You’ve no doubt seen the yin/yang symbol before. Maybe in a yoga studio, on a t-shirt, or even tattooed onto the ankle of somebody you know. But do you really know what it means? Let’s dive into the deep meaning of the ancient yin and yang to see how understanding its balance can lead you to a more balanced life.
Yin/Yang: The Basics
The yin/yang symbol is a symbol rooted in Daoism/Taoism, an ancient Chinese philosophy. The yin side is the dark swirl and the yang side is the light swirl. The two swirls combined represent Qi (pronounced CHē). Qi is said to be the source of all creation and to hold all aspects of life, including our life force.
Boiled down to its essence, yang represents the “doing” parts of life and yin represents the “being” parts of life.
Each swirl contains a small circle of the other. This shows there will always be some yang within the yin force and vice versa. Not one aspect of our life force is ever purely one or the other. There will always be some duality.
For example, when you meditate (mostly yin), you may have to adjust your posture a few times to stay comfortable (yang).
In our human experience, to move beyond operating in survival mode and function at a higher level, one that leads to growth and development in both our private and professional lives, there needs to be more or less equal amounts of “being” and “doing.”
Most of us in our modern world share a similar imbalance: too much doing and not enough being.
Yang Often Outweighs Yin
We live in a “hustle” culture where society glamorizes hyper-productivity. The “yang” aspect of our life force receives all the accolades at the expense of “yin”–slowing down to tune inward. Being in the “here and now” is frowned upon or considered boring. Self-care is mocked and seen as being selfish or lazy.
There is an underlying message that, in order to lead a life worth living, we need to constantly be “doing” something (or several things at the same time) and something that brings in money, and preferably loads of it.
If we take a break, we feel guilty and tell ourselves that we are wasting our time and “should” be doing something “productive” instead.
We falsely believe that yin and yang are opposing forces, yet really, they are complementary. They need each other in order to exist. One cannot exist without the other, and when they coexist harmoniously, they actually strengthen each other, exponentially so.
Why You Need More Yin for Happiness, Success, and Prosperity
The easiest way to explain the importance of balancing these two life forces is to look at the correlation between your respiration rate and your heart rate:
- Respiration is the exchange of releasing carbon dioxide, your out-breath (yin), and taking in oxygen, your in-breath (yang).
- Each time you inhale, your heartbeat quickens ever so slightly (yang), and each time you exhale your heartbeat slows down (yin).
- If you hold your breath for too long, it can cause brain damage, and eventually death (yang or yin only).
- If you inhale longer than you exhale, it causes hyperventilation (more yang than yin).
- Shallow, rapid, and uneven breaths activate your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as the “stress response” or “fight/flight response.” This response is helpful when you are in a situation that is dangerous = the danger is REAL. Yet, it can be harmful when your body and mind respond to a situation as if it were dangerous, yet in actuality, it is not = the danger is PERCEIVED. When it becomes harmful is when people react to the normal daily stressors of life with the fight/flight response constantly. Operating in chronic stress mode is simply not sustainable for your wellbeing (more yang than yin).
- Full, slow, and even breaths are better than shallow, rapid, and uneven breaths for your health; deep and slow breathing lowers your resting heart rate (balanced).
- Full, slow, and even breaths activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), also known as the “rest/digest response.” This response calms you down. Even more so if your out-breath is longer than your in-breath, such as when you are doing breathwork during meditation (more yin than yang).
More Yin Please
Convinced you need more yin in your life, but not sure how to get there? A great place to start is with my Yield2Yin page. I have so many resources, techniques, and ideas to help you cultivate more yin in your life, like grounding and mindfulness exercises.
You will also find a Yield2Yin section at the bottom of each blog on A Therapist’s Advice. Here you will find ideas for yin yoga poses, books to read, and mantras to repeat.
- Healing Card Deck: A Therapist’s Advice 55-Card Healing Deck by Sara Cloostermans
- Book Recommendation: Deep Listening by Jillian Pransky
- Mantra: I AM BALANCE // repeat with diaphragmatic breathing
- Yin Yoga Asana: Deer Pose
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