Find Balance with a Yin Yang Yoga Flow
Balance is not optional.
This statement is meant to open your mind to the very real energetic push and pull within your life. It’s not just theoretical but much more scientific. Chinese medicine is based on balancing the two energies or polarities to bring you into harmony, which for all intents and purposes, is quite literally, health. Which brings us back to the original statement, balance is not optional.
If we become imbalanced, something begins to happen in our life that is out of harmony. Perhaps we become angry or perhaps we become depressed. We can all relate to the idea of feeling really tight and sore because we’ve pushed our muscles to their limit and the body’s natural inclination is to rest and let the muscle fibres heal. We can also relate to the mental feeling of burnout we all know so well because of cramming for tests or perhaps working two jobs. When people are imbalanced, if they aren’t consciously looking for time tested ways to re-calibrate, the energy can wreak havoc trying to find an outlet through substances or emotional outbursts.
Now that we’ve recognized balance is important and some of the ways we all feel that imbalance, let’s look at a way to introduce balance into your life. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda both look at foods that are warming or cooling to balance the body and they also look at movements that affect the nervous system in the body in a very similar way. Certain body positions combined with breathing either generate heat and stimulate the body and mind or cool the body and calm the mind. If you like cooking and like exploring how certain dishes can conjure certain feelings, you’ll love yin/yang yoga.
Yin & Yang in Your Daily Life
We live in a modern technology-driven society that is very stimulating and fast-moving. We are surrounded by yang activities such as working, playing sports, going to high energy concerts, and many things where we are ‘amped up.’ The adrenaline junkie lifestyle prioritizes being strong, active, and constantly striving for success. We are conditioned to max out and rarely taught the art of relaxation or it’s benefits. While being strong and active are necessary parts of life, we are not designed, nor is the universe designed, to be creative and energetic all the time. Even nature rests and regenerates.
When you’re on the go and actively using your mind, this is considered a yang state. It is considered outputting your energy to create change. However, too much of this can lead to exhaustion. Yang yoga poses are heat building and muscle strengthening as in they require exertion of energy.
Yin energy is when you’re not moving, not creating new projects, and not pushing. You are observing, reflecting, and in many ways releasing your thoughts to clear your mind. Yin energy in a fitness and health sense allows the muscles to recover and allows the tension in them to be alleviated. Many studios are incorporating more and more yin yoga in order to help people get in touch with their own emotions and recover their energy. Yin poses are not about engaging the muscles but about relaxing into a pose that is held longer to allow for deep release within joints and big muscle groups.
We’ve come up with a simple sequence of yoga poses that will give you a little bit of both. Try them and see if you feel more balanced afterward.
A Simple Yin Yang Yoga Flow for Balance
This simple flow can get your circulation moving and help you stretch out to get rid of stiffness. It will familiarize you with the relaxation of yin poses as well as the strengthening yang poses. In the many different yoga types, most classes will start slow with some yin poses, build up to the more challenging yang poses, and then finish with a few yin poses. This mini-sequence has this crescendo and diminuendo as well.
Child’s Pose (Yin)
Begin sitting on your heels and bring your knees slightly wider than your hips. Walk your hands forward and rest your forehead on the ground. Relax your stomach muscles and take slow deep breaths through your nose for at least a minute. Walk your hands back and come up to your hands and knees.
Downward Facing Dog (Yin)
Tuck your toes and spread your fingers. Lift your hips and come into a triangle position. Press your heart towards your thighs as you straighten your legs and sink your heels closer to the ground. Breath slowly and deeply through the nose for about a minute and then gently bring your knees back to the ground.
Upward Facing Dog (Yang)
Lower your chest to the ground and straighten your legs behind you keeping them together. Press your palms into the ground under your shoulders to lift your chest. As you straighten your arms, pull your shoulders down away from your ears. Take five deep breaths as you engage your lower stomach and stretch the upper spine back. Slowly lower back to the ground.
Rock and Roll (Yang)
Roll over onto your back and hug your knees into your chest. Roll forward and back along the length of the spine five times. This stimulates the nervous system and massages the back. Sit up and plant your feet on the ground.
Forward Fold (Yin)
Keep your head down and feet slightly apart. Lift your hips coming into a forward fold. Relax into this fold by releasing your neck and face muscles. Feel your spine lengthening as you breathe slowly and deeply through your nose. Don’t force your legs to straighten and relax as much as possible for at least thirty seconds. You may be light headed so stand up very very slowly.
Chair Pose (Yang)
Sit back as if you are sitting into an invisible chair. Tuck your tailbone and pull your lower belly in. Raise your arms straight up in line with your ears, breathe slowly and deeply through your nose five times, and then bring your palms together in front of your heart.
Chair Twist (Yang)
Staying in chair pose, press your palms together, and bring your right elbow outside of your left knee so your torso twists and you can look up. Engage your stomach muscles to twist instead of using your elbow. Take a few breaths, then come back to the center, and switch sides. After a few breaths come back to the center and up to standing.
Mountain Pose (Yang)
Bring your arms alongside your body and feel your fingers pulling towards the ground as you open your palms to face forward. Spread your toes and point your tailbone towards the ground. Lengthen the back of the neck and feel your bones aligned. Take five deep breaths in an out of your nose and then relax.
Deep Squat (Yin)
Bring your feet slightly wider than your hips and squat so your hips are below your knees. Allow your heels to stay on the ground and press your palms together in front of your heart. Allow the elbows you rest inside the knees and keep your chest lifted as you breathe in and out of your nose for a minute.
Bridge Pose (Yin)
Sit down and then lay back with your legs bent and feet on the floor. Place your palms flat next to your hips on the ground and lift your hips. Interlace hands underneath you and walk your shoulder blades towards each other. Breathe slowly and deeply for at least 30 seconds then unlace your hands and slowly lower your hips.
Straighten your legs and let your feet fall away from each other. Let your palms face up and relax your entire body including your face. Just let your natural breath happen as you rest for seven minutes.
Read this next: Beginner’s Guide to Understanding the Chakras
There are many yoga benefits that allow your mind to become more relaxed and clear as well as your body to be more physically fit and able to fight off sickness. Now you have some stretches to do each day that will help you feel like you have some tools to navigate life with. Sometimes we are bombarded by our emotions and feel as if we are just along for the ride with our physical health or our feelings but yoga allows us to notice when we are starting to get out of balance and teaches us to go within to see what we can do to re-calibrate and harmonize. When we keep up with this internal conversation, we can regulate the energy within before it turns into sickness or health problems.
If you’re wanting to learn some of the yoga terms before heading into a class so you’re familiar with them, check out our Beginner’s Guide To Vinyasa Yoga which is a yang practice or our article which breaks down Sun and Moon salutations, which are common sequences in many yoga classes. The Sun salutation is considered a yang sequence and done to wake you in the morning while the Moon salutation is considered a yin sequence and good to do before bed.
Related Article: What Kundalini Yoga Can Do For You