• Emily Shain

Being Yin

“The natural desire of the human mind is to become special - to become special in the ways of the world, to have many degrees, to have much political power, to have money, wealth - to be special. The mind is always ready to go on some ego trip. And if you are fed up with the world, then again the ego starts finding new ways and new means to enhance itself - it becomes spiritual. You become a great mahatma, a great sage, a great scholar, a man of knowledge, a man of renunciation; again you are special. Unless the desire to be special disappears, you will never be special. Unless you relax into your ordinariness, you will never relax.” -Osho Let’s speak about the art of being. Most of the time, we speak of doing, of action and the steps we must take to be special and achieve our dreams. These are great topics to discuss and to be engaged with because they help us foster the vision of getting where we want to be. Often these discussions come at a cost, however. The cost is that we lose appreciation for where we are in the moment, before reaching our dreams or during the journey of getting to them. Nobody wants to feel, focus on or describe themselves as ordinary. It is looked down upon to be complacent or stuck in one place. It is difficult to slow down and just be. And it’s definitely not the norm to appreciate things as they are in a world that demands we compare and push ourselves 99% of the time (with the exception perhaps of getting enough sleep). We can describe this active state of being as our yang state. Yang is a Chinese principle describing one sort of universal energy or chi: an energy that is active, social, bright, hot, rising, physical, masculine, external, etc. Does this remind you of anything? Probably yes! Because the world we live in is unapologetically yang. Let’s take Tel Aviv, for example. Tel Aviv weather is above 65degrees Fahrenheit, 85% of the year. It is a social hub of bars, cafes and beaches and it’s a small city; meaning if you’ve lived here long enough you can’t walk down the street without seeing a friend or an ex. Israel is a fiery environment with turbulent politics and wars and the list goes on. These factors make us hyper-aware of our external qualities: from the way we dress to go out and in our bikinis to the social discussions we have in the public arena. Now, a lot of this stuff is fun! Lively, exuberant, exciting—great for someone in their 20’s—like me :). The other side of this same yang coin is how it impacts our insides: emotions, thoughts and moods. Living in a yang environment puts us in people-pleasing or displeasing mode, sensitive and perhaps anxious about social interactions and acutely aware of what expectations are from the outside. Now, let’s change the conversation for a moment: what are your expectations of yourself? How is your internal state right now (moods, thoughts, emotions)? How well do you sleep? Or better yet, how much importance do you give to rest, recuperation and time alone? These questions relate to your yin state of being: the other side of the universal Chinese principle of energy (just as important but way less prevalent and encouraged in 2017). Yin is about your internal environment, the deeper parts of yourself and your psyche. Not the body of arms and legs, but the subtle energy body of feeling and intuition. Yes, yin is deeper and darker, because it feels more into truth that only you can know in your own body and human experience (independent from what anyone else can feel or say or know). Yin is 50% of your make-up as a human being and the whole spectrum of energy you were gifted when you came into creation. So why do we treat yin as bad, irresponsible or insignificant in our culture? Why do we feel guilty for staying in alone and deciding NOT to go out with friends? Why do we feel bad for not always knowing what to do and how to act? Why must we always argue for and prescribe to opinions rather than accepting and internalizing a deeper picture? These are yin aspects to life and they are just as legitimate and occurring as yang aspects of life. But for whatever reason, we were taught to push down these places in ourselves in order to achieve more and more and more and moreeeeee. Because the idea is that it’ll get us somewhere. Well, doing nothing, consciously, can too. Personal Note: Yin has never come easy to me. I have always loved the heat, being social and DOING--experiencing as much as possible. That’s how I know I’m alive and kicking and achieving and dating and laughing and running and learning. But in September 2017, I made a decision to ACTIVELY-YANGLY, take on the challenge of yin. It’s something I felt that I deeply needed in my yoga practice but more so in my life. I was noticing that I was fighting for control over things that weren’t in my power and it was getting in the way of accepting and loving things just as they are (“the present moment, the only place life exists”-Patanjali). Yoga Note: Yin Yoga is an approach to the practice where you passively stay in a posture between 3-15 minutes. Eventually holding becomes more of a mental game about patience, breath and acceptance of the body AS IT IS without pushing yourself further. Actually, the body has intelligence of its own that can take you to where you need to be without you pushing anything at all. What I learned through immersing myself in this practice in an intensive 100 hour teacher training by Spiral Growth was a few things: 1. that the body doesn’t always need to be pushed; it has immense power to heal itself through being conscious and breathing. 2. That the hardest practice is being and surrendering into the body’s limitations, letting go into the uncontrollable. 3. That relaxing into the present moment produces tons of ideas, inspiration and lessons to take with you later. Physically, the yin practice allows the parasympathetic nervous system to deeply relax for longer periods of time. It literally rewires our ability to digest and relax in moments where instinct would usually say: Its Hard! Run! Do something to fix it! (There are yin moments in other yoga practices as well but mostly we find the only full expression of yin in Savasana). As with most understandings I’ve received from my yoga practice physically, the holistic real-life meaning blossoms as well. Since this yin course, I’ve never slept better. I enjoy resting and I appreciate it immensely. I feel that patience isn’t a concept I’m fighting with anymore; rather I know that only through patience, I will receive the answers I need. Letting go of control in situations has shown me that there is a benefit to letting things and people come to you, in their own time. I’ve learned that there is no need to try so hard 100% of the time. Things are happening and flowing and moving all the time. And if you are living with passion and kindness and goodness of the heart, letting things be and accepting are great qualities to add to your resume as well. And it’s actually more than enough. Osho says “Unless you relax into your ordinariness, you will never relax”. I wouldn’t call yin ordinary. I think yin is extraordinary and is a deeper and stronger force than yang because it comes from a core place of understanding duality. That’s why in Chinese Medicine, for example, they treat yin organs for yang imbalances—because the source of all things is yin (the gentle feminine). Our true source as people is yin, as well. And it’s a good time to stop fighting with it because, in my opinion, yin is our best teacher. Yin can make this world less yang, less explosive, less angry and fiery. It can make this world more accepting, more understanding, more true to its soul and goodness of being. So this week, make an effort to be yin. Or better yet, let your efforts relax and just be. Some ideas for putting yin into your life:


Holding yoga postures for longer and breathing (2-8 minutes for beginners)

Spending time alone and observing what that feels like


Write 3 things down that you would like to let go of in your life and bring acceptance towards

Be more gentle and soft in your movement, words and interactions Or come practice yin yoga with me :) Love & Namaste