I was first introduced to the idea of yin and yang self-care when my friend, Shannon (Shannon Crow Yoga) mentioned the book, "Elemental Yin Yang Yoga, by Erin Aquin." It wasn't something that had ever occurred to me and I was so interested in the concept. After hearing Erin explain a bit about it on Shannon's podcast, I was sold on the importance of including yin and yang elements into your self-care routine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine as well as yoga philosophy the two principles of yin and yang are what help to govern balance within our bodies, our energy levels, our surroundings and our yoga practice. Yin qualities are dark, cooling, calming and feminine, while yang is bright, energizing, hot and masculine. Within our yoga practice, restorative, calming and low-to-the-ground postures are yin, while flowing, energizing and moving asana have predominant yang qualities. We always seek to create balance between yin and yang in yoga asana, so how can we pull these principals into self-care as well?
We all have habits, tendencies and comfort-zones that are sometimes supportive and other times create stagnation. When considering the type of self-care or activities that you gravitate towards, do you find yourself moving towards calming, passive energy or do you have an over-abundance of activity and busy-ness?
Neither yin nor yang self-care is wrong or better than the other. But being aware of our imbalances and habits is a huge part of our yoga journey.
The yin activities are probably what most of us think of when we hear the term "self-care:" passive, nurturing and restful activities that have a quality of pampering. Yang self-care includes the types of activities that inspire us, help us to grown and give us energy.
"Yang self-care is the type of care that a coach or mentor might deliver. It is positivity that pushes you forward and doesn’t let you hold back your potential. Yang self-care doesn’t let you eat cookie dough on the sofa while you watch your favorite childhood movie for the millionth time—it gets you off your butt and out to the gym or to yoga." - Erin Aquin
Both yin and yang activities are important for our overall health, wellness and balance. If you exclusively practice yin self-care, you might find yourself feeling sluggish, unmotivated or stuck in a cycle of low energy. Conversely, if you only practice yang self-care, you could end up feeling over-stimulated, tired or burnt out.
Take a look at the yin and yang examples below:
Yin Self-Care Ideas
Doing a Psoas Release
Taking a hot bath or shower
Curling up with a good book
Enjoying a nap or going to bed early
Which category does your self-care fall into most often? If you were to create a similar list of activities, which energy quality is receiving the most attention? What self-care practices might you add into your routine to discover that balance?
When brainstorming your own activities, you must first be comfortable with what self-care is. Notice what comes up for you when you hear that term or consider ways to care for yourself. Erin Aquin offers some valuable tips here:
- If it doesn’t fuel you or nourish you, it isn’t self-care.
- Self-care means you do it for yourself. While asking for help or support is great, self-care should be empowering and something you can do for yourself with as little reliance anywhere else as possible.
- Self-care is something you look forward to. If you don’t enjoy/get a deep benefit, it won’t fuel or nourish you.
- Self-care results in health and vitality. Self-care doesn’t mean going out and eating a 3-layer cake or getting bombed. Never use “self-care” to justify bad habits or behaviour that hurts you or anyone else.
- Self-care is necessary to your well-being, take it seriously.
- Did you catch that last one? Self-care is necessary to your well-being, take it seriously.
If you need more help developing or creating a self-care routine, contact me or create the time to map it out for yourself. Pop over to my other post on self-care here, to download a printable Self-Care Checklist. It's a great visual to hang on your fridge or put in a notebook as a reminder for yourself to stay on track.
You deserve the same love and care that you offer others. Start today and create a new balance of love, wellness and contentment for yourself.