, activity, fire, heat, summer. Yang yoga is more dynamic. We flow through poses more quickly to add tapas (or heat) to the body and work the major muscles.
Taoist philosophy tells us that we need both of these energies to lead a happy, healthy life. In Western culture, we tend to value more yang energy (the need to stay constantly busy). However, true happiness lies in balance.
To help you find this balance, one of the activities I did during my yin certification training was to make a diagram of my average day and to list all the activities that were more yang (e.g. power class) versus yin (e.g. reading a book). Then, we examined our list to see if there were areas we could bring more balance. I think this is an excellent exercise for everyone to try.
I'd also like to urge you all to get outside of your comfort zone with your yoga practice. If you tend to gravitate to yang classes, try a yin class (and vice versa). I always tell students that the thing you feel the most resistance towards is probably the very thing you need the most. For example, I feel uncomfortable during restorative classes but right at home in power. That means, I need more restorative practice in my life to balance my energies.