The Yin and Yang of Yoga:

The Importance of Balancing our Physical & Mental Practice

As we move through our daily practice, we are well aware of the need to perform each yoga pose or sequence on both sides of the body. Balancing the body physically can easily be associated with good posture, a solution to muscle imbalances, and our overall anatomical and digestive health.

But does this balance within our yoga practice go past just the balance of our bodies? Or is this need also in association with how meditation and yoga are used to develop the balance between our mind, body, and inner spirit?

In 2015, The Bravewell Collaborative, or Philosophical Foundation for Integrative Medicine, shared the studies of Director and Founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, James Gordon, who conducted mind-body skills training for patients and healthcare practitioners around the world. Gordon was quoted:

“Mind-body medicine requires that we ground information about the science of mind-body approaches in practical, personal experience; that we appreciate the centrality of meditation to these practices; and that we understand—experientially as well as scientifically—that the health of our minds and the health of our bodies are inextricably connected to the transformation of the spirit.”   

{Cat Pose to Cow Pose}

Moving our bodies through Cat and Cow Pose, as illustrated above, we inhale as our necks extend upward towards the sky, exhaling as we burrow inwards. Flexing our feet with the inhale, and pressing the tops of them into the mat on our exhale.

Yoga connects our breath to the movement of our bodies in unique and specific ways. As the amount of oxygen flowing through our veins increases, it also allows a larger amount to reach the brain, thus creating that euphoric feeling following our practice as known as “yoga brain.” Is this feeling a result of a balanced mind?  

Ancient Indians discovered a life force or vital energy called Prana, which extends along the spine and depends upon the balance of both the left and right side. The Chinese also discovered this concept of our being and called it Yin and Yang, commonly used in Taoism since the 3rd century BCE.

{Updog or Cobra to Reverse Plank}

Published in the Ancient History Encyclopedia in 2018, Mark Cartwright explained the differences between Yin and Yang. Yin, taking the form as the left side of the body, is known for the symbolic characteristics of being the dark and feminine side. Representing the moon, Yin is claimed by the winter solstice and is described by the words mysterious and calm, providing spirit to all things.

Yang, claimed by the summer solstice, is the lighter more masculine side. Described as warm and active, Yang represents the sun and provides form to all things.

“Neither pole is superior to the other and, as an increase in one brings a corresponding decrease in the other, a correct balance between the two poles must be reached in order to achieve harmony.”

Harmony, the underlying principle of life, is needed in our direct mental state in order for the body to translate the message of harmony to the rest of the body. When the mind is distressed or out of sync, the body follows. This relationship between the mind and body is directly correlated to most of the pain felt in our muscles and bones. Sickness and disease have also been linked back to the disruption of the mind, studied not just in Eastern medicine, but now Western as well.

Both the left and ride side of the body must benefit equally from our physical practice and work in union with one another. In order to accomplish this balance fully, our mind must also find a peaceful sense of balance between stillness and activity. Meditation and yoga go hand-in-hand, just like the mind and the body.

{Warrior I on each leg, with different arm placements}

Once you start to find balance in the mind and in the body, your spiritual practice will quickly develop, giving you a greater sense of self and connection to the bigger picture.  

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