so, i was working with a student–coincidentally named yin–and she was pontificating the value of a yin practice. her exact words (to the best of my recollection): “i really should start a yin practice, huh?”
honestly, my response: no.
let me preface this by saying these are my thoughts while i am still (relatively) young and invincible. my thoughts may change as i get older and wiser.
but to the best of my current wisdom, here’s what i truly believe…
first of all, i believe there are tremendous and irrefutable benefits to a very yang-y practice. it teaches you patience and perseverance. it tests your equanimity and challenges you on a physical, mental and often spiritual level. it makes you stronger.
however…even in a super-yang practice–think long holds, tricky balances, and cirque du soleil contortions–the yin is built in.
i think the real question isn’t whether you need to engage in a separate yin practice, to better access your feminine side (yes, men, you too)…but whether you have the ability to integrate the yin into your everyday practice. so, it’s not yin this day and yang the other, but the whole yin-yang all the live-long day.
you see, no matter how physically trying your practice, within every pose there should be the yin element. that’s what most people are missing. it’s so obvious where the yang comes in. just push and push and push, right? (wrong)
the answer is two-fold.
first and foremost, the yin is in your mind. your body may be struggling at its edges, but your mind is like a cool pond on a warm summer day. a sea of tranquility. asana. stillness. a quiet seat.
second: there is a physical element of yin, too, of course. within every pose, there is the force, the effort…and then there is the release, the relenting. it may not always be so obvious. you may have to search for it. but your job as a practitioner is to find the softness in every pose. to discover what in your body doesn’t have work so hard to create the pose. to find the unnecessary tension and let it go.
one comment i hear over and over again–particularly in arm balance and inversion workshops is: “you make it look so easy.”
and i do.
but not because i’m this superhero rockstar yoga goddess.
i make it look easy, because i work hard (yang) to ease into every pose (yin).
i work with patience (yin) and intelligence (yang) to create fluidity and, dare i say it, even grace (though i am far from the most graceful yogini alive…).
in my estimable opinion, mastery of a yang-based practice means that you have found the energetic efficiency and economy of movement which allows you to work (hard!) on any pose or transition with the least amount of effort necessary while still maintaining the integrity of the practice.
that’s a mouthful.
let me try that again. what is the least amount of effort you need to put into a pose (without getting lazy) and still face up to the full challenge that it presents? that is the yin.
and then, of course, there’s always savasana…yin yin yin yin yin…