Darkness is not the absence of light. Fear is not the absence of love. They are both contained within each other. Like the Chinese yin/yang symbol, there is darkness in the light, and there is light in the darkness. Our mission is not to abolish the darkness, but rather to balance it, for it is through darkness that we appreciate the brilliance of the light.

In yoga practice, we often work with the play of opposites to help us find center. For example, you might oscillate between spinal flexion and extension in cat and cow to help you find center in a neutral spine. The goal is never to be only flexed or only extended, but rather to be able to move fluidly between the two and to find balance in the center. A neutral spine is not a rejection of flexion or extension, but rather an even balance between those two forces.

The same is true for our emotions. We cannot expect to feel good all the time. And that isn’t the point of our practice. The point of our practice is to be able to hold space for the good and the bad at the same time, and to recognize that they are two aspects of one whole. Instead of holding on to the things we like or prefer, and pushing away the things we dislike or avoid, eventually, we begin to ride the waves as they peak and as they fall. With practice, we are no longer knocked over by each wave that passes through.

Every breath is a reminder of the nature of impermanence and the play of opposites. Every inhale becomes an exhale. Every exhale gives birth to a new inhale. Each breath contains both the fullness of the inhale and the emptiness of the exhale. The inhale and the exhale are not separate things; they are two aspects of one complete breath.

Just like the breath, our goal is not to abolish fear, but to balance it with love. Our goal is not to avoid discomfort, but to balance it with ease.  May your yoga practice help you to stay grounded and steady like a mountain, even when the winds of change are blowing fiercely. May you ride the waves with fluidity and grace. May you remember the deep and abiding truth at the core of your heart, and have the courage to keep your heart open in the face of fear. As Valarie Kaur says, “May you see no stranger,” and approach each moment, situation, and being as “a part of you that you do not yet know.” May the fire of transformation inspire you to carry your practice off your mat, and to transform the seeds of violence and oppression into compassion and love.

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