Yin and Yang
The Polar Energies
In yoga, the word hatha is symbolically translated as ha (Sun) and tha (Moon). In this way, Hatha Yoga can be understood as the path of union between the solar and lunar energies within us. Similarly, in Taoism, yang is solar, masculine energy and yin is lunar, feminine energy. Together, they epitomize the twofold and complementary character of the Universe.
Yin Is Expansive
Yin energy is related to the Water element. It is receptive, fluid, flexible, malleable, and accepting. Yin is expansive and all-encompassing. While yang energy causes us to be dynamic and alert, yin energy allows us to be relaxed, to “go with the flow” and open ourselves to the constant change that life is. An excess of yin energy results in so much relaxation that we become lethargic, unmotivated, and both physically and mentally lazy. We may also become overly emotional and sensitive, and find it difficult to control our reactions.
Yang Is Contracted
Yang energy is related to the Fire element and is an energy that is emissive, quick, dynamic, hot, dry, and restless. It is contracted and interiorized. It is about direction, determination, setting and achieving goals, and the logical mind. It is the energy of wakefulness and aspiration. To be in touch with yang energy is to be in touch with our capacity for complete mental focus and the dynamic aspect of our being that wants to achieve goals. If this aspect is over-emphasized, we may become intensely focused in one direction but miss the wider perspective. There may be a great trust in the mind but a lack of trust in the Heart. An excess of yang energy will result in insensitivity and loss of contact with our emotional selves, rigidity, and an inability to express ourselves freely.
As we become aware of the presence of these polar energies in our lives we may notice an imbalance within us—in general, or perhaps in certain situations or with certain people. We may need to learn how to be more dynamic and directed (the yang tendency) in our workplace, or more accepting and open to change (the yin tendency) in our relationships. The practice of Hatha Yoga, and especially the performance of polar asanas (postures performed on both sides), can help us attune to these energies and bring them into balance.
George Ohsawa, the founder of macrobiotics, said, “Wherever there is yin there is yang. Wherever there is yang there is yin. The higher the mountain, the deeper the valley. Let us change yin into yang, Let us change yang into yin. For any difficulties, we are always grateful.”
Learn more about polar energies in the Hridaya Yoga Retreat: Module 1 Intensive.
Image courtesy EwigLernender [CC BY-SA 3.0]