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It’s More Than A Symbol: Yin and Yang in Yoga




Not that anyone wants a history lesson, but the ancient Chinese yin and yang symbol is more than just a cool wallpaper for your computer.

Or poster on your wall (if you were born in the 80’s).

The concept of yin and yang has to do with duality and how opposites are interconnected.

For instance, the word “yin” in Chinese philosophy is associated with all things hard, cold, wet, feminine. Negative. Even earthy. But not in a bad way. It’s in a necessary way. Even yin yoga is restorative, passive, cooling.

The word “yang” corresponds to all things light. It is the masculine energy that possesses heat, dryness, and combines with yin to create all things.

It makes sense to offer a Yin and Yang Yoga class! I chose to create this class because combining the heat of yoga for exercise with the restoration of yoga for relaxation and stretching works well together to promote harmony with one’s inner and outer world.

You can check it out, along with many other types of yoga classes, at myYogaTeacher. Grab your 2-week free trial and experience any or all of them!

Let’s talk more about the different parts of yin and yang yoga! We’ll start with the yin since no one says “yang yin symbol.” Or “yang and yin yoga.”

Yin yoga

Did you know that studies show that doing yoga before bed assists with weight loss? Obviously, this practice can be done any time of the day, but before bed is also helpful!

Yin yoga, particularly, is a great practice to do before bed. It not only helps relax your body, stretch your muscles, and prepare you to sleep. It helps your body reduce its cortisol levels.

High cortisol levels are associated with weight gain and many other health conditions.

In addition to reducing those levels, yin yoga helps cleanse your lymph nodes, which is important for keeping your immune system healthy! You can read more about how yin yoga helps with lymphatic drainage and immunity here in this blog post by another expert yogi, Annelise!

Here are some other examples of how yin yoga benefits your mind and body:

  • Improves flexibility (because you’re holding each pose longer)
  • Increases circulation
  • Improves joint mobility
  • Balances internal organs and improves chi
  • Calms the mind

And it’s beneficial for every body type at any fitness level.

Within the yin yoga practice, the “black” part of the yin yang symbol, there is still that small circle of white. The yang is still present. It shows up as the stretch you feel in your muscles when you’re holding a pose or the little bit of heat you may experience that is left over from the heat of the yang portion of a practice.

But just like there is a time to rest, to eat, to look inward, to reflect, there is also a time for the opposite of those things! (Ever heard the song Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds?) There is a time for every purpose under heaven.

And that is where the “yang” part of my yoga class comes in!

The yang

Yang yoga is most commonly called hatha or ashtanga yoga. But the idea is that creating heat in your body and working your muscles in a gentle way that increases your heart rate is just as necessary as a calming, restorative yin yoga practice.

Hatha and ashtanga yoga practices focus on building strength, flexibility, and stamina. I use both of these in the yang yoga portion of my yoga class.

As a matter of fact, we start the class with yang yoga. This part of the practice includes dynamic asanas and a faster pace to build heat. We really work on synchronizing our breath with the movements as well, since that can be more challenging with a faster flow!

You can see how yang yoga is the white portion of a yin yang symbol, while yin yoga is the black. But in each of these is a tiny bit of the other.

Even in yang yoga, while you may be sweating and warm, there is a calm and consistency in your breath. A release with each pose. That is the yin.

You see? There is not one without the other! The centuries old concept of yin and yang is still very prevalent in our society today.

Why yin and yang are equally important

What happens if you sleep all day? Rest all day? Eat all day?

What would happen if your life consisted of one extreme or the other? Poverty, wealth, daytime, night.

The yin and yang represent harmony. The necessity of both light and darkness. Feast and famine. Activity and rest. Calm and chaos. And they are both important to our mental, emotional, and physical health!

When there is too much of one and not enough of the other, the result can be catastrophic.

For example, marathon runners who don’t spend enough time resting and nurturing their bodies, stretching, and relaxing tend to injure themselves more easily than those who do. Injuries that could prevent them from running forever!

When there is not enough rain, forest fires occur more easily. When there are long periods of rain, suicide rates are higher. When we work too much and play too little, we burn out and quit our jobs or don’t do well at our jobs.

This is the importance of yin and yang. In yoga and in life!

If you’re feeling a bit out of sync and imbalance and are interested in trying out my Yin and Yang Yoga class, we’d love to see you on the mat!

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