‘Yoga has taught me to embrace both the yin and yang, the right and left, and the male and female that is within me.’
One reason I started yoga was to find balance in my life. I was upside down, and I had little control over my time. When I found a moment for myself, I often squandered it. I had no idea how much balance was a part of yoga, but I soon realized that the process of rebalancing would provide great benefit on and off the mat.
Balance plays a role in most postures. We work on one side of the body and then switch. It doesn’t take long to discover how different one side is to the other. The key is to understand and recognize where you are and that each day it will be different.
Rebalancing is about strengthening the weaker side and learning how not to favor the stronger. This winter, with all the snow we had in Connecticut, I was often out in the driveway shoveling. I’m right-handed and everything I did favored, or, rather, stressed out, my right side.
I stepped forward with my right foot. My right shoulder and the right side of my back bore the brunt of the lift upward; I tossed to the right, too. By alternating footwork, hand position, and toss, I had more stamina and fewer aches and pains.
Another important yoga lesson I applied was breath work. By inhaling for the shovel, exhaling for the toss, I created a rhythm and focus to my movement for much greater efficiency.
Balance isn’t just a physical concept. It’s emotional. It’s right- and left-brain. It’s the male and female aspects of our humanity. There isn’t a better or worse when it comes to these things. It’s about finding that balance, recognizing tendencies, and finding ways to leverage all aspects of ourselves to maximize potential.
I found, for example, alternate-nostril breathing to be an excellent way to rebalance my left and right brain. As a musician who hosts songwriter nights, this came in handy. There’s a lot of right brain activity prior to the show—organizing and coordinating—but once that’s complete, I must refocus for the performance.
Alternate nostril breathing rebalances brainwaves. Tossing an apple from one hand to the other does the trick too. The key is to activate both sides of your brain to rebalance.
In Chinese medicine, the yin and yang are about energy and finding the right balance for a healthy existence. Yin yoga is a passive posture practice. Yin is associated with words like “cold,” “water,” “moon” and “femininity.”
Although you don’t hear many people refer to active postures as part of a yang practice, the yang in Chinese medicine is described as hard, hot, dry and masculine. Yang postures are also active and fit these descriptors. A flow-practice is an example of yang postures.
Neither practice is better or worse, right or wrong. It’s about striking a balance for that healthy existence.
As a fiction writer, the ability to tap into my female side is important for creating convincing characters, dialogue, and setting. If I draw strictly from my male side, I’ll fail to get underneath the leaves where the real grit lies.
According to the book industry, men read mostly men, women mostly women*. I noticed that I fit this profile and started to consciously read more women, and I believe this has helped build depth to my writing.
Yoga has taught me to embrace both the yin and yang, the right and left, and the male and female that is within me. This has resulted in marked improvements in both body and mind. And it’s made getting through this snow-bound winter a helluva lot easier.