Yin Yoga: Cultivate the wholeness of the heart

Viewed from Earth, the sun rises and sets. As the sun moves, day changes to night. From the apparent sun’s movement, the shining sun manifests on Earth as two appearances: Yin and Yang.

Yang: daytime, the sun is visible.

Yin: nighttime, the sun is invisible.

Like the sun dominating life on Earth, the heart is the monarch of the body. Be aware that the Chinese character “heart (Xin)” not only refers to the physical organ heart but also refers to the mind. And the health of the heart cannot be achieved by (Yang) physical cardio exercise alone but also needs the (Yin) stillness of the mind. Anyone who has had the experience of being sleepless at night will know the importance of quieting the mind. Yin yoga practice helps us explore ways to settle down and be calm.

As we know, instead of the sun’s movement, day and night are caused by the Earth rotating on its axis. Similarly, we cannot expect the restless mind to naturally settle down by itself. The heart-mind (Xin) corresponds to the element fire and has the characteristic of being upward and flickering like the fire. We, ourselves, need to do the initial work to calm down. Yin yoga is practiced without noticeable movement, but it’s not necessarily passive. During a long holding pose, we guide our mind to our chosen direction—to settle down. It’s a proactive process, even though it’s invisible to others.

One way to quiet the mind is through mindfulness breathing, which we have mentioned in Yin Yoga: What we can do while holding the pose. Besides mindfulness breathing, we can also practice loving-kindness (Metta), an ideal exercise for both the heart and mind. The practice of loving-kindness is simple: reciting Metta verses in mind, putting the whole heart into the verses. The following verses are from Biff Mithoefer The Yin Yoga Kit: The Practice of Quiet Power, my favourite verses.

May I be free of fear and harm
May I be happy just the way I am
May I be at peace with whatever comes 
And may I learn to live gently in the softness of my own heart. 

May all my family be free of fear and harm
May they be happy just as they are 
May they be at peace with whatever comes

And may they live gently in the softness of their own hearts. 

May all beings be free of fear and harm
May we be happy just as the way we are
May we all be peace with whatever comes  
And may we all live gently in the softness of our own hearts. 

A complete day consists of both daytime (Yang) and nighttime (Yin). A whole healthy heart includes a strong physical heart that is active (Yang) and a trained mind that is capable of quiet (Yin). Cultivate the wholeness of the heart, for a vibrant day and a restful night!


Biff Mithoefer, The Yin Yoga Kit: The Practice of Quiet Power (Rochester: Healing Arts Press, 2006), p77 -78.

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