Yin & Yang Energies Applied to Yoga Practice

In yoga, we are constantly balancing yin and yang energies. Yin energy is the relaxation and expansive energy in your yoga practice. It happens on the exhale. Your heart slows down and your body relaxes. Flexibility gains always happen with a yin energy focus, as you exhale deeper into the postures.

Yang energy is the opposite; it’s the muscular, contracting energy of strength. In seated poses, it’s easy to forget the strengthening actions of yoga, but they are just as important as in standing poses. In many seated poses, the yang energy happens in your lower body, engaging and contracting your legs to help your upper body find freedom and expansive flexibility.

In a forward fold, for example, your legs should be strong (yang) and your upper body is soft (yin). In a seated twist, your chest and torso are yin (relaxed) and your lower body is yang (firm and strong). If you find yourself in a seated posture and don’t feel like much is happening, always come back to this yin-yang balance.

Inner Rotation & Outer Rotation

With our arms and legs, we have 2 rotation movements that dramatically change the way our bodies moves and feel in a pose: inner rotation and outer rotation. When your arms or legs are inner rotating, it means that they are literally twisting to the inside. When your arms or legs are outer spiraling, they are twisting outward and away from your midline.

An inner rotation is associated with strength, and outer rotation with openness (yang and yin). When you’re seated and doing forward folds, for example, you should inner rotation the outstretched leg to create a firm foundation. This will create a strong (yang) base upon which your upper body can relax and open (yin).

To give another example, when we backbend, our arms outer spiral which naturally opens the back and chest, creating that yin energy where flexibility is best achieved.

Breath

We want to focus on slow and steady breath with a light whisper sound on both the inhale and the exhale. All your strength, length and extension comes on the inhale (yang), and all your relaxation, opening, and flexibility comes on the exhale (yin). Whether in a forward bend, a twist or a backbend, remember the role of the inhales and exhales and use them as tools to take you practice deeper.