I’ll take a bet that most of you reading this have made a New Year’s resolution at some point in your life. Maybe in the past it was about losing weight, eating healthier, spending more time with family, getting outside more, or traveling more. What it came down to was likely choosing something that you were doing that you didn’t want to do anymore, or there was something that you weren’t doing that you vowed you wanted to start. Whatever it was, it’s usually revolved around “doing” rather than just “being,” right?
In yoga, among other traditions, we have Yin and Yang energy. I didn’t really have much of a concept of Yin and Yang past the groovy white and black symbol until I started teaching yoga. What I’ve realized is that the symbol brings to light the stark contrasts in life (dark/light; open/closed; high/low; in/out; to give rudimentary examples) and how necessary it is to have a balance of both.
Did you ever see Disney’s The Sword in the Stone? There’s a song in the movie that I can sing by heart because I watched it so many times as a child. We’ll call it the Disney version of Yin and Yang…
“Left and right, like day and night
That’s what makes the world go ‘round
In and out, thin and stout
That’s what makes the world go ‘round
For every up there is a down
For every square there is a round
For every high there is a low
For every to there is a fro
And that’s what makes the world go ‘round”
Yang is about doing – change, movement, passion, directing, improving, achieving, controlling, becoming. Yin is about being – receptivity, acceptance, stillness, tolerance, reflection, passivity. It is essential that we cultivate both of these energies in our lives in order to bring balance to the mind and the body. If you are familiar with the style of Yin yoga, it’s all about holding yoga poses for longer periods of time in order to release deep connective tissues and cultivate mindfulness. Yang-style yoga is your movement-based Vinyasa practice focused on building strength and establishing a mind/body connection– think Chaturanga, moving from Warrior II to Warrior III, etc. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, Yin and Yang qualities are both essential, and neither is superior to the other.
Our New Year resolutions tend to be based solely on a Yang style of energy. What am I going to do to be better? What am I going to give up? Or what actions am I going to take? These can be wonderful intentions and there will always be times, not necessarily always on Jan 1st, that we need to tap into those Yang energies to change or improve our lives. But here’s a thought…what if we focused on a Yin-style of a resolution instead?
We are taught that we should always be making ourselves better or striving to be different than we are right now. But what about accepting certain things just as they are? What if it means staying with that partner that you aren’t quite sure is the absolute perfect Mr. or Mrs. Right. What if it means loving your body for all its flaws instead of spending a bazillion dollars for a gym membership, vowing to yourself that you’ll go five days per week, but then only go once? Maybe it means doing your best to nurture the business that you already have, instead of trying to go bigger or start a new one?
If you go the Yin route, maybe try bringing in the doing aspects in subtler ways…spending more time with that partner you’re sussed about and seeing if you can find more things in common or rekindle the old flame. Try going to the gym one or two days per week as a drop-in before signing up for that membership. Acceptance is the key word here. Accept things just as they are and do your best to work with what you have.
If you do decide to make a Yang-style resolution, maybe call it an intention instead. Resolution sounds so final. Intention allows for some breathing room. If life circumstances change, perhaps you can evolve your intention as well?
So, I invite you to set your intention of how you want to live this coming year. What kind of energy do you want to bring in? What kind of people do you want to spend your time with? How are you going to spend your free time? Watching TV, or working on that book you always meant to write?
Clarity is the predecessor for action. Be clear about what you want. Set up your foundation, and then allow the endless possibilities to unfold.
Wishing everyone all the best for 2019.