What is the difference between yin and yang? And why does it matter?
Like most things, simplifying makes the task easier – so here’s a rough conceptual guide of what and how these different qualities, when applied to yoga, can help you in your training program as well as in your everyday life and beyond.
First, yang. Yang is the masculine, movement based, muscular dominated classification. Our lives are intrinsically yang. Movement is yang, which means that any movement works to define muscle capacity and strength. Think lifting, high intensity, cardio, boxing and strength categorised Vinyasa and Power Yoga practices.
Second, yin. Yin is the feminine, stillness, tendon, ligament, fascia dominated classification. Yin is found in quiet moments where there is stillness, spaciousness and reflection. Think meditation, sleep, and calm categorized yin or restorative yoga practices.
These are the major differences between yin and yang when it comes to intentionality and presence at the club. Yin is receptive and allows us to replenish and restore. But it also offers a balance to the rest of our lives and creates a mind space where we have the capacity to open ourselves to more of the yang aspects of our lives. The busier we are, the more we need yin, the more yin we allow, the more capacity we have in our everyday lives.
As Sarah Powers, founder of Insight Yoga so eloquently expresses, “We start to see that yoga can be an inward journey of body-mind sensitivity during both our so-called practice time and our time spent everywhere else. It is at this point that yoga is no longer relegated to an activity we do while wearing certain clothes at the yoga center or gym, but instead becomes a living vehicle for embodied wholeness, a potent path of transformation.”
It seems important to add at this point that the terms ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ do not imply a gendered concept. The terms masculine and feminine are used within the yoga realm to encourage the eventual and essential yoking of all the parts of ourselves to gather our wholeness. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root to ‘yoke’, and is often referred as union – so it makes sense that embodying these different practices would help us to experience more equanimity in our lives.
While yang commonly expresses itself in the physical body as strength, yin typically expresses itself as flexibility. So if you’re always up on the gym floor, your schedule will typically leave you strong but tight. And if you’re always in the yoga studio, you’re likely to be open and flexible, but lacking strength in some key areas of the body.
The answer? Balance, of course.
Almost everything in life serves this delicate balance. Day and night. Dark and night. Fast and slow. Ease and stability. Grace and fall.
Regarding the balance of yin and yang in the physical body, we consider the term mobility.
Mobility is what enables us to squat deeper, lunge wider, bend further, push and pull more confidently and twist more effortlessly. Greater mobility can be increased by practicing all styles of yoga, but mostly it is the benefits of the more yin styles of yoga that will greatly impact on the yang based training we engage in most other times of our week.
So, to yin or to yang? The answer is, yes.