Dualities. Balance. Yin and Yang. Effort and ease. Activity and stillness. Community and solitude. Sound and silence. The list just might be infinite. Sage Rountree (http://sagerountree.com) introduced the concept of dualities to those of us participating in training at Kripalu to Teach Yoga to Athletes. It is a profound concept.
It’s something we think about – a lot – in the practice of Yoga. Life is so full of ups and downs, ins and outs, happy and sad, ease and disease. Our quality of life, our emotional and mental stability, in fact our very lives, depend on the balance of these opposites, these dualities, these partners in each individual existence. And it is, in fact, a balance rather than the elimination of one or the other. Many dualities are equally positive or equally challenging, just different. Often it is a matter of coincidence, coordination, comingling, cooperation.
In our Yoga practice, we give equal time to stretch and strength, twist and bend, prone and supine, kneeling, standing, lunging, forward fold, back bend, Tadasana and Savasana. And those are just the Asanas, or physical poses. (Asanas are but one of the eight limbs of Yoga so there’s plenty more to practice!)
In the gym we make certain to cover all our bases: warm up and cool down, challenge ourselves aerobically, build muscular strength, enhance quickness and coordination, balance without falling as well as balancing opposing muscle groups in training, and, of course, flexibility.
Once again I am reminded of the shared elements of all forms of training. Yoga has been around for a very long time, so coincidences in functional training, physical therapy, Pilates, and so much more can usually be traced back to some form of Yoga. Likewise, practice in one discipline aids performance in another.
Perhaps I find it most significant to remember that there is no right or wrong. Of course, asking each individual body to move in a way appropriate to that body, seeking maximal alignment for each, is key. Repeatedly practicing a movement, a training exercise or a Yoga pose inappropriately leads only to overuse or even wear and tear that negates the effort invested over long periods of time.
But that being said, there should be no feuds between instructors, coaches, athletes, or schools of practice.
Josh Summers (https://joshsummers.net/podcast/what-is-yin-yoga/) presents an excellent definition of Yin Yoga. The notion that Yin and Yang are BOTH valid and should BOTH be practiced, simply triggers the imagination to consider the value of blending opposites of all kinds.
Balance is, after all, equilibrium.
For the past three weeks I have indulged in shared time spent with my dog, or friends, or family. Each dynamic generously gifts its own special blessing. This year has been different from past in that my “me-time” has been with my 11 month old Lab. (As my brother quipped, “it’s just like having a toddler!”) She has been by my side for multiple and daily trail walks, swims, off leash runs/on leash training, and even a little rock scrambling in Camdenhttp://www.mainetrailfinder.com/trails/trail/camden-hills-state-park-interior-trail-network). We’ve both learned a great deal about each other and have kept each other moving almost constantly, mutually increasing fitness as we go.
Balancing outdoor activity have been hours of Yoga practice (both Vinyasa and Yin at Freeport Yoga Company, http://freeportyogaco.com) and the deck.
Time spent on the deck where I am living is time sketched in gold. Vivid oranges and pinks fire up the day even before the sun makes its early appearance, bouncing color and energy off the surface of the water. (No wonder Sun Salutations are integral to one’s Yoga practice.) Though the sunset on the other side of the peninsula is equally dramatic, there is something oh so lovely about its residual glow from our deck. And the full moon? There are not words …. But if it weren’t for the deck, would I pause to sit there and observe?
The deck is the intuitive gathering place for all of us. Sophie could sit there and look for hours. My family and I can talk endlessly, but there always comes the fall into a reverent or contemplative silence – just watching. Tides ebb and flow, lobster boats motor up and down the sound working while I play, fish rise and re-enter with a significant slap, ducks search for food as cormorants dive under for so long I wonder if they’ll ever reappear. They do.
But it is not in stillness that my random thoughts are born. Movement, not stillness, generates curiosity, the attempt to define, ponder or even organize what floats in and out of mind. Hours spent hiking the trails, walking the rocky shoreline, or riding the roads are the hours that produce thoughts that beg follow up study.
So, in my experience this summer, it seems that balance has been paramount. The Yin and Yang of the hours teach. May I be a receptive student.