Yin Yoga Podcast – What is Yin Yang

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I often notice. Both with my students and also just in kind of Facebook groups or teacher circles there isn’t a very good understanding of yin yang theory, and that can make teaching yin yoga pretty challenging. That’s why there are all kinds of confusing things happening in the yoga verse when it comes to yin and yang.

Confusing things like saying that they’re teaching a Yang to Yin class, which doesn’t make any sense (unless you start standing).

You’re still teaching a Yin Yang class, even if most of its movement and then into stillness, that’s a podcast for another time. And so I can see these often these confusions about what Yin is.

And I think that’s because a lot of Yin trainings are quite short and they don’t really dive into Yin Yang theory.

That might be because the teacher wants to focus more on other things. Or it might be that the teacher who’s doing the training actually hasn’t studied Chinese medicine or Taoist philosophy in depth.

Because Yin philosophy is Deep and layered, it could be studied in depth for years. In fact, many of the traditional medicine, Chinese medicine doctors, or TCM from here that I know, and acupuncturists have told me that no matter how many years they’ve been practicing and treating people, and no matter how much new information they learn, all the roots go back to yin and yang theory and that they are constantly discovering new layers and depths of this philosophy. So even those who have been practicing and studying this theory for many years are always getting new ahas. So this is intended

as a brief overview of, or introduction to this for people who are new to this information

What is Yin Yang  (Listen)



What is Yin Yang  (Watch)

What is Yin Yang (Read)

Oftentimes times I hear teachers asking questions about Yin Yoga which leads me to think they don’t have a clear understanding of Yin Yang Theory

As we explore and start teaching Yin as a form of Yoga, a better understanding of the roots of the Yin-Yang Theory will be helpful.

The One Produced the Two (Yin and Yang)

Yin-Yang Theory can be visually summarized by the traditional Chinese Taoist symbol. 

Circular in nature, representing the whole, the symbol is sectioned into two harmonious parts that create the whole. 

  • The White Portion is Yang 
  • The Black Portion is Yin

The interaction of Yin and Yang creates Qi (pronounced chee). Qi is a process and the potential for action within a thing. 

Yin and Yang are Opposites

Yin and Yang are opposites and one. This often sounds like a contradiction, but the opposition is relative since something can only be Yin or Yang in relation to its opposite. 

Yin and Yang are Interdependent

Yin and Yang are always in a state of flux and interdependent on each other; the harmony of Yin and Yang is ideal. There will be no harmony if there is too much Yin or too much Yang

Consider the breath as an example: without the exhale, there can be no inhale. In order to breathe properly, there must be harmony between the inhale and the exhale. 

Although Yin and Yang can each be observed, they cannot be separated. They depend on each other for definition. It can only be said that something is Yin in nature by comparing it to Yang, and vice versa. 

Yin and Yang Wax and Wane 

The teardrop shapes within the Yin and the Yang are also symbolic. There is a wider section of Yin on the black side (Yang yielding to Yin) and a thinner black section of more Yang (Yin yielding to Yang). The same is true on the Yang side: the wider area of Yang would be Yin
yielding to Yang. 

In order to contract,
it is first necessary to expand.
In order to weaken,
it is first necessary to strengthen.
In order to destroy,
it is first necessary to promote,
In order to grasp it is first necessary to give.” 

—Tao Te Ching (8)

Yin and Yang Control Each Other 

If there is too much Yin, Yang will be weak. If there is too much Yang, Yin will be too weak. The two hold each other in a state of harmony.

If one works too much and doesn’t rest, he or she becomes ill. Conversely, if an individual only rests, he or she can also become ill. 

The harmony of Yin and Yang requires the advancing and yielding of each like a dance, a dynamic process of transformation and change. 

Yin and Yang have Seeds of Each Other 

Notice that the Yin portion has a small seed of the white (Yang) within it. The Yang portion has a small seed of the black (Yin) within it. 

Yin and Yang Transform into Each Other 

It’s also worth noting that the Yin and Yang portions ebb and flow into each other in a harmonious relationship. They are mutually dependent on one another and in a state of continuous flow and inter-being. 

Often, when Yin and Yang are explained to Western students, they are presented as lists of opposites. While this can be useful at the beginning of one’s studies to help with the process of wrapping one’s head around this concept, a person eventually needs to let that go to explore the complexity and beauty of this philosophy. 

Yin Qualities: 

  • Dark
  • Quiet 
  • Yielding 
  • Introverted 
  • Interoception 
  • Inward 
  • Still 
  • The Earth 
  • The Water Element 
  • Metal Element
  • The Moon 
  • Night
  • Winter and Fall 
  • Heavy
  • Downward
  • Passive
  • Cold 

Yin as it relates to the body: 

  • Front Body 
  • The inner side of the limbs 
  • The Midline 
  • The lower half of the body 
  • The inside of the body 
  • Bone
  • Deep Fascia

Yang Qualities: 

  • Bright 
  • Boisterous 
  • Advancing 
  • Extroverted 
  • Outward 
  • Active 
  • the Sky
  • The Fire Element
  • The Wood Element
  • The Sun
  • Day
  • Spring and Summer 
  • Light 
  • Upward 
  • Dynamic 
  • Hot 

Yang as it relates to the body: 

  • Back Body 
  • The outer side of the limbs 
  • The Lateral Line 
  • The upper half of the body 
  • The surface of the body 
  • Muscle
  • Tendon

To Summarize

It‘s important to remember that nothing is fully Yin or fully Yang. Even within the Yin-Yang symbol itself, there is a little circle of Yang within the black, Yin portion of the symbol. And conversely, a little black circle in the white, Yang portion of the symbol. 

Since nothing is wholly Yin or wholly Yang, they are always in the process of becoming each other, thus never existing on their own. They are completely interdependent. Yin and Yang are continuously moving—ebbing and flowing—and shifting into each other. 

So, when the question, “Is this Yin or is this Yang?” arises, the answer is often “Yes” or “It depends.” 

Yin-Yang as it Relates to Yoga Practice 

Since Yin and Yang are always in a state of flux and interdependent on each other, a harmony of Yin and Yang is ideal. 

Most of the Yoga practiced in North America is more Yang in nature, some more so than others (Yang being a spectrum, not a fixed point), but they do share some common characteristics. 

Yang Yoga qualities and characteristics: 

  • Movement 
  • Repetition 
  • Striving 
  • Strengthening 
  • Effort 
  • Warmth or Heat 
  • Proprioception 
  • Flow 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Structured 
  • Aesthetic 
  • The Sun (often even includes sun salutations)
  • Achievement-based 
  • Bright
  • Expansive
  • Evolution 

Yang styles of Yoga tend to strengthen and stretch muscles. Oftentimes, there is a focus on structure, alignment, and the aesthetics of a pose. In Yang Yoga, one is likely to increase the heat, blood flow, and circulation in the body due to movement and its repetitive nature. 

Yin Yoga qualities and characteristics: 

  • Stillness 
  • Quiet 
  • Cool 
  • Surrender 
  • Opening 
  • Softness
  • Interoception
  • Function 
  • Freeform 
  • The Moon 
  • Dark
  • Singular
  • Involution 

So it’s important to remember that nothing is fully yin and nothing is fully yang. So yes, I just did these wonderful lists of opposites and our Western brain is going to want to grab onto those things and get attached to, no, but Nick said, this is yin, right? But we have to remember. That nothing is fully yin and nothing is fully yang, that they are always in a state of flux and change, and that you have to compare one to the other.

So I can only say that something is yin if I can say that something else is yang. And that even within the yin yang symbol itself, there’s a little circle of yang in the black, and in the yin portion of the symbol, and conversely, there’s a little black circle in the white or the yang portion of the symbol.

Let’s take a moment to look at an example of how we have to analyze this and understand the framework of where we’re making this analysis for it to be accurate. So let’s talk about a tree. If we were to use a tree as a way to explore Yin-Yang philosophy, we could say that the roots of the tree are Yin, because they’re more hidden, they’re in the dark, they’re underground.

And then with that comparison, we could say that the trunk of the tree is actually more young because it’s above the ground and it’s touched by the sun. It’s closer to the sky. And if you were using, um, the sun or distance from the sky, As a way to define what is yin or yang, then this would be pretty clear for this frame of reference.

But what if that wasn’t the lens we were looking at the tree? What if instead, we were using the gauge of growth or density as our reference for defining which parts of the tree are yin or yang? In that case, the roots grow more rapidly and are more dense, or sorry, less dense and solid than the trunk of the tree.

And so in that case, they could be considered more Yang because they are growing and expanding and they are less dense or solid. And the trunk of the tree, because it is solid and more slow growing, could be considered more yin. So I’m going through this so that you understand that there is no definitive answer as to which part of the tree is yin or yang.

The answer is often yes, or both, or it depends. And this is one of the things that is beautiful about this philosophy and yin yoga in general, but also can be frustrating is that there is no black and white. There are no right and wrongs. The answer is always, well, it depends.

So let’s summarize some of the things we’ve gone over so far. Yin yang theory and the symbol comes which is a philosophical tradition of Chinese origin. and the foundation for traditional Chinese medicine. Yin and Yang are opposites. Yin and yang are interdependent. Yin and yang wax and wane. Yin and yang control or I like to say support each other.

Yin and yang have seeds of the other. Yin and yang transform into each other.

So since nothing is wholly a hundred percent yin or wholly a hundred percent yang, they are always in the process of becoming each other, never existing on their own. They are completely interdependent. Yin and yang are continually moving, ebbing, flowing, yielding, advancing, and shifting into each other. So when the question comes up, is this yin or is this yang?

The answer is often, uh, yes, or it depends. And I realized that this can be frustrating when we’re new to these concepts. So just allow space for that. There are, of course, so many more layers of Yin Yang philosophy. You could spend your whole life studying this philosophy. There are things like the time of day, the seasons, the elements and the meridians.

When I studied Chinese medicine, foods, herbs, all of these things. And we discuss several of those in my therapeutic Yin Yoga teacher training. We go over the days, the seasons, the elements the meridians and the organs. All of those are in that training for teachers. So if you are a yoga teacher and you are interested in studying with me, again, I’ll leave a link below to my yin training page.

And if there are no dates that you can see, or you can’t make the dates that are currently there, make sure that you join the waitlist at the bottom of the page. Folks on my waitlist get advanced notice. When registration opens an early registration discount and a bunch of other free yoga goodies are in their inbox in between.

If you are interested in attending my seasonal yoga classes on Zoom, which are open to teachers and students. I’ll also include a link to that in the show notes. I hope that you’ve enjoyed exploring the Yin and Yang theory with me. If you’re finding that you’re very confused and maybe even a little frustrated, please know that’s normal.

I remember when I took my Chinese medicine studies and we were doing our TCM foundations, I was one of the only, two of us in the class, and when we were exposed to this theory was like, yes, this makes perfect sense. Everybody else was scratching their head and feeling like banging their head onto the desk.

So if when I went over this, you were like, Oh my gosh, I’m so confused. Please know that’s normal. Yin Yang theory could be studied for many, many years. And again, we break this apart in more depth in my teacher training.

So there you have it some basic Yin Yang theory I hope It’s helpful in your understanding of Yin Yoga.

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