Photo: Antonio Ruiz
We are born gentle and soft.
At our death we are hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.
Thus an army without flexibility never wins a battle.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and flexible will overcome.
(Tao Te Ching Verse 76)
Yin•Yang Yoga is a synthesis of traditional yoga and meditation with a philosophical approach inspired by Chinese physical and energetic practices like Chi Kung and contemporary and ancient philosophy. It is a flexible and non-dogmatic way of teaching and transmitting knowledge with many different variants and ways of doing. Simon Low and Sarah Powers are two of the main promoters, having both of them very personal approaches within the same practice.
In this pages I explain my own personal approach to Yin•Yang Yoga which is based on years of investigation and study through my own practice and through the validating trying and testing any discipline goes through when being tried, questioned and practiced by the students. My approach to Yin•Yang Yoga works as a complete and holistic practice as it is a therapeutic discipline drawing from the health principles expressed by Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is also a way of physical, personal and spiritual development as the Taoist fundamental philosophy flows through the physical practice. The practice and teaching that I offer throughout these pages are based on my studies of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture at the Escuela Sueprior de Tecnicas Parasanitarias in Spain and my learning with the Taoist Master and dream analyst Kari Hohne who initiated me in the study of the Tao Te Ching, the I Ching and the symbolic language of dreams. Thanks to Kari Hohne I started to express what I was learning into physical vocabulary until I generated my own Yin•Yang Yoga practice as I understand it today.
This practice is built upon thousand-old philosophical and spiritual traditions: the Tao Te Ching and its peculiar understanding of progress as the delving deeper into What Is Now, and the teachings of other lesser-known Taoist masters of antiquity as Chuang Tze and Lieh Tze as well as the I Ching or Book of Changes with its explanation of the forces active in Nature through the trigrams. The Taoist principles that are embedded in the wisdom of these teachings are the guiding force we follow during the practice. Thus, we arrive at these principles through our physical practice and not merely intellectually.
Yin•Yang Yoga and the natural cycles
Yin•Yang Yoga offers an understanding of the Self as body and spirit (matter and energy) as it is considered in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The physical practice of asanas works alongside the seasons and he meridians most active on each season (as expressed by the 5 Elements Theory where emotions, organs, seasons are interrelated).
Yin•Yang Yoga it is an integral Yoga practice which integrates in a conscious and holistic manner the Yin and Yang aspects of our Nature. The Taoist concepts of Yin and Yang describe the two qualities or energies present in everything. Yin is the dark, inner, passive, cold, downward and hidden aspect of things while Yang is the light, external, dynamic, hot, upwards and revealing aspect. Yin and Yang exist in relation to each other and cannot exist autonomously. For example you cannot have a day (Yang) without a night (Yin). Both make the whole.
Yin•Yang Yoga is based on Nature and the principles that generate its continuous process of transformation and change. The Taoist principles described through the interactions of the I Ching trigrams (Thunder, Fire, Lake, Sky, Wind, Water, Mountain, Eart) are the guide we follow through the practice. The I Ching trigrams are associated with the seasons and the Yin•Yang Yoga practice allows us to comprehend these principles through our physical experience of them through the practice and not solely through our intellectual understanding. We allow the energies of the season to flow through us freely, we allow these energies to have a positive influence on us as well as it does with other living things, animals and plants. Nature’s ways of expression and the laws that govern its constant transformation also ensure our continuous progress and development.
Yin•Yang Yoga is an integrative, transformational, balancing and non-dogmatic practice:
- It is integrative because it helps with the integration of the yin and yang aspects, the feminine and the masculine within each person.
- It is transformative because by modeling the principles of Nature we let go of old habits which hinder our progress and are the cause of stagnation.
- It is balancing because it helps to return to the centre that which has been displaced.
- And it is non-dogmatic because the flexibility of ideas, visions and practices are considered a virtue.
Taoist philosophy in movement
Yin•Yang Yoga physically explores the Taoist concepts of “movement in stillness” and “stillness in movement”. The action and the intention when practicing follow the Taoist idea that “Nature’s law of movement follow the path of least resistance”. Yin•Yang Yoga combines passive and active asanas (postures) with deep, slow and controlled breathing techniques which increase lung capacity. The class may start with Yin forms moving slowly to a dynamic Yang sequence or we can also work alternating Yin and Yang practices as we follow the seasons.
The yin form is passive and still. It works on your connective tissue, tendons and ligaments to lubricate your joints. The asanas are held for a long period of time (3 to 5 min) in utter quietness and stillness, breathing deeply and so you can observe the sensations that the postures produce on your body and work on the yin quality of surrender. It is a primarily a wintery physical practice but its philosophical quality soaks your practice to the bone at any time of the year.
The yang form is active and dynamic. It works on your muscles giving them strength, flexibility and balance while you energetically express yourself. Yang mobilizes you vital energy or Qi through your meridian system and helps you get rid of stagnation, working on the yang quality of direction and persistence. You work through dynamic sequences in which you focus your attention in the fluidity of the transition from one posture to the next following a constant pace as if it were a dance.
True mastery resides in integrating both Yin and Yang principles within oneself; practicing the energizing Yang series and postures from a Yin quality that yields and accepts and does not use force and over-effort and similarly working on the Yin postures from a Yang quality that doesn’t give up, doesn’t freeze, doesn’t cease and that keeps tranquility in disturbance.
“This enables you to unlearn
so that you can be led by Tao,
be a child of Tao.
If you persist in trying to attain what is never attainable;
if you persist in making effort to obtain what effort cannot get;
(it is a gift from Tao)
if you persist in reasoning about what cannot be understood,
you will be destroyed by the very thing you seek.
To know when to stop;
to know when you can go no further
by your own actions;
this is the right beginning!”
The dance of these two complementary polarities of Yin and Yang produces a form of Yoga which is holistic and that reduces the wearing out of the tissues, balances strength with flexibility and calms the mind, preparing it for meditation. Yin•Yang Yoga mobilizes your vital energy or Qi that flows through your meridians, dissolving stagnation and thus improving the health of your organs, your immune system and your emotional stability.
Through your breathing, Yin•Yang Yoga practice helps you redirect the focus of your attention so that instead of looking at where you think you should be, you first occupy entirely the place where you are now, What Is. When you focus your attention on where you think you would like to be, you lose the opportunity to discover where you are now. With Yin•Yang Yoga you can deepen you awareness of now and then a present of texture, detail and knowledge unfolds before you.
“When you make home in the inevitable,
you will arrive exactly where you needed to be”.
Yin•Yang Yoga is a magical mirror that offers clues so that you can have an awareness of how you relate to what happens. It gives you the opportunity to see yourself in action. It helps you transform old habits and ways of doing that no longer serve you, into acceptance of What Is from a positive outlook that breaths and embraces evolution.
“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be”
If you are interested in learning check my regular classes’ schedule, workshops and retreats here.