Updated: Jul 17
In order to understand the premise of Yin Yoga, it’s helpful to understand Taijitu which is the symbol of Yin and Yang. “Yin and Yang is a concept from Ancient Chinese philosophy that highlights the balance that occurs between two opposing forces.”
For instance, light and dark would be two opposing forces. Without any dark, there would be no context for the light.
Just like a shadow cannot be created without light, both forces are necessary and must be in the correct balance.
Lets dive deeper by coming into full understanding of each component.
Soft + Feminine Energy.
Responds to the acceptance of what is. In in flow & harmony with the intuition & inner wisdom of our soul.
Deeply resonate with the moon, the darkness, the water, the earth, the cold, etc.
In the body Yin can be seen as the bottom concave, & also refers t our blood, bodily fluid, & our muscle or body mass.
Active + Masculine Energy.
Represents the activity of doing and our attempts to change ourselves and the world around us.
Deeply resonate with the heavens, the sun, fire, movement, brightness, heat, etc.
In the human body refers to the top convex & Qi energy, activity produced by the energy in the human body.
" Light Versus Darkness, Cold Versus Heat, Action Versus Flow, Movement Versus Stillness."
According to, Chinese Medicine Dr. Peter Sheng,
When searching for the Yin & Yang equivalent in Western medicine, and the closest that he could come up with was the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
Just like the yin and yang, which are present in every organ, energy pathway or meridian according to traditional Chinese medicine, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system are present in every part of the body.
I attached an excerpt from a study by Dr Sheng below comparing the Yin + Yang to the Sympathetic + Parasympathetic Nervous System, as well as The Yin + Yang time of the day.
Yin / Yang and Sympathetic / Parasympathetic Nervous System:
Through the secretion of adrenaline, the sympathetic nervous system prepares us for a “fight or flight.” Just to give a couple of simple examples, when the sympathetic nervous system is called to work, our heart rate speeds up, our blood sugar rises and the blood flow to the body is increased. The parasympathetic nervous system, on the other hand, is for nurturing the body, preserving the energy, etc. It contributes to digesting food, moving our bowels, emptying our bladder and when the parasympathetic nervous system is called to work, it slows down the heart rate and conserves the body energy. I should note here, that I am only making an analogy between yin/yang and sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system. To me, they are not exactly the same things.
Next, I would like to talk about the relationships between yin and yang, just like the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. The yin and yang restrain and balance each other and an imbalance may give rise to illnesses, depending on which organ or energy meridian is predominantly affected. What is unique in the traditional Chinese philosophy and medicine, is that the yang energy dominates during the day (yang phase of a day), and the yin energy prevails at night (the yin phase of a day).
Yin / Yang vs Time of Day:
The yin and yang energy also exists in a constantly changing and evolving relationship. For instance, at 12 p.m. or high noon, yang energy reaches its peak and yin energy begins to rise. The yin energy reaches its peak at midnight, and at that time, the yang energy begins to rise.
It certainly makes sense that the yin energy should prevail at night, because yin energy refers to inactivity, and in order for us to have a good night’s sleep, we should have abundant yin energy. Interestingly, clinically, people with yin energy deficiency frequently have insomnia characterized by waking up early, for instance at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. and have difficulty falling asleep again (just to give you a simple example of how the yin/yang imbalance affects the human body).
Yin + Yang in Yoga-
Source: Yoga Teacher Training through Yoga Renew:
In yoga, yin would be considered still, motionless, or gentile postures while yang poses may have more movement, difficulty, or strength. These definitions can change based on perspective, or context.
For example, a seated asana may be considered a ‘yin’ pose because it is still and gentile, and a more strenuous asana such as a balancing pose may be considered yang.
However if you are defining the posture based on still, or active – then a still balancing pose may be considered a yin posture, whereas a more active seated asana could be considered a yang pose. Because of this, there is no simple definition of ‘yin’ and different styles can take on different definitions.
Paul Grilley, who was one of the pioneers of Yin Yoga, describes Yin poses based on which part of the body is targeted. If the exercise is working out the muscles then it would be considered yang whereas if the practice is focused on connective tissue it would be yin. He makes the connection between ‘still’ and ‘active’ to the connective tissue and muscular tissue. Muscle is more elastic so it is considered Yang whereas connective tissue is stiffer, less elastic and thus Yin. This definition simplifies the complexity of our anatomy a bit, however he uses the term muscle to refer to muscles and their tendons, whereas connective tissue is meant to encompass ligaments and fascia. Here we see the philosophy of Yin and Yang starting to work its way into the physical aspects of a yoga practice. In short, Yin Yoga is targeting connective tissue - not the muscles.“
" In Yin + Yang there is no better or worse, but equal importance."
“There is power to be found in stillness and discomfort just as there is power to be found in vigorous challenge and disciplined execution. In fact, combining both styles is likely synergistic and better than either approach alone.”
For example, a yoga practice that combines yin restorative energy and yang vinyasa energy is likely to be more well-rounded, mentally and physically.
An excerpt written by Ashleigh Louis states:
“Life is also best lived as a balance between accepting and acting. Too much yin energy leaves us open to letting life slip us by and being unprepared for the opportunities that present themselves.
While it’s helpful to be easy-going and flexible, too much passivity can set people up to be lazy, unmotivated, and incorrectly believing they have minimal control over their lives.
Too much yang energy can be equally problematic; passion is important, but if we cannot accept the things outside of our control, we struggle greatly to feel content and safe.
With that being said, you very much CAN be to accepting if you believe that your actions don’t affect your outcome. This belief will never allow you to reach your full potential."
Reflection + Journal Prompt:
Check in with yourself...
Do you lean more towards the yin energy of acceptance and passivity or the yang energy of action and doing?
To create Balance in YOUR LIFE…
Would you benefit from shifting some energy towards acceptance-based processes, such as beginning a mindfulness practice or letting go of resentment for a past hurt?
Or, would you benefit more from cultivating yang energy in your life, engaging in behaviors that are more focused on setting and achieving goals and asserting your impact on the world?
Intentionally engaging in activities that are associated with your less preferred or less often utilized approach can help you achieve a balance of acceptance and action that facilitate well-being and maximize the chances for optimal success.
“Courses.” YogaRenew, 7 July 2022, https://www.yogarenewteachertraining.com/online-yoga-teacher-training-courses/?src=Q2-22-G-A-200-1061-A&gclid=CjwKCAjw_b6WBhAQEiwAp4HyIB6ANGi7sVHHlfoYY5Z7QcUsP5STpjXvRXfa6R3CCzm12-mag5xzGxoCtB0QAvD_BwE.
“Understanding Yin and Yang Balance - the Basis of Chinese Medicine.” Peter Sheng MD, 16 Sept. 2019, https://www.petersheng.com/embracing_yin_and_yang/#:~:text=The yang energy makes one,she would like to rest.
“Yin and Yang: Finding the Balance between Acceptance and Action.” Inner Fokus, 11 June 2019, https://innerfokus.com/blog-yinandyang/.