Yin and Yang: Finding Balance in Your Yoga Practice

Are you in a yoga rut?

You go to the same yoga class with the same teacher at the same place every week. If there is a sub, you consider leaving, but you can’t because you’re in your usual spot in the front row.

You never try any other style. This yoga works for you and it is the Best. Yoga. Ever.

Sound familiar?

It is human nature to gravitate toward things we like – this goes for yoga, food, friends, everything. We go to the same few restaurants and order “the usual.” We carry our mat on the same shoulder, and practice our poses the same way every class from “our” spot in the room.

In yoga philosophy, these habitual patterns based on past conditioning are known as samskaras. We repeat and reinforce our samskara, deepening the grooves of the habit and making it stronger.

At times there’s nothing wrong with familiar habits. Familiar is good. Familiar is comforting. Familiar can be incredibly healing and supportive.

But sometimes, familiar can feed what we want, but not what we need.

Take, for example, a vinyasa student. If the class isn’t flowing, she isn’t going. Move, move, move all day long, and then move, move, move on the mat.

Yes, it’s good to mobilize energy throughout the body, and that is greatly needed in today’s stressful world. Vinyasa feeds our body’s creative desire.

But there are also other styles of practice that can help us recuperate rather than continuing to stoke the fire.

Conversely, some students only go to restorative classes. The moving is too much, the heat too aggravating. They prefer to lie on their mats amongst a pile of props in a puddle of bliss. They are great at relaxing, but resist attempts to grow stronger or push themselves.

What’s a yogi to do? Balance yin and yang, of course.

Like two sides of a coin, yin and yang are separate faces of one whole.

Yang represents the active, heat building energy in our lives. Yang gets us up and going, and motivates us to reach new heights.

Yin is where we rest, cool down and recharge before the next surge.

The earth needs yin and yang–think of the spectacular beauty of the sunrise AND the sunset–and so do we.

You don’t have to give up your favorite style of yoga. There is a special bond with your regular teacher who knows you and your body.

But dipping your toe into another format and experimenting can also bring immense physical and mental benefits.

If you always feed your flow, try a restorative or yin class, or even go to a meditation workshop. If you melt into restorative poses four days a week, try hatha, vinyasa or an alignment-based practice. Slowly explore building strength and flexibility in a more vigorous class.

Identify what YOU need to find balance.

Just once this week, try a class you don’t always take. Go with an open mind and an open heart. Notice any shifts in your mood or energy. You may be irritable at first and that’s OK. Shifting patterns is not always the easy path.

But you may be surprised at how balancing yin and yang on your mat offers equilibrium in other areas of your life, as well.



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