The Yin Yang symbol can be found everywhere – on shirts, café walls, or as tattoos – but few understand the meaning behind it.
Dating back thousands of years, the concept of Yin and Yang is a central aspect of Daoism. This ancient Chinese philosophy is based on observations of the natural world where everything is interconnected as a balanced, harmonious whole. It emphasizes ‘going with the flow’ and living in harmony with the life force of the universe, the so-called ‘Dao’. From the nothingness of Dao arises the cosmic duality of Yin and Yang, two opposing and complementing principles present in all of existence.
“The Dao gives birth to One.
One gives birth to Two.
Two gives birth to Three.
Three gives birth to all things.
All things have their backs to the female [yin]
and stand facing the male [yang].
When male and female combine,
all things achieve harmony.”
Yin is the feminine principle: It is passive, slow, internal, cooling and downward moving.
Yang is the masculine principle: It is active, dynamic, external, heating and upward moving.
Even though they seem like opposing forces, they complement each other. Like two sides of the same coin, Yin and Yang are interdependent and cannot exist without the other.
The Yin Yang Symbol
The well-known symbol consists of a circle divided into two teardrop-shaped halves. The black half represents the Yin side, whereas the white half represents Yang. Each half contains a small circle of the opposite color.
Yin Becomes Yang
The curves of the symbol represent how Yin and Yang are continuously transforming into one another. These changes can be slow and subtle, like night transforming into day; or they can be sudden, like death replacing life.
Yin Contains Yang
As shown in the symbol above, nothing is ever fully Yin or Yang, as they each contain a seed of the other. Even in the darkness of the night, we still see the light of the stars.
Yin Controls Yang
According to Daoism, harmony is found when both principles are in balance. If there is an excess of Yin, there automatically is a deficiency of Yang – and vice versa. If this imbalance persists, the universe acts to restore balance. After months of hard work and very little rest – a very ‘Yang lifestyle’ – you might find yourself in bed with a cold, forced to slow down and return to equilibrium.
“As it acts in the world, the Dao
is like the bending of a bow.
The top is bent downward;
the bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and deficiency
so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much
and gives to what isn’t enough.”
YIN AND YANG YOGA
When these terms are applied to the human body, we find that muscles are Yang tissue: They are elastic, well-blooded, heal quickly, and respond well to dynamic, repetitive movement. We exercise muscle tissue in Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga classes. These practices build strength, heat up the body, and increase blood flow and circulation. That’s why we call these styles Yang Yoga.
Yin tissue, on the other hand, is gel-like and plastic, with a slow healing response. It is the connective tissue in the body: Ligaments, tendons, and myofascia. It responds best to long, static holds which we find in Yin Yoga. In this style of Yoga practice, poses are held passively, without muscular engagement, for several minutes to improve flexibility and increase circulation in the joints. In addition, the slow pace of the practice allows the practitioner to draw their senses inwards; another Yin quality.
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