The Yin And Yang Of Yoga: On And Off Our Mats
Many people don’t realize that Yoga has so much to teach us off of our mats. We are beginning to hear teachers and students share that “Yoga is so much more than poses” but what does that mean exactly? Well, there are many layers and aspects to that question and in this blog, I’d like to share the piece on opposites – Yin/Yang, effort/ease, soft/hard, hot/cold etc.
I often mention in class the meaning of Hatha Yoga when teaching. Yes, it is the physical limb of yoga. Other limbs include Yoga of Devotion, Yoga Service, Yoga of Self Inquiry and more. But what does Hatha mean exactly? In brief, Ha is Sun and Tha is Moon. This translation is about embracing the opposites, not only in our practice on the mat, but in our daily lives as well.
Opposites in Yoga
Let’s begin with how this translates on our mats. When we are in the midst of our physical practice we have the opportunity to observe how we are embracing this idea of the union of opposites. As we find our way into a pose, is it all effort or can we find ease as well? Are we always in the active aspect of our practice or can we also embrace stillness? Do we only practice restorative yoga or do we balance it with a more physical practice? Is our practice only about heat or do we also attend classes that are not 102 degrees? Do we do a practice that is all seated poses or do we balance it withstanding, supine and prone poses?
It’s all about creating balance. Sometimes that balance may get created within each individual practice or within the choices we make on our mats within a week. This concept also applies to our daily lives.
Opposites are Necessary Within
As I mentioned above, one of the areas of yoga study is self-realization. This teaching is partly about understanding who we are and what colors our motivations. If we observe how we operate in the world we can begin to see many aspects of ourselves.
Are you always running around, never allowing yourself to also find rest and stillness? Are you always allowing our inner critic to rule the show or do you quiet it a bit and recognize what you are doing well? Do you have the belief that life is always hard or do you also notice some easy times as well? Do you move about your life from your masculine side more often than your feminine? Or do you feel that you are balanced in that area? Do you take a hard line with your belief systems or do you soften a bit to try and understand a different viewpoint? These are just a few examples of opposites.
None of this is meant to imply that one is better than another but instead that we are all of these. There are days when standing up for ourselves and coming from our Yang energy is necessary. There are times when life is very full and there just doesn’t seem like any time to stop and smell the roses. How can we know ease if we also don’t experience challenge? How can we know of peace if we don’t also experience unrest? How can we know rest if we don’t also experience work?
Begin to notice on any given day and any given week, your mode of operation. Notice if you tend towards an imbalance with the Yang (masculine) or Yin (feminine) aspect of your life. Are their areas where you realize you could begin to bring in an opposite energy to create shifts you wish to see happen for you? I know for myself that I have, for most of my life, operated from the masculine side of things. In these last few weeks, I’ve begun practicing softening into by body and into my life so that the changes and shifts I desire can occur through a more balanced way of being in the world.
What about you? Are you willing to shift anything?
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