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Ying and Yang of Yoga

Yin and yang exist in everything, from our yoga movements to our conversations to the spaces in which we live. Yin qualities include cold, hard, dark. Yang qualities include warm, pliable, light.

In our yoga asana practice, yin asanas (poses) are generally the ones that we hold for several minutes, allowing the muscles to soften and the plastic connective tissues to release. Our yang postures include most of the vinyasa flow: movement, sweat, muscle, etc.

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is considered the original written source of yoga. In all 196 sections, there are only three mentions of yoga asana. The physical practice is a very small part of yoga as a whole, though an important one. The only asana that is mentioned in the Yoga Sutras is easy pose, sitting with the legs crossed. At the time, this asana existed as a way to meditate. All other asanas created thereafter were designed to make meditation more comfortable so we could sit longer and not be distracted by physical discomfort.

Most people in our Western cultures who are drawn to yoga are pulled specifically to the flow of vinyasa yoga asana. It’s athletic, physical and makes us feel good. However with this yang intensity, we also need the balance of yin components. In yoga, yin can come to us in restorative postures, pranayama (breath) and meditation.

When we balance the yin and yang in our practice, we are better able to find balance, rest and harmony off the mat as well.

If you have not tried a meditation practice yet, try these tips out to get started:

  1. Find a quiet, still space. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position on a blanket, block or pillow. Allow your knees to fall below your hips and your palms to rest open on your thighs.
  3. Close your eyes and observe your breath. Soften your eyes, even behind closed eyelids. Notice the texture, length and depth, quality and tone of your breath.
  4. See how it feels. Give yourself this time every day just to observe and witness.

This article was originally posted at Yoga Pod Denver LoDo.

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