In many ways our entire existence and most definitely our yoga practice can be narrowed down to these two opposing and mutually supportive forces.
Every moment is an expression of either yang or yin. Inhale or exhale. Inspiration or letting go. This is the ever changing fluid expression of our lived experience.
By paying close attention to the state of our mind, body and heart we can assess whether we would benefit from a yoga asana (posture) practice that embodies a more yin or a more yang approach.
Of course, our yoga is much more than the physical asana and the time we spend on the mat. At its most fundamental level, yoga is a living breathing process. Our awareness is informed by our practice and our life becomes the practice. Through formal practice we learn to respond to life’s vicissitudes instead of reacting.
We see that every moment has the potential to be infused with greater presence and patience.
During different seasons of our lives, whether they are yin or yang, expansive or contractive, we will be benefit from varying forms of formal yoga asana. At times, strong physical movement will support us. At other times, an emphasis on gentleness and ease is called for.
Yoga is a training in staying connected. So what happens when we feel we can’t connect through our active practice? What happens when our world is crumbling around us and the last thing we want to do is another warrior pose?
Yoga is a practice in which we observe and become intimately involved in the dynamic movement of body, heart and mind. This dynamic balance includes periods of stillness.
Enter yin yoga.
In contrast to a more yang practice, the yin practice requires us to hold postures for longer periods of time in a passive and receptive way. It helps us access a contemplative state of mind while at the same time triggering the deeper yin tissues of the body.
For me, the practice of yin yoga has been a place of letting go. A sacred exhale. It has taught me the importance of acceptance. Through yin yoga, it is possible to develop a willingness to feel without abandoning ourselves during difficult times.
As we soften into every posture, we respect our limitations instead of engaging muscles and striving for a deeper expression. This surrender encourages an attitude that is patient and full of curiosity and respect. We observe the space that is created when we allow whatever is happening without an agenda for change.
Even when it feels uncomfortable.
Even when we want to run, scream and cry.
This attitude of acceptance seeps into our practice off the mat.
Can I soften into this? How can I live with greater self acceptance?
Can I be here now even if it’s painful?
Yang and yin. Inhale and exhale. Expansion and contraction. Joy and grief. Our yoga has the capacity to hold and give space to every experience.
And so, during those dark nights when the heart aches or the body says no, we can return to the yin part of our being and our practice.
Finding balance. Resting in allowance of what is.
No place to be except here and now.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editorial Assistant: Karissa Kneeland / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Jennifer Raye