The two opposing forces
Do you ever have days, weeks, years where you just constantly feel like you haven’t enough time to finish all your tasks, work is so busy, you’re in demand, social events left, right, and centre (go, go, go and do do do) and then the complete opposite is at play; your email is emptier, you can take time for lunch, you have moments to think and life appears to be leisurable or some may consider boring? Well, here we see a case of opposing functions and in the East (specifically China and Japan) these are known as polar complements named yin and yang. As stated by the Britannica encyclopaedia, YinYang can be described as:
“Both yin and yang are forces needed in our lives and are said to proceed from the Great Ultimate (taiji). As one force increases the other decreases, being a description of the actual process of the universe and all that is.”
It is the unevenness of these opposites that send us off balance and towards dis – ease. If yang is too dominant, then yin will be too weak and vice versa. So, it is considerable for our well-being to bring awareness to the interplay of yin and yang to integrate an equilibrium of harmony and essence of fulfilment within our lives.
(Picture by Syed Ahmad)
In the book “Chinese Medicine, the web that has no weaver” by Ted J. Kaptchuk YIN is said to be
“associated with such qualities as cold, rest, responsiveness, passivity, darkness, interiority, downwardness, inwardness, decrease, satiation, tranquillity, and quiescence. It is the end, completion, and realised fruit. The character for yin originally meant the shady side of the slope.”
(Picture by Crystal Skinner @freedomyogawithcrystal)
Following on from the guidelines of “Chinese Medicine”:
“The original meaning of YANG was the sunny side of the slope. Yang is associated with brightness and qualities such as heat, stimulation, movement, activity, excitement, vigor, light, exteriority, upwardness, outwardness, and increase. It is arousal, beginning, and deep potential.”
The five principles of yin and yang
1. All things have two facets: A Yin and a Yang aspect.
- The front (yin) and back (yang) body
- Willfulness and assertiveness (yang) acceptance and responsiveness (yin)
2. Any Yin and Yang aspect can be further divided into Yin and Yang.
- Within cold illnesses (yin) there maybe aspects of sharp hot contractions (yang)
- Within an illness of heat like hyperactivity (yang) there maybe loss of weight (yin)
3. Yin and Yang mutually create each other. As yin and yang cannot either be defined if the other is not present.
4. Yin and Yang control each other. When things are out of balance, it is due to the imbalance of the other. The extent to which one partner is passive is to the extent of the aggression within the other partner. And vice versa.
5. Yin and Yang transform each other.
- Balanced yin and yang in a relationship have the ability to transform the depth of the bond between two people, and in turn, transform the bond they have with the outside world because of it.
- Unbalanced yin and yang in relationships give way to movements of transformation which can come in many forms, for instance, talking to each other and building a better understanding or leaving each other.
Finding a balance
The one thing we must understand is that what may be yin for one person may be yang for another person, so each person’s need for balance will be specific to the individual. We must consider that awareness is the fundamental key to finding personal balance, as this is where we can have a clear view of what is going on in our lives; where we may need to welcome rest when we are overloaded with action and maybe input action when we are faced with copious amounts of downtime.
As you may have read in my previous blogs, meditation is your pathway to awareness, giving you the tools to see yourself and situations more clearly. You can start your practice of meditation on your own by focusing on visualising one object for five to ten minutes and allowing your thoughts to drift in and out without attachment to any. It will like anything take some practice, so if you would prefer a guide, just join our free guided meditation on Tuesdays 12pm. Once awareness is in place you can implement changes that will be beneficial for your yin yang balance, that build a feeling of harmony within our lives.
Making changes for balance can come in many forms and changes will need to be incorporated into your life depending on what is already present. Be mindful, there is always yin and yang (breathing in and breathing out), and both need to be there for harmony. Yet, it’s the extremes we need to take note of and consider. For physical balance, you can start to take a look at aspects of your diet, activity, and rest. For emotional balance take a look at your relationships, your environment, the situations you are faced with. Both the physical and emotional elements of your life should work closely together and do take into account the aspect of yin and yang (as above) within each of your movements, choices, situations. Consider what is:
- Too much or too less
- Too fast or too slow
- Too big and too small
Where can you pull back (yin) and lean in more (yang)?
(Picture by Alex @worthyofelegance)
“The ten thousand things carry the yin and embrace the yang and through the blending of the Qi they achieve harmony” (Chapter 42 of the Tao-te Ching, in Chan, Chinese Philosophy.)
And one way to do this is by practicing Qi Gong!!
What is Qigong?
Qi gong is also known as chi kung, is based on the idea that the form works with the life force. It involves a mindful series of physical exercises that stimulate the breath in standing, sitting, and reclining poses, which focus on strengthening Qi/Chi (life force).
(Picture by Peter Deadman)
Qigong with Peter Deadman
Peter Deadman has worked in the field of health promotion for over 50 years. He has studied and taught Qigong internationally since 1993 and is one of the co-founders of Brighton Natural Health Centre and Infinity Foods, Brighton, amongst many other titles. Peter teaches Qigong on Monday and Thursday at BNHC.
Peter talks to us about Qigong and balancing of the whole with this reasonably modern art form:
“I would say that Qigong is the cultivation of the three treasures: of body, breath, and mind, to optimize our mental and physical health and our connection to the Dao (everything that is)”
Body / breath / mind as one
“I would primarily call it a form of self-cultivation and the development of body-breath-mind skill (gong). Working with the body will improve physical health, mobility, balance, groundedness, strength, and enjoyment of the body. Working with the breath will nourish us and – with slow, lower abdominal breathing – shift our autonomic nervous system into a default parasympathetic state. The parasympathetic branch of the nervous system is associated with rest and healing, relaxation, trust, openness, friendliness, etc. Working with the mind by absorbing it into the body and breath and holding the present moment, brings all the advantages of meditation, particularly a greater ability to manage our emotional life.
In my book Live Well Live Long, I compared good health practices like Qigong to the four legs of a chair. If all are sound, then the chair is stable. If one or more legs are missing it becomes more and more unstable. The four principal legs of good health are managing emotions, diet, cultivating the body-mind, and sleep. We should pay attention to all four equally, although managing the emotions is probably the most important, since without some level of emotional integration we won’t be able to take care of ourselves, however often we resolve to. We often find that people who are taking responsibility for their own health tend to favour one or more of the four ‘legs’ but may neglect others, for example eating and exercising impeccably but having chaotic emotional lives or failing to get sufficient good quality sleep. So, notice which legs are needing more attention to balance the chair.”
(Picture by Peter Deadman)
Balancing with Qigong
“In Qigong we work towards fully integrated movements; the body moves as one. The hands are ‘attached to the feet, the elbows to the knees, the shoulders to the hips, the head to the feet, the front to the back. And the more we practice, the more we start to feel that all this connection and movement is driven by the Dantian, or the wuji: a state of emptiness that exists before the state of yin and yang, a great central cog that initiates the inevitable movement of the ever-smaller cogs within the joints of the body. From Wuji comes yin and yang and it is the awareness of ourselves within yin and yang that is the core of qigong – integrating strength with gentleness, rising with descending, coiling with uncoiling, opening with closing, and so on.”
Benefits of Qigong
As quoted from The International bestseller “Ikigai”, the Japanese secret to a long and happy life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles, the benefits of Qigong include:
- Modification of brain waves
- Improved balance of sex hormones
- The lower mortality rate from heart attacks
- Lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension
- Greater bone density
- Better Circulation
- Declaration of symptoms associated with senility
- Greater balance and efficiency of bodily functions
- Increased blood flow to the brain and greater mind-body connection
- Improved cardiac function
- Reduction in the secondary effects of cancer treatments.
It is said that not only does this practice help us to stay fit and healthy but also works to extend our lives.
(from Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles pg 149)
“I hope this blog has given you a chance to consider your yin and yang and how you may find a way to create continuous harmony between both”
Crystal Skinner is a yoga teacher and writer. She is Yoga Alliance certified in Yin, Hatha, Vinyasa, Swing/aerial and myofascial release, meditation, pranayama and Kundalini. She is also a qualified NLP practitioner and journalist. She loves cats, eco-friendly focuses and tea in all forms. Full bio and get in touch with Crystal here.
Featured image (top of page): Picture by hrustall
| All content in this article is subject to copyright |