Think And Do

Yoga Yin and Yang

Prana, Chi, Pneuma

These concepts define the Life-Force, an intangible, immeasurable (thus far) entity which guides the Universe, each creature within it, and, ultimately, ourselves.
Chinese thought describes our control over this force rather simply – Breath Moves Chi – Chi Moves Body.
Obi-Wan Kenobi said it in simple Western terms – "this force binds us and unites us".
Prana is a neutral force – it is neither bad nor good.
Within the universe, it is always in a state of balance, as is represented by the Tai Chi – the symbol that many of us refer to as the Yin/Yang.
This symbol is spectacular in its representation of this force and its balance in the Universe.
We often hear the expression – “the union of complementary opposites”.

The symbol helps us understand its meaning, and also to help us in our practice of Pranayama and Asana.

The symbol is a circle. It has no beginning or end, and is considered to be geometrically perfect.
In martial arts practice, it describes strength.
(Watch a martial arts competition – whatever is broken is a rectangle – piles of bricks, newspapers, or newspapers.
There is no attempt to break anything ROUND).

Two colors, black and white, represent the two forces in the Universe.
Black is Yin and white is Yang.
The colors do not divide the circle in two across a diameter, rather, each fades into the other.
Where Yin is large, Yang is small, and vice-versa.
Ultimately, each color fades into nothingness. Within each color lies a spot of the other color. What does this all mean?

These are not merely energies describing the universe and our surroundings.
These energies describe us as well.
They are not stagnant; they are relative to each other.

Yin
  • Female
  • Soft
  • Yielding
  • Nurturing
  • Pulling
  • Night
  • Water
  • Earth
  • Winter
  • Blue
  • Walking Backward
  • Crying
Yan
  • Male
  • Hard
  • Pushing
  • Day
  • Sky
  • Summer
  • Red
  • Walking Forward
  • Shouting

I believe that it is critical to a profound and meaningful Yoga practice to understand the most basic of all principles and concepts: the notion of Prana. Prana is life force, or energy.
In Yogic culture, the word is Prana; in Chinese, Chi; in Japanese, Ki; Greek, Pneuma. Many Westerners are reticent about acknowledging Chi. It is not tangible or measurable.
We are now beginning to study this concept here in the west, but we have sophisticated and scientific concepts for it.

To understand Chi, it helps to stay simple.
  • Remove ourselves from technology, advanced and complex thinking, the search for truth and knowledge. It helps to merely sit, preferably outside.
  • Take time to BE and notice and experience. See how you feel and what your thoughts are.
  • Are you enjoying your time outside or are you thinking about your responsibilities back inside?
  • Do you see the trees, or the ocean, or, for that matter, the sidewalk? What does the sun look like? Is the moon high in the sky?
Ancient cultures enjoyed their surroundings as a matter of course. They respected the Earth and all living things on Earth.
It is no accident that it is referred to as Mother Earth.
There was always a connection among people, animals, plants, the water and land.

Why?
Because all things possess Chi. Everything has Prana. There is a natural flow and balance of energy throughout the universe.
And the universe will always exist in a state of balance, where one force does not overwhelm or subjugate another force.
This force materializes itself into the physical objects that we see around us, all living creatures, and, of course, ourselves.
As the universe exists in a natural state of balance, we strive to remain in a state of balance.
Disease lies in imbalance. It is in too much of one thing at the expense of another that we become “off”.
Let’s look at Yin and Yang from a physical point of view.

Characteristic Yin Yang
Physical body
Long and Wiry Overweight
Body language
Clenched fist Slack hand

Clenched teeth Slack jaw

Leaning forward Sitting back
Overall Personality
Type-A Pensive
Psychological Reaction
Angry Crying

Offended Hurt
Physical Reaction
Dry skin Clammy skin

Tense shoulders Hunched shoulders

Headache

TMJ
Hobbies
Hiking Knitting

Bike Riding Reading
Health
High Blood Pressure Low Blood Pressure

How does Yoga fit in? Yoga asanas urge us into extreme and often uncomfortable positions. We stretch, bend, and strain.
Our muscles are working in ways that they have never worked before. We learn to balance on one leg and arch our backs.

Yoga practice focuses on these two energies and creating balance between them.
We are neither too tight nor too limp. We are not straining or lazy. We are not pushing some muscles too hard while we ignore other muscles.
Yoga is the practice of centering ourselves, staying balanced, focused, calm, and strong.

When you practice asana, you will “overstretch” in an effort to do the posture correctly.
We naturally think that we must stretch as far as we can in order to say that we are doing Yoga. This is so far from the truth!
In fact, we can practice Yoga in ANY position.

Before you try to stretch and strain, just take any position that you are in and notice what your body is doing.
Some parts are doing nothing; others are straining.
Notice your jaw and your knuckles, your toes and your knees. See if you are frowning.

The energy that we expend in straining has a negative effect on our health. Our bodies function best when they function with the least effort.
You can begin right now – releasing some of the strain that you are holding in different areas of your body.

Use your breath to help you. The breath guides the Chi; the Chi guides the body.
When you inhale, the breath will alert you to the tight spots. Now is your opportunity to relieve them.
Exhale and let those parts relax. This is balancing your Prana, or Chi, or energy.
You will become aware of the Yang parts of your body, whether you are practicing Yoga, or standing on line at the store.
You’ll feel your strain as you sit in your car in traffic, hunched over the steering wheel and clutching it with your fingers. You’ll begin to notice when you are Yin, too soft.
Perhaps it will be when you are sitting at your desk; you look down and notice the muscles of your abdomen, soft, mushy, just a bit too relaxed!

These are not moments of self-judgment. They are moments of self-awareness. View them as opportunities to reduce your stress, improve your circulation, respiration, and overall health.
Stay Balanced.