Yin and yang are taoist concepts, they relate to the opposing energies that exist in all nature; including in our lives and our bodies. The balance of yin and yang show us all that exists is in a constant state of change.
Yin can be characterised as internal, feminine energy. It is passive, gentle, forgiving and cooling. Yang, yin’s opposition, is external and masculine. It is dynamic, heating, assertive and invigorating. Despite their clear opposites, yin and yang cannot exist without each other - the two together make up a whole. Incorporating the concepts of yin and yang into our lives helps us to stay balanced, reminding us that everything exists in opposition.
Most of us live yang-oriented lives. We are constantly on the go, moving from place to place, always thinking about the next thing. We are good at getting things done, but we are often prone to burnouts or stress. Our choice of yoga practice is reflective of our yang tendencies. Yang yoga is anything dynamic, they are the classes that make us sweat and leave us feeling invigorated. Vinyasa, hatha, core flow and ashtanga are all yang practices. Whilst these classes are great at building strength, fitness and helping us find flow, they only provide us with half of the practice.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are the more gentle practices. Yin, restorative and candlelit classes are almost entirely floor based, they allow us to soften and open in new ways that we cannot find in a yang class. Yin helps us to go that little bit deeper.
During yin yoga you will hold the poses for longer, being encouraged to practice mindfulness throughout the class. In a yang class the constant movement, the heat and the energy you are producing acts as a meditative tool to keep your mind present. However, in a yin or restorative class, there is nothing to aid your concentration - you are left alone with your mind, finding new spaces in your body. Keeping your focus on the present moment can be more challenging, but practicing this enlightens us to the power in stillness.
Whilst yang is about achievement and attainment, yin is about acceptance. The gentle nature of yin allows us to approach our lives in a different way. For many of us, rest and relaxation is difficult. We spend so much time not resting, that when we finally have the opportunity to do so, we feel agitated or distracted. Yin helps us to be comfortable with relaxation, it takes you deeper into where you are, and not out into where you think you should be.
Introducing yin into our lives can also benefit our practice physically. By spending a longer time in each pose, we encourage our muscles, joints and ligaments to relax and lengthen. With a regular yin practice, we become more flexible, our joints move with greater ease and our circulation improves.
We could all use a little extra yin in our lives. Taking the time to slow down, relax and be with ourselves has outstanding benefits in our internal and external worlds. Finding the balance between a yin and yang practice can helps us to grow exponentially, both on and off our mats.