17 Jul Ying vs Yan Yoga: Find Your Balance
In Western culture, it is known as the Ying-Yang symbol, but in the East it is commonly referred to as Taijitu, Taiqi or Tai Chi. Born from Chinese philosophy and cosmology in the third century BCE, the yin-yang symbol stands for the main forces of the universe as it is represented by a circle encompassing black and white sections equally divided by a reverse S-shape forming teardrops. They are opposites that are interdependent since one cannot be without the other. It teaches that at the core of each side resides a “seed” of the opposite; represented by the dots in the symbol. The sides are in constant flow so they are never static or absolute. All aspects of life and the universe have a constant flux of these sides. Seasons and times of day can be either yin or yang-powered. Spring/summer and twelve noon are under yang and fall/winter and midnight is yin. Some other dualities that represent this symbol are warm, fast, open, sun, heaven and even numbers for yang and cold, slow, mysterious, moon, earth and for numbers for yin.
Duality exists within each of us as well, but in some cases, a side can consume or overtake the other resulting in an imbalance that may lead to an improper flow of Chi (Qi) and meridians (centers of energy). This can ultimately cause disease and/or physiological disorders leading to increased stress on your body and mind. As a way to control this gentle balance of energy, many have resorted to yoga focusing on yin, yang or both.
Strength, endurance, and power are the encompassing adjectives of this practice. Being the most dynamic of the two sides of the symbol, yang, in general, represents the male, positive aspect of life-based on Confucianism. Yang is the “giving of energy” which is usually exerted in excess by caregivers such as nurses.
Its poses or vinyasas are naturally instinctive and rhythmic with repetitive circular or spiral movements which stress muscle cells and fibers. By exercising the muscles, blood is being more readily circulated allowing for heat generation. Being Vinyasa, breath rhythm is also a big focus during poses so that a steady, fluid practice is met so as to help prana flow. Being Qigong-influenced, it falls into ashtanga, hatha, anasura, kundalini and power hot yoga practice.
Considered the feminine aspect of the symbol, yin stands for introspection and processing of feelings such as compassion. It is the “storing of energy” and it is found in excess in many desk jobs. At the base of Taoism, yin yoga was developed in the 1970’s by Paulie Zink, a Taoist yoga teacher, and martial arts expert. Yin as a whole is considered the passive, restorative, intuitive, reclusive and negative side. Many with low energy, restlessness, and an overstimulated mind will benefit from yin yoga.
As the more meditative and relaxing of the two styles, it encompasses some three dozen passive poses or asanas. Most of these are seated or supine and are long held for 3-5 minutes; through practice can help reach 20-minute poses. Though yin asanas are similar to more active yoga asanas( such as those seen in hatha Indian yoga), they are not performed the same way. In some classes, an instructor may do an explanation of the anatomy and physiology of the poses (dharma talk).
Yin yoga helps us work on a deeper access to our body while doing very little muscle exertion resulting in better circulation, flexibility and mobility are reached. Ideally being done either in the early morning or late at night when muscles are cooled down and stiff, instead, the focus is on stressing our connective tissue, tendons, fascia and joints (i.e. hips, sacrum, knees, pelvis, lower spine). Other advantageous times for yin yoga practice are: before yang yoga, spring/summer (in order to counteract these yang-powered seasons), after a long trip and around the moon or menstrual cycles.
The other huge benefit of this yoga practice is how it teaches you to sit still with yourself, your feelings, sensations, and emotions by promoting calmness and revealing the hidden aspect of yourself. It works on cultivating your patience while invoking your primal self and opening your heart. Prana flow/Chi energy is also restored by removing or stimulating blockages in myofascial meridians leading to balanced internal organs and systems. It is very helpful for anxiety, addictions, eating disorders, deep pain, and trauma.
Though founder Paulie Zink focused on yin yoga, he does encourage the full range and complete practice of Taoist yoga by encompassing both yin and yang practices. This third approach is that which combines both the ying-yang practices so to work on both spiritual and body balance. Since both sides complement one another, a combined routine improves fitness and energy while working on healing and relaxation. It is recommended to start with yin and end with yang in a session.
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