BALANCE YIN AND YANG TO STAY YOUNG AND HEALTHY

One of the primary effects of Tai-chi and Zookinesis practice is to keep the body and mind young.  The basic principle about how this can be accomplished is the balance of Yin/Yang energy in young vs. older people.  When a baby is born, according to these principles, it is all Yang energy (expansive).  As you get older you become more Yin (compressed).  Your body shrinks and your mind becomes more rigid.

The body and mind are most powerful when the expansive energy (Yang) exactly balances the compressive energy (Yin).  As an example, if a joint gets injured and the ligaments, tendons and muscles around that joint are damaged, the body starts healing.  If you just sit around and don’t move the joint a little, the repair job will be affected by the immobility of the joint.  The repair will be compressive, which means that you will have little flexibility.  This is why physical therapy is needed, partially to stretch the muscles and connective tissues around the joint so you will maintain flexibility.  When you stretch and use the joint, your body then knows how that joint is to be used and it repairs the joint with that “in mind”.  I healed a torn knee this way, without surgery. 

Tai-chi theory explains that the body does, in fact, have a mind (Body-Mind), which is aware of what needs to be done and intelligently adapts the repair to the needs of that part of the body.  Stretching and using the joint would be considered Yang, while giving the joint adequate rest would be Yin.  You need a balance for a good repair. 

There is another factor for the repair job to come out right.  Children, as noted above, are more Yang than adults (in general).  They will run around without worrying about the possibility of injury.  They love to move and use up energy, while adults like to sit and talk (in general).  If your body is repairing an injury and you are the type of person who doesn’t do much and doesn’t have much to look forward to doing after you get better, then your injury may not heal as well.  We all know about athletes who get injured on a regular basis and have many surgeries.  They want to get back into the game as soon as possible.  This Yang attitude helps their recovery.  They can’t wait to get better.  The Yang attitude of mind helps physical recovery. 

On the other hand, if they cut their recovery short and go back to the game too soon, they can re-injure themselves.  So again, a balance of Yin and Yang attitude is essential. 

When I was a zoologist, studying animal behavior in Central America, there was a troop of spider monkeys that passed by the research station every day.  The alpha (leading) male was battle-scarred.  He had lost two fingers on one hand and three on another.  One of his eyes was missing.  I asked one of the researchers how he could be the alpha male with all those injuries.  How could he even swing through the trees with all those fingers missing.  The researcher simply explained, “Attitude.  None of the other monkeys would dare mess with him.  And his attitude helps him to hang onto the branches with the few fingers he has.” 

Somehow I don’t think that monkey spent much of his time whining about his physical condition.  I resolved back then to always remember that monkey if I ever started whining about anything. 

Another story:  A researcher had just come back from Ecuador where he met a man who kept marine iguanas as pets.  They were housed in a fenced in area in his back yard.  At that time, and even today I believe, zoos were not able to keep marine iguanas alive in captivity.  So the researcher was sent to find out this man’s secret.  What did he feed the iguanas (which normally eat algae on rocks under the water)?   He fed them scraps from his table along with scraps of vegetables he got free from the local market.  “But this is not the natural food for marine iguanas!” complained the researcher.  The man explained that he loved his iguanas and they loved him.  They were very happy.  So it didn’t matter what they ate, as long as they were happy.  Food going into a happy iguana, he explained, turns into a healthy iguana. 

The point of all this is that an iguana or a person who looks forward to and is excited by each day is in a healthy state of being.  A person who whines and worries about each day is in an unhealthy state of being.  The excitement of life adds Yang energy, which can compensate for the tendency to become more and more Yin as you get older. 

In the Tai-chi practice of Push Hands, this principle goes one step further.  (In Push Hands, two people stand facing each other and try to throw each other off balance).  There is a tendency to tense up (to condense) when trying to push the partner.  That tension makes you rigid and your partner can use your rigidity to actually push you over instead.  So you are taught to relax your back and let it sink into the ground.  This relaxation and grounding then sends energy upward and forward, pushing the partner over without needing to tense up.  You are using relaxation to generate force. 

The principle here is turning Yin energy (relaxation) into Yang energy (the release of your energy upward and forward).  You are transforming Yin into Yang.  When your partner pushes you, you take that Yang energy and sink it downward into your “root” and compressing your legs.  You have turned his Yang energy into your Yin energy (compressed legs which is potential energy).  As you are grounding his Yang energy, you are sinking your back into your root again and then pushing him with your own Yang energy plus his Yang energy which you stored in your compressed legs. 

And so Push Hands is the art of transforming Yin and Yang energy in a continuous flow of motion until one person gets the upper hand due to greater skill (not due to greater strength).  You learn to balance and use Yin and Yang so the body stays relaxed yet powerful.  This keeps both the body and mind young. 

In everyday life you can stop for a moment to assess your balance of Yin and Yang.  Do you feel your body and mind compressing or expanding too much?  You will learn to develop a balance that will keep you healthier and younger. 

You may say, “What if I don’t have anything to look forward to?”  This reminds me of an experience I had when in nursery school.  I was always happy.  A girl came over to me and asked, “Why are you so happy?”  I couldn’t figure out why I was happy, so from that time on, I wasn’t happy anymore.  My state of unhappiness led my mind to contemplate unhappy things so as to explain why I was now not happy.  It took many years to remember that turn in the road that led me in the unhappy direction. 

Tai-chi training taught me the relationship between mind and body.  That relationship is more “me” than either one alone.  Identifying with the balance of mind and body then allows you to enter into a balanced relationship with your environment.  By starting with balancing Yin and Yang energy in your life, you are led to the balance of mind and body and then to the balance of yourself with your environment.  This is truly the basis of health and keeping young.

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