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Macro Monday: Making Space for Yin

I've chatted about Yin & Yang before, and that finding balance between the two is necessary. Outside of the yin & yang factors in the environment & in food though, character traits/qualities, attitude and lifestyle can also be categorized as either more yin or yang.

I think of it like this: Yin is the moon & feminine energy, and is also about softness, quietness, intuition, acceptance and allowance of what is to be, and is a more gentle nurturing opening kind of energy. Yang is the male & sun energy, and is face-paced, logical, full of drive, goal setting & achievement of goals, change making, contracting pressure kind of energy.

As you can see, neither in extreme is desired: rather, success is a balance between the two (a balance that is different for each of us - some need more yang, some thrive with more yin). We can all utilize the momentum and high energy of yang to instigate changes in our lives for the better, but to keep us balanced and relatively serene while doing so, we need to honour the self-nurturing and slower aspects of yin energy.

source: google image search result. 

source: google image search result. 

In my opinion, we live in an extremely YANG world, where the glorification of busy is everywhere. Motivated cutthroat execs take the lead, and you are required to fight to remain involved or visible. More and more is expected and required of children - there are more classes and things to do that are deemed necessary. Schedules seem to be getting busier and busier. Many women do not feel allowed to feel as proud of their nurturing qualities, as they are of their career accomplishments. Presidents of companies and of countries are chosen by their yang qualities, not their yin ones. Being able to do more and be the best at it is seen as more valuable than softening into doing less.

This Macro Monday post is about ALLOWING YIN IN: my personal journey towards balance, because balance is extremely hard for me, as I'm a highly yang person living in a highly yang world.

It's a long story so pull up a chair, and grab a cup of tea. My tendency towards yang began as far back as I can remember.

I was a spunky kid who liked to run fast and play hard. I was more of a tomboy than a girly girl, for sure. In fact, I was even in boy scouts, and played on a boys soccer team. When I had to choose to give up sports or piano due to time constraints, I easily chose to give up piano because giving up soccer or basketball was never an option in my mind.

I felt proud of my athletic talent and accomplishments. But despite being naturally apt at athletic endeavors, I refused to take dance classes, because I didn't want to wear pink. Some/most of my favourite and best friends were boys. I liked to challenge them to arm wrestles...and indeed, often won!  Being praised for being strong was the best compliment and encouragement in my books. I never wanted to be called a princess, or a pretty little girl. I wore scars from stitches like badges of honour. If I skinned my knee and didn't cry...that there, was something to be proud of. None of that sissy stuff. No softness there.

Yep, I told ya': yang.

My tendency towards yang also showed up in my desire to accomplish & achieve. I pushed hard hard hard all the way through school, settling for nothing but the best grades. In High school I took all the AP (advanced placement) classes I could fit in my schedule. I studied, I worked a part-time job, I played soccer & basketball, joined rowing and I trained for cross country running. I gave up Spanish class for Calculus. I even even redid grade 12 math because I wasn't satisfied with my 80% grade (for me, 80% felt like 50%). I remember one evening I felt like I was starting to get sick. My mom tried to get me to rest, but I decided I had to still go for a run. I ended up making it only 2 blocks before the cold sweats started, and I barely made it back home before food poisoning got the best of me.

This continued on into University, where I tried to balance the new needs of living on my own and all the chores and responsibilities that came along with it, with studying full-time, working to pay my bills, practicing yoga daily, and trying to fit in a few moments whenever I could to spend with my dear boyfriend and friends. I even approached delving into the gentleness & subtleties of yoga with a ferocious drive.

Yang yang yang. Push push push.

Snap.

When I finally finished University, I had endured exhaustion, a few meltdowns, and even a panic attack. I was so burned out I just wanted to sleep everyday but instead of listening to my body's cues, I never gave myself a break. I pushed my tiredness outta the way & took on a new big responsibility: I began teaching yoga. I just adored it. But I didn't manage my energy flow well. Push push push. Too much energy going out, and not enough coming in. I didn't realize this at the time though, and I so loved teaching that I just continued on going going going.

Next I found myself in Japan. Phew: a new country, a fresh start, a chance to relax a bit. Not so fast, little one.  In a culture where 1000% effort is expected in the workplace and viewed as normal, I couldn't handle the pressure. I felt like I could never do or be enough (not true, but this is how I felt), and my little perfectionist heart just couldn't handle it. The stress piled on heavy and hard. Other people love doing the teaching English thing in Japan and settle in well. Japan is an amazing country to explore, filled with great & kind people. I too loved these things, and of course I made some wonderful Japanese friends who I truly adore and treasure, and saw so many beautiful places. But unlike those other English teachers who could roll with the punches, I just couldn't, and so because of my stress, we came home.

Another snap.

I was tired and burned out, but so excited to be back and so grateful to be welcomed back into the world of teaching yoga. So before I could even say Oh-Canada, I jumped in full force, my usual style. I so loved my teachers & the studio & the students. Teaching yoga is like exploring a new dimension. It's fulfilling on a whole new level. But as I said before, it also requires an awareness of energy flow: a balance between giving and receiving. No big surprise, but I wasn't holding up my own end of restoring my energy. I had jumped right back in starting with a major deficit: years of cumulative stress & exhaustion that I had never effectively dealt with. I followed my drive to go go go (yang energy) because I was doing something that filled my heart up. But just because you love something, it doesn't mean that it is necessarily what you need, or what's best for you at the time. My pattern of blazing forwards without stopping to recharge had collapsed.

So once again, there it was: snap.

You can only snap so many times before you also crackle & pop.

And not in the good rice crispie kinda way.

The effects of way too much yang made me realize that I needed to overcompensate for awhile with lots of yin energy to swing the scale back into balance. I majorly needed to sloooooooooooooow down.

I made a hard decision to take a break from teaching yoga and recalibrate my energy flow. Everything that WAS was more noticeable to me now: my hormone imbalances, my lack of respect for getting enough sleep, and the fact that I was putting too much energy & time into areas where maybe I didn't need to. Turns out, my energy was frazzled and depleted.

So I decided to wrap & then box up that giant yang part of me & throw it into the closet for awhile. Then I dug around & dusted off that tiny little neglected box of yin and brought her out. Hi there pretty lady <3

source: google search result

source: google search result

I used all the tools I gained over the years, and began by giving myself a bit of space. Space to just BE. To be here now. I ramped up the energy restoring & nurturing by DOING LESS. I had to focus on giving myself permission to do less. And to do the same things I loved such as yoga, but to engage with them from a different energy. I lowered the bar of perfectionism, and instead raised the bar of self-compassion. I did yoga just for me. But this time if I was too tired to wake up early for yoga, I slept in (this was not something easy for me). I tried to not set rules for myself, and just let things be as they were. To help things along & to combat that contracting yang energy, I also incorporated some more yin-energy foods (fruits, sweets and things like noodles & soups etc) into my diet.

And when dealing with my hormones, I specifically, with intention, focused on bringing female yin energy IN. I consciously began trying to connect to that feeling of grace. I began to do more feminine inspired things like...painting my nails! Yes. This. And I found out that I actually really enjoy it. I also began wearing pink.

I tried to have less battles with myself, and instead have more baths. They work.

I started listening to more music, and allowing myself to be more creative (without that perfectionism judgement) in whatever way I felt like, with no goals. I also spent a lot of time with the original divine feminine - mother nature: flowers in my garden, and the trees in the river valley.

And sure enough, my hormones returned to normal. I felt more space opening up in and around me.  I began effortlessly & naturally honouring my body and allowing it to rest when needed.

Now, well over a year later, I'm just beginning to crave a bit of that yang-motivation energy.

But this time I feel like I am playing within the subtle range of healthy balance. I no longer feel any resistance to feminine & yin, and can now easily recognize when I need some yang pick-me-up energy. And don't get me wrong: I am ever so grateful for that  intrinsic spark of motivation and drive (yang) within me (my balance will always be a bit more yang heavy) - it has enabled me to do many of the things that I'm most proud of, but I am now equally grateful for the openness within me (yin), and for the knowledge to slow down a little & take every opportunity to stop and smell the flowers.

photo.JPG

So after my long story, my advice is this: allow yourself to do a bit less, and find a bit more quiet time & space for reflecting & nurturing. It's ok to move towards yin. It can be hard when yang is so valued in our culture. But don't give up. I hope that with yoga's giant surge in popularity, society will gain the lesson of slowing down and going inwards, and that our cultural values will shift to recognize the value that yin energy holds too. Being motivated and driven is going to serve you even better if you can also soften and let go. Too much strength makes you rigid and stiff - a little softness and flexibility will help you bend with the strong winds life can bring.

xoxo Jess

p.s. I'd love to hear which is more natural or difficult for you (yin or yang energy) as everyone is so different, and I know that being very yin in a very yang world is equally as challenging :)