Excerpt from Be Healthy with Yin Yoga: The Gentle Way to Free Your Body of Everyday Ailments and Emotional Stress
The duality of Yin and Yang — the idea that there are two halves in every whole, that life hinges on the balance between opposing forces — is perhaps the most well-known teaching of Taoism. We’ve all heard of Yin and Yang, but what do these opposing, complementary forces mean for our daily lives?
Yang is the more aggressive and dynamic energy of the Yin-Yang duo, whereas Yin embodies the soft, passive aspects of life; we need them both. However, the Yin-Yang balance can be upset by outside forces. In our busy world, where we rush from place to place, constantly absorb new information and rarely make time for ourselves, many of us are overwhelmed with Yang.
When we return home at the end of the day, we need a practice that is gentle, a practice that balances our Yang with Yin by creating a space in which to breathe, think, and be. Yin Yoga is a wonderful antidote to our Yang world. It is a passive practice that stretches the fascia and calms the mind with long, deep stretches that harmonize the flow of energy in the meridians. A demand for perfection is completely out of place here. Yin Yoga is much more than poses to be exactly replicated in order to strengthen the body. It is a path to self-healing that includes breathing techniques and meditation, and can also address a wide variety of ailments from allergies and menstrual pain to grief and anxiety.
We live in a Yang-orientated world, in which there is often no place for stillness and inner contemplation. Join me in the following Yin Yoga sequence to bring the body, mind and spirit into harmony.
1. Come into a cross-legged position, and place a cushion under the buttocks if necessary. If your hip joints allow the opening, then position your left lower leg parallel to the front edge of the mat and place your right lower leg flush over it. If you experience an unpleasant feeling in the knee doing this, you can also place your right foot lower and put it on the lower leg, or remain in the cross-legged position. Support your right knee with a cushion if you wish. Now put the palms of your hands together, place the forearms on your legs, bend the upper body forward in a relaxed way, and lower your head. Alternatively, you can rest your arms or hands on the floor or on a support.
2. Sit straight again to combine Square with a side bend. Place your left hand to the side next to you and tilt your upper body to the left side. Take the right arm next to your head or leave it behind your back.
3. Return to the center and now finish with a rotation. Place your left hand on your right knee, support yourself with your right hand behind your pelvis, and turn right with a straight spine. Stay in the position for three to five minutes, including the side bend to the left and the rotation to the right. Release and loosen your legs, then cross the lower legs the other way around and repeat the exercise, with the side bend to the right and the rotation to the left.
Most meditations have a Yin character and can therefore nicely balance out the overstimulation we feel every day. The cleansing meditation is especially helpful for rebalancing your Yin and Yang.
Recall something that made you feel uncomfortable: something that annoyed you, an injustice done to you, or something that sucks your energy. Now think of an energizing place in nature, a place where you really feel good. Picture this place precisely. Imagine gentle drops of violet rain falling on you. They run over your whole body, first outside and then inside — like an external and internal shower. The violet water flows over your hands and feet and out of you again, and takes everything with it that should no longer be part of you. When you feel cleansed, imagine your crown chakra opening up and radiant white light flowing into you. The rays flow through your whole body, replacing everything you have just given up with new positive energy and strength.
I’d also like to share another of my favorite meditations, which I do every night before I go to bed. You can join me for the meditation here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFkACymvEdI&t=94s