A healthy, flowing river: Contemplate your yin and yang energies to find balance

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FEATURE — In this age of yoga and meditation, many of us have seen the yin yang symbol and probably thought of it as a symbol of opposites or polarity. While this is true, the yin yang symbol contains a deep reservoir of wisdom about our bodies, our relationships and how our energy communicates. 

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The main message is one of balance. We all find ourselves feeling “out of balance” in some way during our lives. It can be challenging to pinpoint just how and why we are feeling “off.” Contemplating our yin and yang can provide insight and understanding into this delicate balance of body/spirit, heaven/earth, give/receive and masculine/feminine energies.  

What is yang?

Yang energy, thought and action are what we are most familiar with in the West. Yang is outward, giving, masculine energy (not gender-related) that is structured, organized, conscious, aware and cognitive.

Yang is the energy we need to get to appointments on time, pay bills, organize our families and work, give service and generally give of our time. It is the energy of the universe that is aware of all of the moving parts and puts them into structure. It contains the masculine energy to evolve, grow and improve. 

Sometimes yang energy can be felt in the body as heat or a warm glow. This heat can radiate from the heart at the chest center. If one is practiced in kundalini or other forms of yoga, this heat can run up the base of the spine or low back.

The sun or fire is a symbol of yang. Those who practice Qi Gong or other martial arts can experience the heat of chi from the palms of their hands and can learn to run this energy in the whole body to disperse stagnation and create more balance. Don’t worry if you have never felt this heat or energy in your body. It is not a requirement of balance but rather something to just notice: an invitation to pay closer attention to the signals from your body.  

What is yin?

Yin energy, thought and action tend to be least familiar to our Western selves and more understood in the East. Yin is inward, receiving, feminine energy (not gender-related) that is pure energy, intuitively flowing, emotional and the still point of creation.

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Yin is the energy we need to rest, recuperate, deeply connect, receive care and comfort, receive service, flow healthily with our emotions and create. It is the still point of ourselves where we are fully accepted, all is perfect and there is nothing to fix, but also where new life and creation spring forth.  

Where yang is do-ing, yin is be-ing. It is being receptive and allowing life to flow through and around us without trying to control it. Yin is pure creation and is symbolized by water and earth.

Yin can be felt in the body as cooling, menthol or chills. If you are feeling out of balance physically, emotionally, mentally or relationally, I invite you to explore your own yin energy. Most of us in the West are yin-deficient. We have been taught that yang (give) is better than yin (receive). Who hasn’t heard the oft-repeated phrase “it is better to give than receive”? Mystics, physicians and wise ones have known for centuries that this is not true and will lead to illness and burnout. 

What is balance?

My favorite symbol for yin and yang balance is a healthy, flowing river guided by river banks. The yin energy is the water in the river. When healthy, it is flowing and receptive to the rocks, mud and dirt along the sides. The yang is represented by the rocks, mud and dirt making up the river bank, creating structure and guiding the water.

In the absence of the river bank (yang), the water (yin) will flood. The flood will create chaos and drown out the life around the river. On the other hand, in the absence of water, the rocks and dirt will become a dry, barren land with no life or color.

We can easily understand the symbols in this example. Nature works in balance. We see the need for both dirt and water, give and receive, structure and allowing, yin and yang.  

What can you do?

Imbalanced yang energy can be experienced as overwork, over-business, fatigue, loneliness, lack of connection, bitterness, anger, anxiety, trouble sleeping or resting and many physical health issues. I recommend using the strength of your yang to schedule (structure) some time for yin. Schedule time to rest and meditate. Consciously look for ways you can receive more in your life, and let go of control. Allow for the surprises of life to be a joyous dance.

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Imbalanced yin energy can be experienced as depression, lack of motivation, taking the role of victim as an identity, autoimmune disorders, over-giving and lack of boundaries. I recommend using the power of your yin intuition to ponder and ask yourself what you really desire in life. Then, start to make a plan. Where would you like to give and receive in order to balance your life, and with whom can this start? Hint: the answer usually is yourself!

Sitting by a river with my feet on the ground or in the water is one of my favorite ways to physically and energetically balance yin and yang. I am not sure exactly why it works; I just know that it does! 

May we all find balance this new year. May we feel both the head and the heart as we walk this beautiful earth together.    

If you are interested in a personal yin yang assessment and balancing plan, please contact the author, Anna DuPree, at [email protected].

Written by ANNA DUPREE. 

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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