The Art of Yin

Light cannot exist without darkness. Yin cannot exist without yang. 

We live in a world characterized by yang, the fiery energy of doing and achieving. In our world today, we are taught to seek more, to become more, to strive for more. We are taught to live in our yang, but day cannot continue to exist without the cooling sweetness of dusk. 

What is yin and what is yang? 
Yang is often associated with masculine energy, while its complementary force, yin, is characterized by femininity. This is not to be understood in the traditional gendered sense of what it means to be masculine or feminine, but rather what energies of those two opposing forces bring forth according to Chinese philosophy and mythology. 

Yang is active, while yin is passive. Yang is warm, while yin is cool. Yin is the perfect balancing antidote to yang, and vice versa. 

Yin provides spirit to all things, it is from the passivity and emptiness the soft energy of yin creates that all things may spring forward and come to life. Yin is the womb, while yang is the world outside of the womb. Yang provides form to all things, but form must be built on a foundation. 

For example, farmers are aware of the fact that they must continue to cultivate the land and treat it with compassion in order for their crops to flourish. If they continue to grow on the same land over and over again without breaks, they will eventually exhaust the nutrients of the soil. But when they cycle through parcels of land, and provide breaks and space for the land to regenerate they are able to exist symbiotically with the Earth. These breaks are perfect examples of introducing yin, and supporting the cyclical nature of both yin and yang. 

The risk of lacking yin: burning out. 
In the same way, to thrive we must treat our bodies and our lives with this same philosophy. If we do not respect our bodies and their need to rest, our mind will begin to falter, as will our physical health. And if we do not acknowledge the need for cycles of pause and rest in our lives, burnout becomes a reality and a disease.

When we fail to introduce yin into our lives as a practice, we may handle our burnout in unhealthy ways leading to physical impediments over time because we are trapped in a cycle of yang. 

Five ways to cultivate yin. 

1. Prioritize sleep. 

Ensuring basic essentials are met through healthy sleep hygiene is the first step to creating the foundation for a healthy balance of yin and yang. 

2. Schedule time to do nothing. 

This is easier said than done, but is often the next step to training ourselves to fall into a yin state of rest so that we may cultivate the energy to achieve in sustainable ways. 

3. Spend time in nature. 

Nature teaches us how to live, through its cycles of day and night, summer and winter, birth and death. Through nature we can learn the importance of rest and turning inwards. 

4. Practice self-care in gentler ways. 

It can be easy to reach for the quick pick-me-ups of caffeine or more intensive workouts, but choosing softened modes of self-care best supports yin qualities.

5. Build in time to reflect. 

Time and space to reflect naturally invites a moment of pause. It is an essential ingredient to the cycle of creation. 

Sara is the CEO of Mend, a company that aims to help people heal from heartbreak and burnout through scientifically supported self-care practices. She is a lover of holistic medicine, intentional travel, tea culture, and healing in beautiful places.