Yin/Yang: What To Do When Yoga Has Healed You.

Via Erica Mather
on Oct 30, 2011
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Dear Yogis,

I’m troubled.  We need to talk.  Our relationship has gotten off track somewhere.  Have you noticed?

Once upon a time, I was along with you, and we were happily realizing our truths, examining past wounds and clearing them, raising our vibration, and generally, well, healing and transforming.

But then–because yoga works–I started to feel better.  And, my life started going better.  Then, I got up off of my mat, and looked around, and thought, “Gee!  Maybe now that I feel better, it’s time I moved along and actually lived my life, instead of analyzing it, and looking for deeper layers to clear.”

But, when I got off my mat, I felt kinda like I had betrayed you.  Like, the terms of our relationship depended on me staying in the depths of self-examination along with you, and somehow I had broken that pact.  And when I rolled my eyes when you told me all about finally locating the roots of your (fill in the bank here.  For our purposes, I’ll insert “fear of spiders”)…?  Well.  Now I’m “negative.”

Boo.  Hiss.

Please don’t get me wrong, I still believe in that magic of tracing these impressions.  But I also just believe that you can’t spend 24/7 doing this.  It’s exhausting.

There are two issues at work here.  One is the problem of getting stuck in your transformational process.  Carolyn Myss has a name for the obsession with relentlessly spending your time digging around in the muck of your life: “woundology.”  She coined this term in Why People Don’t Heal. 

The second issue is, once yoga has worked, then what?  Where is the model for how to move ahead with you life, and keep yoga in it, if doing yoga is about maintenance and ongoing work, but not always soul shaking, gut wrenching, deep work?

I’m not suggesting that we’ve ever graduated from doing deep work; in fact, I do believe that the work is perpetual.  We just need a model for the work to be happening in tandem with…routine external activities.  Because seriously, most people don’t have space to take the lid off of their childhood wounds AND hold down their dream job, AND have a loving family, AND have a robust social life.

I like the Taoist Yin-Yang symbol as a reminder of how things work.  The white half is Yang, and black half is Yin, but within each there is a spec of the other.  This is to show that Yin is never entirely Yin…as a matter of fact, it is changing, as we speak, to Yang.  And vice versa.

An easier way to understand this—an illustration I was introduced to by Jason Campbell—is a diagram of sea and clouds, rain and vapor.  If the sea is Yin (like the dark half of the circle), and the clouds are Yang (like the light half of the circle), and rain is Yin of Yang (the dark spec in the light half), then vapor is…?  (Answer at the bottom.  C’mon now.  You can do the math!).

The sea never stays entirely sea.  It is in the process of becoming vapor, which will become clouds, which will beget rain, which will fall into the sea…

See?  Digging in the muck of your being is not an end in and of itself.  If you stay there, you are denying the laws of nature.  She does not like this.  I, your best buddy, do not like this.  Digging in the muck is a means to grow the lotus, and the lotus is the flower of your life activities.

Get along now.  Get up off your mat.  Live.  Live.  Live.  Do the things you say you want to; be the person you say you want to.  And while you’re living, dig in the muck–but not too much–so that the next lotus can grow. The one that is blooming now is destined to die and return to the muck so that another can grow.

That’s the way of the world.  To deny is it delusion.

(Answer:  Yang of Yin.)


About Erica Mather

Erica Mather, M.A., E-RYT 200, is a lifelong teacher. She has been teaching yoga in New York City since 2006. Erica created "Adore Your Body," a Signature System for addressing body image challenges, and is the Founder of The Yoga Clinic NYC. Check out her website and follow her on Twitter.


7 Responses to “Yin/Yang: What To Do When Yoga Has Healed You.”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    This is amazing and beautiful and it resonates me – shakes me at the core. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this Erica! So much love to you.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  2. ericamather says:

    Thank you, Tanya! So glad that it's landed well on you. <3

  3. justthisbreath says:

    Maybe the people are know are different. I honestly can't think of anyone who worked on her childhood issues to the extent that she was unable to go to school, or have friends, or raise a family, or have a career. Even during the period when I was extremely ill (anorexia x 12 years), I still went to school; I had a job for at least 7 of those years. Even though I believe I was healed by yoga, I would never have considered stopping. Just because I no longer had a major eating disorder, I still had things to learn about myself.

    Besides, yoga is basically a lifestyle; just a healthy way of living. It doesn't imply that one is delving into childhood wounds, unable to live a real life.

  4. […] Yin/Yang: What To Do When Yoga Has Healed You. […]

  5. […] Exit slowly, exhaling long, longingly, inwardly bowing your way out, like an adept arisen from the master’s lotus feet. […]

  6. Diana says:

    "We just need a model for work that is to be done in tandem with external activities."
    Yes! It's called being with what is, being here now, being present on the fly, not just while on the mat. It doesn't have to be an Either Or sort of experience. There is a time for everything. Deep work done in silence has its place, but if it just involves the mind, it can be very limiting and is not actually "silence" per se. The consciousness on the other hand, is our shared experience, sometimes called "the ground of being." I think of it as the eternal flow, the experience of truth, not the "idea" of it. There is a deep receptive silence that can be accessed at all times once we are attuned to it. This awareness of this informs our being of how to take action based on altruism- for the greater good of all.