You hit the gym hard and you eat well, yet you can’t sleep, feel low and can’t shift that belly fat. Sound familiar? Then you might need to balance your fitness yin and yang.
What is Yin and Yang?
In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (‘dark-bright’) describe how opposite forces in the natural world can complement each other. The balance of these two energies leads to optimum health and potency.
The table below shows the characteristics of each:
|Internal energy||External energy|
The importance of having a balance of these two forces is applicable to all things, whether it be what we eat, who we hang out with, our environment or the language we use.
So how can we achieve it in our fitness?
Solely doing ‘yang’ type workouts, e.g. excessive heavy weights, boot camps or HIIT training, can elevate testosterone levels excessively and leave you feeling fried, unable to relax, and can also impede muscle recovery and flexibility. Mixing in a bit of mind/body training like Pilates can redress the balance, help prevent injury and aid recovery whilst still working towards strength and conditioning goals.
When you do your workout is also important. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol, when sustained, is linked to increased belly fat, diabetes and high blood pressure. So if you have come from an already stressed school drop off to your early morning Spin class, your high cardio workout could take those raised cortisol levels even higher. Simply switching to a Spin class later in the day, when your cortisol levels have dropped towards normal, can mean that the workout will be far more beneficial in terms of weight loss, cardio health and general well being.
There are plenty of examples of how world class sports people have significantly boosted their performance by finding better Yin/Yang balance:
The former world champion kick boxer Chris Algieri has practised meditation and yoga-like stretching for over 20 years. Finding mental calm in the middle of an aggressive bout helps him gain the upper hand. Ryan Giggs credits the fact that he is still playing football at 38 to Pilates.
What other ways can you increase your Yin energy?
- Walk in nature.
- Practise barefoot workouts like Yoga and Pilates to feel more ‘earthed’.
- Go on a retreat.
And let’s not forget that the balance works the other way too: if you do a lot of nurturing in your life, as parent, teacher or carer say, and only do more introverted practices like Yoga or Pilates, you may want to try some more extroverted workouts like Zumba, circuits or running.
To quote the American writer and mystic Thomas Merton:
‘Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.’
Note from author: this article was inspired by a talk given by Nicola Hobbs at a Women In Fitness Event I attended. Nicola is an Olympic weight lifter and Yoga teacher.
Julia Willmott is a fitness expert based in Petersfield, Hampshire.
She runs one day wellness retreats mixing Pilates, Zumba and Meditation.
Visit http://www.juliawillmott.com to find out more.