The Yin and Yang of Yoga

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there is a network of energy channels called the meridian, in, which the life-energy known as “qi” flows.
This is similar to the yogic form of energy channels, known as “nadi”.
In both systems, it is the same belief that if these energy channels are blocked, organs cannot function properly and imbalance arises. These cause physical illness and even an imbalanced mind.
TCM believes that there has to be a balance between then yin and yang elements (dark-bright or negative-positive) for balance and harmony in the body.
This concept birthed the idea of what we know today as “yin yoga”, where most postures are done with the muscles relaxed, held for longer periods, usually up to five minutes.
As most yoga practices are mainly yang-based today; that is that they are more fast-paced with higher heart rates, yin yoga is actually a good way to balance out this energy. Think of it as yang practices such as Hatha building heat in the body, whereas yin practices promote cooling.
In yin yoga, as stretches are passive and held for long periods, they allow for a gentler stretch, particularly in connective tissues (e.g. ligaments) and bones.
Many a time, we tend to work on muscles and alignment, without putting much focus on the more neglected areas like the joints, tendons and ligaments. Gentle stretches in yin can help to promote stronger tissues.
A good example of a common yin activity is meditation, where the practitioner is seated in a position over a long period. Some people may find that this causes some knee pain or soreness in the hips after a while. With stronger tissues, you may find that this problem may be alleviated.
Similar to how certain postures can help in stimulating organs and activating chakras, yin yoga can activate the “qi” flow in the body.
With today’s hectic lifestyles and common fast-paced yoga practices, perhaps it would be good to slow things down once in a while to “cool” our bodies, to restore balance and have a better body and mind.
Vanessa Kwa
YTT September 2017