Tea, Food and Community

Tea, Food and Community

Friday, July 1, 2016

Balancing our Yin and Yang Energies in the Summertime

We are all seeking balance in our busy lives and this summer we can continue to find harmony by holding equal space for our yin and yang energies. Yin and yang are deeply interconnected and neither can function without the other, thus the familiar symbol with small dots in the middle of each opposing color. Yin is a feminine, passive, restful energy, and is grounded, substantial, and earthy (associated with the parasympathetic nervous system) while yang is a masculine, active, wakeful energy that is airy, light, and bright (associated with the sympathetic nervous system)-- yang generates what yin grows. In our daily lives we embody both of these energies but it is easy to become imbalanced.

I think there’s a natural tendency toward busier summer days simply because it stays light longer, resulting in the illusion of more time. In some ways, I suppose there is more time- more time for outdoor activities either earlier in the morning or later at night, which can feel so spacious and wonderful. Imbalance arises when we start filling all of this time with constant activity and forgetting to allow our yin energy a place in the schedule. 

It’s wonderful to soak in all the beauty and bliss of summertime, and I’m all for spending as much time outdoors as possible. This is a great time to be active and we should take advantage of it. Dive into yang energy and get some of that fun summer exercise that comes in the form of swimming, biking, hiking, and playing outdoor sports and games that involve so much movement. In this way we are allowing our sympathetic nervous system to express and burn through the stress hormones that can build up in our system as a result of modern daily life. Allow that yang energy to engage in active movement throughout the day so that you can readily let go and slip into yin at the end of the day. 

A nice transition toward slowing down and taking time for yourself at night may be a slow paced post-dinner stroll around the neighborhood. Allow your senses to be receptive and passively take in your surroundings through a more grounded and present body. Don’t attach your thoughts too firmly to any one thing, just let your surroundings envelope and wash over you as you walk in an almost meditative state. When you return home make yourself a cup of herbal tea (or sip some iced tea you made earlier), and continue to relax. Keep the lights low, keep electronics turned off, and do things that allow you to feel peaceful and at ease. 

This is all a part of maintaining good bedtime habits which will allow for an easy transition into deep yang relaxation and deep sleep. Our sleep is a profoundly regenerative time, and we need to honor this as much as we celebrate our active moments. In Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book, A Mind of Your Own, she writes, “your circadian rhythm hinges on your sleep habits... a healthy rhythm commands normal hormonal secretion patterns, from those associated with hunger cues, to those that relate to stress and cellular recovery.” In this way, we are less likely to overeat, less prone to inflammation, less moody, and less likely to get sick when we are getting a full night’s sleep. When we allow ourselves ample time to sleep and be in a parasympathetic state, we offer our bodies time to heal. 

I often find myself stealing time from my sleep but when I look at the implications of this “theft,” it helps me see the extraneous bits of time better spent sleeping. In this way I am working on letting go of all the things that do not make my life feel more rich and full but are simply filling up my time. I imagine everyone has at least a few moments in their day that can be added to sleep time. By devoting more time to our yin and honoring our sleep, we are devoting greater focus and energy to our active yang days. In these beautiful long days of summer we can follow our vitality and find balance in a full expression of both our yin and our yang. 

Written by Kerry Newton

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