shape shifting, Squak, dec 2014

Hey there mist mavens,

For the last two weeks my first flu in a decade has totally consumed me. I'm wracked by fever, chills, and fatigue: acute yang excess. As I transit through a month spent a little slower than I'd like, I'm reflecting on the yang nature of the majority of my alpine practice. Discipline and leaving it all on the slope come easy for me and many other mountain movers; our culture encourages our overreaching tendencies. Western society gravely truncates our learning about yin elements essential to a balanced athletic practice.

Yin and Yang
(in Chinese philosophy and religion) two principles, one negative,dark, and feminine (yin) and one positive, bright, and masculine (yang) whose interaction influences the destinies of creatures and things.

What is yang to a mountain athlete? Your get-up-and-go, the power that you dig for to charge the final hill on your long run; your pep, verve, light. 

Why add yin to my practice? When we dip into our yang reserves, we get depleted and can run the risk of prolonged stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (I talked about the signs and symptoms of that here). 

How can I yin out? Yin is about doing less, going inward to clean up the self, or sometimes termed the strength in letting go. This essentially feminine (not to be confused with female) energy allows us to re-produce, re-juvenate, re-view--all key elements of a deep, integrated athletic practice. 

Tiny yin practices: Sit in meditation for a few minutes. Better yet, try out some yoga nidra. Transform your bonk windows into grace windows by walking and feeding your way into them, practice positive self talk when you cycle in to them understanding that you'll bounce back. Get enough sleep. Take quiet breaks from hectic days of work or mountain travel.

Major yin practices: Balanced yin energy is less about what an athlete does and more about how the practice is conducted. Try to sense this first by finding the position of relative rest in your ambulation: the efficient gait of your uphill run, the tiny rests between moves on the rock, lengthy pauses between steps at altitude. Implement a cyclic training practice, one that involves a balance between pushing yourself and mindful recovery. Meet with your favorite Chinese medicinal practitioner (acupuncturist, nutritionist, or ND) to discover the right foods and treatments to help you into balance. 

As with any balance worth attaining, one is unlikely to hit the perfect balance and maintain it perpetually. Seasonal, hormonal, and other fluctuations in energy or inspiration will (and should) dictate whether an athlete focuses on her outgoing yang practice or her rebuilding yin practice. These fluctuations can (and will) switch on a macro cycle of years or a micro scale of minutes within an activity. 

I hope you've enjoyed this new topic and look forward to bringing you more in depth explorations of how balance feeds your skiing, biking, running, climbing, surfing, walking self.