Yin Yoga connects us to our feminine side, our “being” side. It is a deep and passive practice, where yogi’s hold the poses for longer periods to work into the deeper tissue and joints while focusing the mind.
Nadia Engelbrecht talks to Sarah Evans about Yin Yoga and how you can begin your own practice today.
Do you have health goals? To drop some weight, just eat more salad or start running again? Do you take pride in your appearance and consider what you’re wearing, how your hair and make-up is done, and do you actively look for situations that make you feel good?
I’m sure you do. Many of strive for some change in ourselves. Some shift in growth or gain that will improve our lives and be that magic button that makes us feel and look incredible all the time.
Now all of this is great when done in a healthy way, but all too often we overdo it or push too hard and then, no matter what you do, nothing feels good anymore. That brings me to the overall point of this piece: Balance.
Remember the Yin-Yang symbol (made famous in the 90’s)? A circle, with one-half black, the other white and a dot of the opposite colour present in the respective half. As you probably know, this symbol represents Balance, but not of dark and light or good and bad.
Yang and Yin represent the two sides/ energies in each of us. Yang is masculine, action, drive, momentum, while Yin is feminine, being, compassion, kindness, love and nurturing. Most of us are very familiar with our Yang side. We set goals and put one foot in front of the next until we get there. It may be painful, but we push through nonetheless.
While this is amazing, the constant drive can also be draining and demanding on us and if you are a type-a kinda-girl, you will know that eventually you just can’t go anymore. You push and push yourself, but then you hit a wall and the next step is either too scary, too big or causes anxiety that paralyzes you.
Why is this? Why can we do so well for so long and then suddenly feel like the world is caving in? The answer is simple: we are imbalanced and before we can proceed (in a healthy and conscious way) we must first restore balance within ourselves. How do we do that? By taking time to nourish ourselves, being compassionate and kind to ourselves and through that love for our Being, we restore our balance, enabling us to once again take action and grow further.
You see, your Being is the part of you that receives love and energy and without filling your cup (so to speak) you end up with an empty vessel with nothing left to give. This does not serve you, your loved ones, your career, your health or any other area of your life. For this reason, it is essential to spend time focusing on nourishing your Being to restore your balance.
The good news is that doing so, does not require a 6-week retreat in Bali (I wish!) You can start today with these three easy steps to loving yourself and glowing from within:
Step 1: Acceptance:
This first step is the hardest, but it is also the most powerful shift our can make. Your body is a vehicle through which you experience life and the way you experience it is largely determined by your perception of your place in it. If you see your body, face, thighs, skin, personality, hair or your laugh as a curse, you will struggle to enjoy your experience because you will be hiding a part of yourself. When you do that you tell your mind and body that you’re ugly, shameful, not worthy.
By accepting where you are, and embracing the skin you’re in, you do the opposite. You tell your body and mind that you are worthy, you are lovely, enough, gorgeous and worth more. Acceptance does not mean that you ignore our health goals or stop your plans, it simply means that you love and accept yourself regardless of your current state. If you are working on losing weight, you can love your body before you reach your ultimate goal. There is no rule that says you can only love yourself when you reach it.
That brings me to step 2…
Step 2: Appreciation:
The easiest way to acceptance is appreciation, which (not-so-coincidentally) is step 2. Before I tell you how, I want to share WHY you should love, appreciate and celebrate all of you. When you look in the mirror, it is all too easy to judge and be mean to yourself. “My hips are too wide, my legs are too short, why is my nose so weird…” Rather, have you ever thought how incredibly powerful, yet delicate; intricate, yet strong; free, yet purposeful your body is? This vehicle has developed and grown since your infancy, gaining knowledge, experience and strength along the way. Today it is immensely capable. Your senses allow you to experience the world through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. In fact, your sense of smell has the power to propel you to a memory from your childhood in less than a second. AMAZING!
Your body and all its parts serve you in ways you take for granted every day. If you are able bodied that means you can walk. That’s right, your two legs, that you are oh-so cruel to are the things that allow you to freely and effortlessly move about. They are a magnificent miracle that adds priceless value to your life. Your hips form part of your pelvis that connects the bottom and top of your body. Because of this part of your body, you’re able to multitask (drink a coffee, while walking, for example.) This incredible part of your body provides stability and strength enabling you to carry and birth life into this world. Your strong arms protect and comfort at the same time. They lift you up and keep those near you close. Your face is where your soul expresses your inner beauty. It is where you shine your beautiful light, allowing those around you to understand you, share with you, be around you and love you.
The very precise way that you are built gives you a particular perspective, with a unique skill set to empathize with a certain type of person, to understand the world in a way only you can and, therefore, to tell a story of the “same experience” in a way that only you can.
With all of this in mind, I want to you stop all of this hate and negativity and shift to love and appreciation. Next time you look in the mirror and you see something you don’t like, shift your focus to what you love about it, what you can appreciate about it.
However, if you’re finding it difficult to suddenly be all sunshine and rainbows about something you’ve been negative about for so long, that’s completely okay. I am not expecting an immediate 180. But girl, there has to be something you can appreciate. It doesn’t have to be something you can see. It can be that you are grateful for the strength in your legs or the fact that you can hear your baby laugh.
Make this a habit. Every time you look in a mirror, choose one thing to love, appreciate and celebrate about your body, face, hair, outfit. I mean every time. In the morning there are a number of moments as you are getting ready for the day, each time you use the restroom throughout the day and as you are getting ready for bed and your make up is off, repeat the following to yourself in the mirror, “Thank you for your beauty and your strength. You are worthy, and I love you.”
Develop mad love for yourself, because you are SOOOOO worth it!
Step 3: Softness:
The last step is to cultivate a sense of softness into the way you interact with yourself. Nobody is perfect. We all have flaws and we all fall down from time-to-time. For some reason, we understand this for other people but can be very harsh with ourselves when we make a mistake or slip on our health goals. Think about it. If your best friend makes a mistake, no matter how big or ridiculous, you are there to console her. You tell her it’s okay and that one mistake is nothing to get upset about. You tell her that she is beautiful and powerful and that she will do better tomorrow. This is compassion and kindness and how you should talk to yourself if something doesn’t go perfectly; if you fall down or make a mistake. Forgive yourself and take care of yourself. Be your own bestie.
Following these three steps helps you cultivate mad love for yourself and then even more incredible and unexpected things start happening. When you love and respect yourself, you naturally start making choices aligned with this new reality, because you’ve had a taste of this good feeling and you want more. You eat better food that not only tastes great but makes you feel nourished and energized and you will avoid people and activities that no longer support your new way of being. In turn, you will find yourself with a life filled with more of what you love, more respect and more abundance, purely because you chose to see yourself as a precious, irreplaceable gift to the world.
Listen to your body. Hear the call of your Being and spend time taking caring of yourself: nourishing your soul and your body with love and appreciation. Every time you choose to fill your energy cup with love, you restore your inner balance and you are able to give and do more. You are worth it, not only for you but for everyone your life touches. Love yourself.
For the longest time, I feel like the world (and therefore, me) has been in-flux. We are (and have been) chasing massive material and status-driven goals, pushing to win, outrun competitors, see others as advisories and generally push everyone out of the way in order to get to the top.
While there is nothing wrong with chasing big dreams and wealth (please dream BIG!!) the way most of the world goes about it feels very aggressive and cutthroat and if you want to play, you have to be the same.
Why do we deem it acceptable to push others aside, let them fail and fall with the simple justification that we are chasing our goals? Almost as if their falling is collateral damage of our success – regrettable, but necessary loss.
I believe it is because of one reason: An imbalance between Being and Action. You could also see these two sides as Yin and Yang, or Feminine and Masculine. It is the energy that we call on as we move through life.
Human beings have mastered the Action (Masculine). Chasing, pushing, forging ahead. This is a powerful energy that gathers intense momentum and can create massive change when harnessed towards a goal. It isn’t too difficult to understand why we’re so good at it. Men have led the narrative, discovery, and evolution of the human story for centuries. It is through the masculine, the yang, that many incredible discoveries of new land, inventions and more are known to us. It is through this relentless perseverance that humans have intelligent infrastructure and constantly innovate to improve.
That said, it is, I believe, due to a lack on the Being (Feminine), that we also see centuries of hate, destruction, conquering and pushing out of the way for the status and success of leaders. The suppression of the Feminine Voice has, with it, suppressed acceptance, trust, curiosity, openness, and kindness. And while there are glimpses of it throughout our history, it is largely overshadowed.
Now, before we get into a gender debate. I am not blaming anyone living today for the actions of generations past, nor am I (and this is a biggie) saying the men are bad. Not at all. We are all (men and women) a beautiful mix of Being and Action. Allow me to elaborate
I’m sure you’re familiar with the famous symbol of yin and yang (a circle of black and white halves, each half containing a dot of the opposite colour.) The meaning is simple: In every part of Yang, there is always Yin and in every part of Yin, there is always Yang. Men and women are not exclusively Yang or Yin. We all have feminine and masculine qualities. We are all capable of perseverance, taking action and leading; AND we are all capable of kindness, acceptance, generosity, and love.
The feminine side in all of us is where our “Being” resides. It is where our soul/ spirit/ intuition/ whatever you call it lives to guide us along our path. It serves us by keeping us connected and open to ourselves and to others.
While the masculine is an incredible driver, our feminine being is what keeps us on purpose, compassionate and for everyone. We need both.
Today, many of us (men and women) are feeling a call to get closer to Being. We are moving into a space where we answer the call of our soul for experience and connection. At the same time, there is less emphasis on the ego’s need for excess. We seek abundance with joy and for all. We seek connection with new experiences and cultures and the freedom to find purpose in how we contribute to society.
Writing this piece, I could not avoid the current political climate and the feminist movement. In every avenue the movement has taken, #metoo, #timesup etc, you will notice the language of the masculine: aggressive, in-your-face and unapologetic. This is the language of today. It is the language we know and understand. On the flip side of that, you will notice the message is 100% feminine. It is not about taking over, conquering or exclusivity. It is not about eliminating men. It is simply about acceptance, fairness, a call to kindness and openness; a call to love. It is a call to humanity to connect to Soul and see that in order to have a lot, you don’t need to have it all. There is enough for everyone, there is space, love, and abundance for all.
This message runs through me and hits every cord I have. It is something I know I have felt very deeply for a very long time. It is something I did not always understand, connect to or know how to articulate, but I felt it.
Even before my rediscovery of me, when I was deeply insecure and would be judgmental, it always felt misaligned to my core. It felt off and wrong, but I had no idea how to fix it.
Can you relate? That sense that something feels a little misaligned, as if you are being pulled somewhere, but you’re not sure why or how to get there? I think this is a call to reconnect with Being. To let the Action in us relax a little, giving space to the Feminine voice to guide us home. Again, this is not about exclusivity. Men are invited to the party so there is no need to worry about hurting or disappointing the men that are in your life. Being is a part of all of us. This is not a war, but about restoring an internal balance. The female voice must rise up, it must stand strong in order to penetrate and connect with our overly masculine minds. We need to allow our bodies, minds, and souls to reconnect to Being so that we may reconnect with beauty, abundance, and love. It is not about taking over or kicking anyone out, it is about finding an equal and opposite push and pull, that guides us towards love.
How do you raise the Female Voice in you?
The best, most profound thing you can do to join the rise of the Female Voice is to connect to and accept your Being. Allow a sense of softness and femininity to pour into every part of your life. Invite kindness, openness, and compassion where you once responded with aggression, exclusivity, and judgment.
These qualities are powerful and can be deafening in contrast to the ever-present voice of action. Simple daily shifts towards acceptance will change your personal experience and simultaneously allow others to follow your light.
It starts with you. Choose to be the light wherever you find yourself. Do this by staying present in your truth and as your light shines, others will feel it and do the same. Embrace your feminine energy, your acceptance, your truth, your deep, loving Being.
In any situation, commit to responding with love Connect to love to embrace your feminine energy, your acceptance, your truth, your deep, loving Being.
Develop your own practice:
A Being practice can take many forms. You can cultivate it through meditation or yoga practice, allowing you to become increasingly connected to self. You can also simply see your practice as simple shifts in your approach and response to the world, choosing to respond with kindness, openness, and softness. It can be spiritual and/or practical, find the balance that works for you.
If you are hearing this call and in surrendering to Being, then I’m sure you are experiencing a deep sense of calm and, at the same time, a feeling of excitement to share and proclaim. As you do share your experience and newly discovered wisdom, please remember the Female Voice does not push or persist, it simply is. It invites light and love and embraces that light towards deeper connection, a softer sensibility and an open heart and mind.
Be patient, allow others to discover their own truth, their own path along this collective journey. Resistance is cultivated from fear and fear is easily fostered by a dominant voice. It is not for any of us to preach or proclaim, it is for us to share our light and be the example for those seeking the shift.
This month is all about owning your space. That means we need to talk about leaning into your desires, your calling and what you most want from life. Your dream might be to live as a digital nomad for a couple of years. To travel and have adventures. Great right? Well, the tricky thing is that your brain doesn’t see this as a simple win-win situation. It worries about you and can cause some very weird feelings and doubts around your dream.
You’ll find yourself worrying about whether your family will approve. You know they want you to settle and be stable and before you know it, you’ve talked yourself out of the travelling altogether.
Sound familiar? This might not be your exact situation, but I’m sure you recognize the pattern. We all have Fear or “ego” that blocks us from trying new things or moving forward with our business or hitting our next life milestone. We give into the anxiety, guilt and shame of what might go wrong, and we lose sight of what we were chasing in the first place. We choose to stay safe in our comfort zone because we convince ourselves that it is enough, that we’re satisfied and even happy.
Of course, this is rarely the result of staying put. It is when you leap forward, take a chance and actively pursue what you love that you find joy. In fact, you could say that a big difference between happy and unhappy people, is that the happy ones follow the love. They see the fear and go for it anyway. Despite all the worry, they choose to focus on the reward, the joy, the love.
But how on earth do they do that? Fear can be incredibly convincing, I know. It can make you believe the worst of others and even of your own abilities. For this reason, “the ego” has a petty bad rap. It is branded as the devil on your shoulder, a mean-spirited little guy that wants to hold you back from everything. I don’t buy it. There is a slightly more open concept that the only thing the ego knows is fear and it is simply trying to protect you from harm. It is like an over-protective grandma that would rather keep you in a bubble than risk something happening to you.
It doesn’t want you to risk falling in love because your heart might break again; or travel, because you’ll miss out on everything happening at home; or change careers, because it might not work out. It is even afraid of success. Yup, “success” is a big no-no for the ego. If you become successful, you would have to risk being seen, you might have more money than your friends, you might even meet people that operate on a level above you, you could become a mean person, lose your marriage, never see your kids… You get the idea…
We all have our own special cocktail of fears around success and while they make you feel guilty or ashamed or scared, it is not the ego’s intention to hurt you. It just the only way it knows how to keep you safe.
Accepting this truth was personal turning point for me. I faced my fearful ego and recognized it as the most vulnerable part of myself. In that moment I could stop fighting, stop resisting and attempt to quiet that inner voice. (All the resisting was only making it louder.) Instead I could see it with love, honour the fear and then simply let it go.
Thank you. Now just click on the Open button to get your cheat sheet.
Let me break that down for you.
When I notice that familiar feeling start to creep up, I ask myself, “Hey, what’s that about? What are you trying to show me?” Sometimes, simply asking this question in my head is enough to get an instant answer, other times I meditate and free write to reveal the deeper truth behind the fear.
Either way, once I see the deeper truth (the reason for the fear feeling), I can also see it’s innocent and unknowing intention. Almost instantly, that fear feeling becomes small and manageable. I can look it straight in the eye and say, “Appreciate the heads up, but I got this.”
Asking, “What are you trying to show me?” allows you to gain perspective, accept the protective intention behind the fear and soothe it, rather than fight it. You do not stop seeing the danger, but the reward/ goal stays in focus. You can feel grateful for, and accept, the warning. You know what you’re capable of and that you will be able to endure if the worst happens.
As you practice this, you will detect your fearful voice in its early stages, allowing you to move on faster and take bigger and bigger leaps towards your goals. This is how you lean into love, how to follow the joy.
So, accept your fear as your overly-cautious grandma and you’ll learn to look it straight in the eye, see the danger and go for it anyway. Not because you’re going against it (yourself), but because you know you’re strong enough to make it.
Have you ever tried meditating? I know it can seem daunting at first. You might have wondered how to do it or whether there’s some special thing you have to say or do. Perhaps you’ve tried and worried that you’re doing it wrong. Well, let me tell you a secret: You can’t do it wrong. While there are many guided and traditional options, there really is no elite or precise process you must follow. In this super simple guide to meditation, I’ll share some guidelines that can help you get started and find your path to #meditationjoy.
Set the scene
Space – Find your spot
Create a space that you find calming and quiet. You don’t need to overdo it. Find a spot, lay down your yoga mat, place a cushion or your favourite chair, and make sure you’re comfortable. If you ask me: I love the fresh air, but find a lot of outside noise a bit distracting, so I prefer a spacious but closed off space indoors.
I’m quite a practical girl and don’t have too much time, so I prefer not to fuss too much, but if the smell of incense, a crystal or a Buddha ornament helps you set the mood, add these to your space.
One thing I keep close when meditating is my journal. It stays closed and once the bell rings to bring me back, I pick it and write. I write about everything and anything for about 10 minutes. Sometimes, I have new clarity on an idea and it spills onto the page and sometimes I open and just free-write. I set the timer and continue writing until it goes off. You’ll be surprised at how revealing this can be about your current state of mind.
Music or no music?
Either. Really, there are no rules. Just keep your intention in mind. You are trying become still to tap into your inner guidance. For this reason, I personally prefer no music, as the silence helps me stay connected. There are, of course, times you need to drown out some other noise, or a busy inner-dialogue. If this is the case, opt for the classical or instrumental option so you don’t get sucked into lyrics.
Use a timer
Not too many of us have unlimited time available, which is why I find setting a timer allows me to stay in the present. I know that I won’t be late for my next engagement and I don’t worry whether I am doing it for long enough. Put your phone on do not disturb, set a calming tone as your ringer and keep it close for easy reach. Start with 10 minutes and increase or decrease as you need to.
The key is not to overthink or wait for the perfect moment. Sit down somewhere quiet, get comfortable and you’re 90% of the way there.
What do you meditate about/ for/ to?
While practicing a structured meditation (there are thousands of traditional practices you can follow if you are looking for a methodical or specific style) can have many benefits, it is not required to search for a guru or to focus the next 6 months on resolving your anxiety. Meditation is a lifelong practice that provides a pathway inward, towards your deepest truths. For this, you don’t need a schedule, but a willingness and openness to simply be still and to listen.
Rather than worry about the how, focus on your intention for today’s meditation practice. For most of us, we meditate because we seek connection or answers. Allow me to elaborate.
To become still and (re)connect to center:
Its primary intention is to stay connected, grounded so you may respond more resourcefully to triggers like stress or overwhelm. (It keeps you cool EMOJI.) When I am consistent with this practice, I honestly feel calmer and more together; I get a lot more done during the day and generally feel like I am moving towards my goals.
Find an answer to a question (or make a choice):
If something is troubling you, you may find that by simply offering it up to a greater force than yourself, you immediately feel lighter. From this place of relief, you are able to gain a new perspective that leads towards a conscious, connected and considered decision that moves you in the right direction.
It is not uncommon to meditate with a question in mind and not experience a huge moment of clarity during the practice. When this happens, open your journal and write about the question or challenge you are experiencing. It is almost as if the meditation brought a new perspective to the foreground and the writing allows you to see it and discover surprising solutions.
Begin by choosing your intention. If you are choosing to connect, let go of all expectation and focus on your breath and the prompts below. Allow yourself to clear your mind of busy thoughts and stay in tune with your breath.
Should you have a question, keep it in your mind. Try not to add an attached outcome to your question, like “How do I lose 3kgs by December.” Reframe your question in a way that allows for new solutions. Something like, “How do I stay focused on my health goals?” Essentially, you are asking for a new perspective, “How can I solve this problem/ reach this goal? I am open to new ideas.” Perhaps you are facing a choice. If so, you may want to ask, “Which of these options will keep me aligned and move me forward.”
Sit with your legs crossed on the floor or on a cushion. If you have trouble sitting like this for a while, sit on a chair with your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the earth. Rest the backs of your hands on your knees in a gesture of receiving. Lightly allow your eyes to close and take a deep breath in.
Feel the breath start at the base of your spine, move up the length of your back and pull up your torso, shoulders and head and neck. As you exhale, let your shoulders lower and settle into your spine in a comfortable, yet upright position.
Observe your chin and if you’re looking up, perhaps lower it to so that it rests parallel to the ground.
Now, bring your focus to your breath: Inhale through your nose, feeling as your breath travels into the base of the lungs as your belly expands with this new enriching oxygen. As you exhale, notice the reverse. Your belly and ribs collapse to release the air back up and out through your nose. Pause at the top of the outbreath.
After a few continuous rounds of focused breathing, the pause will create a light and spacious feeling in mind and body. Without chasing, keep breathing into that space and that feeling of expansion will gradually grow.
Thoughts will enter your mind. When they do, simply acknowledge them and then choose to let them go for now. Many people imagine the thought drift away on a cloud. Do what you need to do to and bring your attention back to breath. (Even saying the words “inhale,” “exhale,” can be helpful in bringing you back.)
Closing your practice
There are a number of ways you may seal your practice. While you find your preferred manner, I invite you to join me with this sweet and simple mantra of appreciation:
Once your timer goes off, calmly tap it to end the ringing. Then, with your eyes still closed, bring your hands to heart. Pressing your thumbs to your chest, say to yourself:
Thank you for your practice today
You are worthy of this time
I love you
Bow your head to your hands and gently blink your eyes open.
Meditation is a tool that anybody can include in their life. There is no pre-requisite and you can start anytime. Give the above suggestions a try and soon you’ll discover just how effortless and enriching meditation can be.
There seems to be a lot of confusion around Feminism. This confusion causes conflict, expectation and pressure that takes away from what it’s really all about. It is probably one of the most important movements of our lifetimes, and our grandparents’ lifetimes. It is a movement aimed at a simple ideal: equality.
Contrary to the popular belief that Feminism is exclusive to being a lesbian who hates men, fashion and makeup (although that is an option), it is simply about giving the same opportunities to all people, without judgement, expectation and prejudice.
It is not about women being better than men or renouncing everything that makes us feminine and it is not about creating another exclusive society that sets more rules to live by.