This concept evokes a sense of opposites. The well-known symbol depicts a circle with a white swirl embracing a black swirl with a dot of the opposite color in each. A wise teacher once told me that the reason there is a small dot of opposing color is that within each seeming absolute is a small bit of the contrary. The literal meaning of Yin-Yang is Shadow and Light. If we dwell on this we truly realize that inside of everything that appears dark is an inner glow, sometimes imperceptible to our eyes but there nonetheless. Inside the brightest of lights is an inner silence, an absence, a darkness that is overlooked because the light so captures us.
How freeing it is to realize that nothing in life is completely one truth or another. Think of the winter season. It was preceded by a period of growing darkness outside and perhaps a sense of journeying inward to your soul center. During winter we are in the thick of the coldest days of the year. If we lived in a world of absolutes I would assume that life would be rather dormant, silent, tamasic in yogic terms. Yet I know many people who use this time of quietude to tap into their inner fire, a passion that burns, a desire that cannot be denied—a path that they intend to follow over the coming months.
Ayurveda is a sister science to yoga and it quite literally means the knowledge of life. I have come to understand it as a way to witness life with new eyes. Everything we let into our beings has an effect on us, and Ayurveda helps us to understand what the effect is. Is it nourishing or depleting? Is it healing or hurtful? Will it draw me into the external world or cause me to constrict and pull inward?
The truth is that anything in this life can be elixir to one, poison to another. Nothing on its own terms is absolute. Nothing is inherently good or bad. All is yin and yang. Our greatest challenge in this life is to look for the little dot of opposing color within each situation; it is surely there.
One way that yin and yang can best be understood in physical terms is through our endocrine system. The human body is so amazing …. each cell has its own intelligence which calls for exactly what it needs in terms of nutrition and hormones. There is a constant dance going on that allows us to live and grow and function. We are largely unaware of this balancing act, the silent participants sustaining our life in the most subtle of ways. There are times in life however when the scales are tipped, when stress runs rampant, when we are in a state of dis-ease. It is comforting to know that yoga and ayurveda provide us with ways to support our journeys. Asana, meditation, pranayama, diet and healthy lifestyle all serve to bring our lives back to balance, back to harmony.