In a predominately Yang oriented society, it can be a real challenge to peal it back and cultivate some Yin energy. Yang is the active, creative, juicy, fire energy of life. Yin is the passive, restorative and introspective energy. Yoga (as medicine) is a path that seeks to restore, cultivate, or maintain balance in the body. As such, a healthy well-balanced individual ideally embodies both yin and yang energy.
As you think about your yoga practice and your particular approach to it, how does that sit with you? Take a moment to pause and truly reflect on this question. What purpose does yoga serve for you? Is it simply a means to exercise? A mere practice to achieve some external source of gratification; flexibility, strength, weight loss? Please don't mistake this is as a bad thing at all, in fact, this is one of the wondrous side-effects of a regular yoga-Asana practice, but it is not the end goal of yoga. Or rather it is not the purpose of yoga. I have referred to it before in classes and previous blog posts; that yoga has many definitions and one such definition that I resonate with is "Yoga as Union". What must be united? Since union requires at least two disparate parts of something to come together, in this way, yoga is referring to union of the self with divinity, with the very essence of your soul. There is an important distinction to make between the external world, and further still the misidentification of this body that you currently occupy as your true self. But rather the true self as eternal, as divinity itself.
Let's take it one step further as we refer to the balancing of opposing forces in our physical, mental, and emotional bodies. We started off with the example of fiery (yang) energy with cold (yin) energy and the agreement that ideally we learn to balance these two opposites. But how does one know when one energy source is more appropriate than the other?
Elisabeth Haich, author of "Initiation" calls out the twelve opposing forces that we are urged to balance, as written in her book they are:
- Keeping silent - Talking
- Receptivity - Resistance to influence
- Obeying - Ruling
- Humility - Self-confidence
- Lightening like speed - Circumspection
- Accept everything - Ability to differentiate
- Ability to fight - Peace
- Caution - Courage
- To possess nothing - To command everything
- To have no ties - Loyalty
- Contempt for death - Regard for life
- Indifference - Love
Do any of these 12 opposing forces call to you? If so, why? It can be something that equally repels you or attracts you. Don't immediately discount the negative sensation of pushing away. Instead get curious about what that pushing away is caused by, and then what it in turn signifies.
In my experience I am repelled by talking and more drawn to keeping silent. I am an observer of things, of people, of nature and I process thoughts, and sentiments inward. I am usually last to speak in a group setting, and at social gatherings I find myself being drawn towards listening to someone else tell a story or a joke. Alas for my quiet nature, as I have stepped into the role of yoga teacher, which means I have simultaneously signed myself up for a job in public speaking. So how do I navigate these two opposing forces? I ask myself this question: Why Am I Talking (WAIT)? I picked up this little gem from a workshop weekend well-spent with Lindsey Holy. Lindsey reminded me that the ability to pause before opening my mouth and discover the purpose behind what it is I feel I need to say, is a process. Living in a society that values boisterous outspoken attitudes and habits of behavior does not seem to appreciate the quiet naturally internal processor that I am. I tend toward silence, toward listening, and as I've journeyed into the role of teaching overtime have had to unleash my opposite and opposing force of the ability to speak, articulately, with purpose, direction and clarity. How else will my students follow? Ironically, my teacher's feedback after listening to a recording of one of my classes was, "You talk too much - allow them time to be in silence". I almost laughed out loud at the idea of, me, talking too much. Sweet solace I have found my calling in a vocation that requires less talk and more internal processing.