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What the Heck is Yin?

February 16th, 2017

Yoga instructor, Elle Bryson, provides us with a little Yin Yoga background to help give context to this quiet and calming practice.

Yoga is confusing enough - why so many different names? Hatha, Vinyasa, Vijnana, Yin - so many! Humans are wonderfully talented at complicating things, no?

As for Yin Yoga specifically, here are some things you may have not known about its origins:

Yin & Yang

The Yin & Yang symbol is not just the prized flash tattoo of the '90s - the true source of this symbol is derived from Taoist philosophy.

Yin and Yang are more like concepts added to circumstances rather than actual things. For example, you cannot have a “bucket of yin”. Rather, Yin is a relative term that describes objects with the following qualities: feminine, black, dark, soft, and passive. Objects considered "yin" include the moon, the earth, and valleys. Yin provides spirit to all things.

Yang is masculine and is related to qualities such as white, warmth, light, fire, creativity, and strength. Objects like the sun and heaven are Yang. Yang provides form to all things.

Yin reaches its height of influence with the winter solstice. The winter months are considered the most ‘yin’ of the seasons. In contrast, Yang reaches it’s height of influence with the summer solstice. Perhaps we intuitively connect to these energies in their respective seasons; the influence of yin could be one of the reasons we seek out slower practices in the wintertime, when it feels more “natural” to slow down and settle in.

Constant Flux

As expressed in the Tao, the ever-changing relationship between these two opposites is responsible for the constant flux of the universe and life in general. Taoist philosophy is integral to Yin yoga because it aligns with the principles of attaining equanimity. Yin’s Taoist origins does not mean you need to become Taoist to practice yin, but it does add a great deal of context to how we practice.

We primarily define “Yin” in the context of this tradition so as to highlight its differences from the yang-natured practices such as Hatha, Vinyasa, Power or Flow (or YRide or Floor Barre for that matter!).

In Practice

We use Yin as a way to restore the body into balance relative to Yang. It is not the only way - it is one way.

In turn - rather than an actual style - Yin and Yang are convenient terms for describing different forms of yoga.

So the next time you are in class, perhaps consider these elements of Yin and Yang qualities and how they balance in your body, with your breath, or your mind. It will add an interesting layer to what you discover!

Elle is leading the Vancouver 50-Hour Yin Teacher Training which starts February 17th!

Learn More

“The Yang of an object is everything perceived by the senses.
The Yin of an object is everything hidden from the senses.
Yang things are bright, warm, soft, moving and changing.
Yin things are dark, cold, hard, solid and unchanging.
The epitome of Yang is a warm, bright, open hilltop.
The epitome of Yin is a cool, dark, hidden cave.
The sunny side of a hill is Yang, the shaded side is Yin.
Anything closer to Heaven is Yang.
Anything closer to Earth is Yin.”

- Paul Grilley

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