Have you ever let a houseplant go too long without water? The soil gets so hard and dry that water doesn’t even penetrate the surface. You have to submerge it fully in a bucket or in the sink and just let it soak. Sometimes we need a good soak too. Especially this time of year.
We get dried out like that poor houseplant by too much mental activity, multitasking, stimulants (like coffee), and pushing through our body’s signs that we’re tired. We can literally burn up our yin.
Yin is the anchor, the foundation, the raw material we use to build a life. It’s the energy we use to go to sleep, to breathe, to pause, to contemplate, to take in new ideas and assimilate information.
Often times, when yin is deficient, there will be heat signs such as a flushed face or hot palms in the afternoon, agitation, dry eyes or trouble falling asleep. Here, it’s not necessarily that there is too much heat in the body, it’s that yin is so low that it can’t anchor the yang. This is called empty fire, and nourishing yin is what’s called for.
It’s a tricky thing. When there’s a problem, we usually want to take action to “fix” it. When we’re deficient in yin, however, this approach will just exacerbate the problem. We need to take a step back, slow down and gently begin to incorporate more yin activities in our lives. Some areas where you can start:
Get enough quality sleep
What fits the above analogy of soaking a dry plant better than spending a full 8 hours resting your body and mind? Drink it up! Life runs on sleep, so make sure your tank is full.
You know what else life runs on? Food. And life can make much better use of the food you eat when you’re not shoving it down while doing other things. I know. This is a hard one. I have 6 siblings, so growing up, I learned to eat very fast in what was often a chaotic dinner scene. It takes tons of attention to slow down. But everything is more delicious when you do. (And if it’s not more delicious when you eat slowly, maybe you shouldn’t be eating it.)
Practice a cultivational exercise like yoga, qi gong, tai chi
If you’re a hot yoga kind of person you may not necessarily need to give that up (although we did sometimes refer to it in acupuncture school as yin-burning yoga). But at least balance it out with a different kind of practice. One where you’re building more energy than you’re expending. As my yoga teacher told me, we need to be just as committed to practicing our resting poses as we are to our more active ones.
This is one of the most powerful ways to build yin and to access that part of you that is whole and complete already. It fosters a deep surrender, leaving space for new things to come.
Really, the main thing, just slow down. Sometimes getting sick is the only way the body knows how to slow you down. So slow down preemptively!
Take a moment now and carve out time on your calendar for building up some yin. I just scheduled a backpacking trip for myself in October. Even though part of me is saying, No! You’re too busy! A much wiser part is saying, You need to do that. It doesn’t have to be a whole weekend. Block off an hour to go for a quiet hike, or read a book in bed, or make soup.