October 28, 2019
The PHILOSOPHY of TAOISM and YIN YOGA
Taoism is a philosophy and wisdom tradition dating back 2,500+ years from ancient China.
The Taoists dedicated their lives to syncing up with the natural rhythms of nature. As they tapped into the great powers of the universe, the Taoists discovered a path of living in balance and harmony.
In this special episode, from Travis’ popular yin yoga program, “Flexibility & Beyond,” he shares the background of Taoism including the origin of the Tao Te Ching, the concept of yin, yang, and chi.
Hope you enjoy this inspiring episode!
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FULL TRANSCRIPT [The following is the full transcript of this episode of “The BE ULTIMATE Podcast.” Please note that this is direct from Travis speaking unscripted and unedited.]
Hey guys and welcome to The Philosophy of Taoism.
Now, first things first. Taoism isn’t a religion. It’s really more of a philosophy. And I want to share the little bit that I know about Taoism with you because we are doing a program that’s really focused on yin yoga. The truth is, is this concept of yin yoga comes from this philosophy of the Tao.
Now, Taoism dates back to around 550 BC in ancient China.
The word Tao means “the path” or “the way.”
But as many Taoists say, “You can’t name the Tao. You can’t label the Tao and to do so would be an impossible task.” But if we had to, you could look at it as the path and the way. So, what is it a path to? And what is it the way out of and the way into?
Well, it’s really the path of being in harmony with the laws and the rhythms of nature.
So the Taoists, they love nature. And they saw themselves as one with nature. They didn’t see themselves as disconnected or separate of nature. And they noticed that the more that they disconnected from the rhythms of nature, then the more unhappy they became, and the more suffering that they felt, and the more likely that they were to create imbalance and disease, and things just didn’t seem right.
And then adversely, they noticed that the more that they really harmonized with the natural flow of nature, the more health that they experienced, the more happiness that they experienced, and the more harmony that they felt not only within themselves but also within their communities.
A big component of Taoist philosophy is respecting the natural laws of nature.
Now, one of the original forces of Taoism was a wise man named Lao-Tzu.
Lao-Tzu lived in this kingdom for a long time, and everybody in this kingdom, they knew that he was a special person. Anytime they had issues, they would go see Lao-Tzu to ask him for help, to go get wisdom from him. One day, Lao-Tzu, he felt like he had fulfilled his role of living in the city. Being a lover of nature, he was ready to go out of the kingdom and go up into the mountains and live in quiet solitude. That’s what his heart was drawn to. He was about to leave the kingdom, one of the guards spotted him and they recognized him as the wise man. And he said, “Hey, Lao-Tzu, where are you going?” Lao-Tzu said, “I’m going off into the mountains to go meditate, to be one with nature.” The guard pleaded, pleaded Lao-Tzu to not go. That there would be a void in this kingdom if he left. Where would people go to, to seek advice to help them out within their life? Lao-Tzu insisted that he wouldn’t stay and that he would go, but he did promise the guard he would write down his knowledge into a book. And so right on the spot, he composed the book that became known as the Tao Te Ching.
One of my favorite quotes from the Tao Te Ching is, “To one who finds stillness, the entire universe surrenders.”
The Tao Te Ching is one of my favorite books. It’s one of those books you can read many times over and over. And you can read it before you go to bed at night. And just a few passages brings your mind into a state of deep peace and harmony.
So when Lao-Tzu talks about, “To one who finds stillness the whole universe surrenders,” what he’s really speaking to is the stillness of the mind and also the stillness of emotions and sensations. And the stillness of our identity and our ego.
The Taoists believe our ego and our identity can become like a cage that cuts us off from the world around us. And so, these practices, whether it’s through Taoism or yoga or many of the ancient wisdom traditions, is really about transcending the ego. It’s about transcending the limitations of our five senses because we know from science our five senses are incredibly limited. The information your five senses are communicating to you is not really presenting the whole picture.
It really wasn’t until physics came along that it began to affirm what the Taoists believed. So when you look at a cell, a cell is made of a constellation of molecules. And then, when you penetrate into the molecules, the molecules are made of a constellation of atoms. And then what are the atoms made of? Well, the atoms are made of what we call subatomic energy. So that’s electrons, neutrons, protons. And these subatomic particles, they are the building blocks for the entire material world.
Now, it took thousands of years for science to figure this out, but the Taoists, they knew this a long, long time ago. So for example, when a Taoist looks at a tree, they don’t just see wood and branches and leaves. They’re actually able to see and penetrate into the wood. And they’re able to penetrate the cells and the fibers of the wood. Into the molecules of the wood. Into the atoms of the wood. And into the subatomic particles of that wood.
When a Taoist sees a tree, they see it as a dancing flow of pulsating energy.
Now, what is that pulsating energy?
In yoga, we call it prana. The ancient Egyptians, they call it Ra. But the Taoists, they have their own word. And that word was Chi.
Chi is the field of energy created when the Big Bang of our universe happened. And the Taoists believe that ever since that Big Bang happened, this field of energy pervades throughout the entire universe in the deepest of ways.
And then, out of this field of energy, energy can materialize into one of two categories: yin and yang. So yang energy represents things that are active, light, bright, fiery, masculine, and strong.
On the other side of the coin, yin, symbolizes qualities like receptivity, coolness, darkness, passiveness, deepness, and more of a feminine energy.
Everything falls into one of those two categories either yang or either yin.
You probably have seen the famous Taoist yin and yang symbol, the circular symbol, and one side is dark and one side is light.
The dark side represents yin and the light side represents yang. And if you look at that symbol running down the middle is a snake-shaped curve. And what that curved shape represents is that the yang flows into the yin and that the yin flows into the yang. That really they’re not separate of each other, but they’re constantly dancing and interacting with each other. And that inside the dark side of the circle, you’ll always see a little circle that’s light and bright. And then on the other side, you’ll always see a little circle that is the opposite. And this represents that within yang you have yin, and within yin you also have yang.
I hope that this provides you a little bit of context on the Taoist philosophy and the Taoist thought. Because what we’re really doing within this flexibility and beyond program for these eight weeks is we’re strengthening the yin aspect of who we are. And what I hope you’ll find that as you move through this program is the more yin that you do, stronger that your yang becomes. That your yin will feed your yang. And that by the end of these eight weeks that you will find a balance and a blend and a synergy between both worlds. Because it’s my belief that when you find those it’s like finding two wings of a bird then you’re taking flight.
So thank you for listening. Hope you found this useful. And I look forward to seeing you on the mat in one of our practices.