One definition of yoga is that it is the union of opposites.
Two of the opposites that yoga can unify are yin and yang. We can think of yin as a more cooling style of yoga where the focus is on letting go while yang is more heated and perhaps a little more forceful. Another definition of these two opposites, and one that hopefully allows us to unify the two is that yin is using our senses while yang is responding to what we sense.
I believe that one of the keys of doing anything well is developing our ability to both to sense what we are doing our ability to respond to what we sense. The idea that ties these two opposites together is knowing what we are trying to do. By knowing what we are trying to do we can give ourselves the room to do just that or look for the way to create that room. Rather than forcing what we are trying to do we can listen and look for the easy way to get what we are doing done. Doing a yoga pose the thing that we can learn to sense our control is our body. The thing that we can be trying to do is a yoga pose. If we talk to our body while we are doing yoga, telling it what we are trying to do and then listen the response we can find the way to do the pose to the best of our bodies ability.
Doing a low lunge, perhaps with the hands on the floor, our intent might be to let the pelvis sink down so as to stretch the front of one leg and open the back of the hip of the other. Being relaxed enough to be able to feel the weight of our pelvis we can allow it to sink down. We can at the same time notice if we are holding tension that inhibits our ability to let our pelvis sink down. We can let that tension go by a slight (or major) repositioning of our body that allows the muscles that are tense to “let go”. Or we can simply become conscious of the fact that we are holding tension and let it go. Or we can try squeezing and then relaxing the tense muscle, perhaps in time with our breath. With a clear idea of what we are trying to do we can guide the way we direct our senses and also how we respond to what we sense. We can let tension go. We can also use it.
Being able to feel our body and control it and understand it we can also use muscular tension to help us get deeper into a pose. Again using the lunge as an example, say we still want to sink our pelvis down. Adding a little more intent to the pose we might imagine the back leg lifting, trying to use the muscles at the back of the back leg to lift that leg. Not a “contract everything” contraction, but a controlled contraction, just enough to cause the knee to straighten and to make the back leg feel as if it is lifting. But instead of lifting the leg, by activating these muscles, we add weight to our pose. We use the weight of the back leg connected (via muscle contraction) to that of the pelvis to help our pelvis to sink lower. We can hold the contraction and then release it or we can pulse it with the breath. We can also play with the amount of contraction while noticing the effects of what we are doing.
Developing our ability both to sense and control our body while leading it with a clear intent we are not only unifying yin and yang, we are also unifying our mind and our body. Instead of them being two separate entities, we help them work together. The mind can sense what the body can do while the body is able to easily respond to what the mind requests.
By using our senses we can then direct the energy we send outwards in such a way that we do what we are trying to do.
We get to the point where there is no lag between the mind sensing and choosing and the body responding. They instead act as one.