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Richard's 3 Step Yang Yin Breathing Exercise

T'ai chi t'u. The primal beginning. Yin and Yang.

What is this yang yin thing, anyway?

Yang, originally, was simply whatever was clearly visible, illuminated by the sun.

Yin was whatever was hard to see, in the shade.

During the period between the Ch'in and Han dynasties in China, Yang/Yin was the hit theme for explaining everything; still is in much of the modern world. It is the foundation for our concept of body/spirit, a physical, observable, "material world" and an unseen "spiritual" dimension.

Yang and Yin, what we see and what we can't see, came to represent all forms of polarity. The ancient Chinese philosophers picked Yang and Yin because light and dark are the primal polarity in the cosmos. This also makes good sense when applied to the modern concept of cognition. It is, in fact, very similar to the error of expectations; what we think the world is like, versus what is hidden from us until it surprises us.

Yang and yin are revealed by the very thing they create, awareness. And awareness creates the focus of being that does the toroidal process of drawing in, blending together, responding, and observing.

Yin / Yang = Polarity.

Everybody knows about polarity. But we didn't always know about it. The Chinese "created" the concept of polarity two or three thousand years ago. The original metaphor was a ridgepole. A pole creates, well, poles. Linear polarity.

One end of the pole is different from the other, though they are both part of the same pole. The pole creates polarity in many directions. Above and below the pole, left and right of the pole. Poles.

Chinese philosophers saw polarity, and the tension between them, as being responsible for all existence. The most basic, elemental polarity of all was - yang and yin; what you see versus what you don't; the world we know and the one beyond the horizons of our perceptions.

T'ai chi t'u. The primal beginning. Yin and Yang.Change is how polarity comes about (look from one end of the pole to the other, change directions). The recognition of change, as a concept related to polarity, leads to the concept of a cycle of becoming with the two polar forces never quite coming together.

Hence, the circular form of the primal beginning t'ai chi t'u (the famous yang/yin symbol).

Poles are different aspects of the same event, not different things in themselves. Thus Heads (yang) and tails (yin) are polar sides of the same coin.

The primal powers of yang/yin cycle continuously, created by the tension between them. In this ancient metaphor, the tension between yin (our hard to see future) and yang (the surprise of what happens) is the error of expectations. It is awareness and this drives the process (cycle) of becoming.



Light Dark
Firm Yielding
Male Female
Positive Negative
Material Spiritual
Objective World Ideal, archtypic world


Tao (literally "The Way") maintains the world by constant renewal of the tension between polar forces. This power is defined as "Good."

Tao is analogous to the Thread of Awareness in Chaos. It is the control network, the feedback system, the evolutionary learning that generates and renews the tension between what living creatures expect and what is revealed.

All things are brought into focus by Tao. It is the center of the vortex of becoming, the nucleus of individuality. Tao reveals itself according to the traits of the observer. To some Tao is love, supreme kindness. To others, Tao is wisdom. Tao is seen by others as change because the dark begets light and the light begets dark in endless alteration.

Click here for some added thoughts about the Thread of Awareness and Mythology.

This could go on forever, too. But you get the idea - polarity, change, cycling back and forth, tracking.  The Chinese developed a whole philosophy on the subject of yang and yin and a truly miraculous book (I Ching) that is fun to predict the future with.

However, polarity is more interesting to experience than talk about, so lets get on with it.


Yang. The seen, objective world - the pole away from your center of being. Flowing out from you.

Yin. The unseen, subjective world - the pole towards you, moving into your center of being. Flowing into you.

Outdoors. A nice place to exercise. Clean air is essential.

First Course:

  1. Get walking fast or start jogging, using any variation of Richard's 3 step, to harmonize the rhythm of your movement, heart and breathing.

  2. The Yang Yin exercise begins by leading off with the left foot and starting to inhale while mentally saying the word Yin (in).

    • Keep inhaling and thinking Yin (flowing in towards you) for three steps (left-right-left) then

  3. On the next right step you start exhaling and think yang (flowing out from you).

    • Exhale for the three steps (right-left-right).

It's easy enough to do. If you are doing it correctly you will always start inhaling on a left stride, exhaling on a right.

YIN (inhale) left - right - left.

YANG (exhale) right - left - right.

When you think the words yin or yang, you are supposed to FEEL their meaning, the polarity in and out;  drawing into yourself, flowing away from yourself. Concentrate on air doing just that. Use the words as a mind lens to focus on the relationship they describe. The relationship.

And continue, in and out, while you jog right along.

Pick up the pace, Yin and Yang speeds up, breathing speeds up, feet  speed up, heart speeds up. The brain speeds up. Hit a stride it all stays right there together. In perfect harmony. In and out, left and right, driving you along the way.

When you feel it all going smoothly, once or twice during your exercise period, heighten the experience with a sensory yawn.

Second Course:

After you do the Richards 3 Step Yang Yen for 20 minutes over a period of a couple of days it gets automatic - even thinking the words yin and yang (in and out).

When it becomes automatic, you discover you are just saying the words and forgetting to focus on their meaning.

You discover you are walking or running along nicely but have somehow reversed the left/right feet breathing order so you are breathing out when thinking yin and possibly starting to breathe in while stepping out with the right foot.

Or you discover that for the last 10 minutes or so your brain has gone off bickering with itself over the minor details of your convoluted life while some small, automated part of you keeps yinning and yanging.

The good news is you have learned Richard's 3 Step Yang Yin. The bad news is that you are no longer paying the slightest attention to what you are doing. You are no longer "with it" on the Way. Discipline is critical if you want to mess with the elemental forces of reality and get away with it. Boredom is just a yin away.

So now we will complicate your exercise enough to bring your brain back on the road with you.

A Physical Mantra

  1. Think about the air going into your lungs (yin) and feel your lungs expanding. The opposite for exhaling (yang).

  2. Concentrate on this for awhile and then focus on your chest expanding when you inhale and contracting while you exhale; shifting your point of view from the air movement to your chest movement.

  3. To facilitate this, try moving your arms out to the side when you inhale, as if you were streaching out wide, and then bringing your arms in again as you exhale. (Yes, I know it looks silly walking along throwing your arms out and back but perhaps you can do this when you are not being observed).

  4. As you walk along, your chest expands out and contracts. Because you are moving, this motion describes a sine curve relative to your path as shown below. The curve expands out when you breathe in (filling your lungs) and becomes smaller when you exhale.

    Looking down from the top of the sine curve as the chest expands out and contracts while breathing while running.

  1. Concentrate on the flow, the polarity, the sine wave expanding outward as your lungs expand, while the air flows into you (Yin - Left Right Left), contracting inward, lungs compressing, while the air flows out of you (Yang - Right Left Right).

  2. When you get this down pat, pay attention to the change in polarity. There is a point where you stop either inhaling or exhaling and reverse the direction. These are the inflection points of the sine wave curve.

    • These changes in direction are interesting to observe.

    • Watch the inflections, feel the change.

  3. Next try this nifty shift.

    • The sine wave moves out, away from you while the air is moving in towards you.

    • The direction of your chest expansion is out, away, but the air is coming in towards you.

    • When your chest moves in, the air moves out.

    • Focus on this simultaneous reverse polarity, feel it.

    • All the while you are breathing in (three steps) out (three steps) thinking yin, yang, and visualizing the sine wave expanding and contracting at chest height, parallel to the road.

This is an important view of polarity, good to experience. Yin is in and you breathe in, but at the same instant the expansion of the sine wave - your chest - is moving out away from you. Chew that over as a kind of mental trail snack as you move on down the road.

All this, once you have practiced a few days, will become a pleasant, easy, rhythmic, harmonious, experience. There is enough counting, yinning and yanging, sine waving, inflection point watching, observing the strange duality of movement to and from your center at the same instant to keep the brain right there with you. For awhile.

For Desert:

Here is the kicker. You may do it spontaneously.

Focus on the sine wave moving out from your center as you breathe in and change the word Yin to Yang - because the direction of your chest is away from you.

Just exchange Yin for Yang in your rhythm. And think of the movement of air from the viewpoint of the atmosphere.

When you inhale, you take the air from the atmosphere - as your expanding chest pushed it out of the atmosphere into your lungs. So from the view of the atmosphere, the air is flowing out of it (Yang - outwards).

When you exhale, your chest collapses and the air flows into the atmosphere (Yin - inwards). Suddenly, the polarity of the sine wave is in harmony with the yin and yang movement of the air - it moves away from you and the air moves away from the atmosphere.

The inspiration is your yin and the expiration is your yang but your inspiration is the yang of the wind as it gives itself to you and your breathing out is its yin as it accepts your exhalation.

You will find this exercise, when done running or walking energetically, gives you a direct physical experience of a series of primary relationships that establish the thread of awareness.

Like a fractal pattern, this exercise develops deeper and more interesting patterns the more you investigate it.

You are, after all, experiencing the primal forces of Yin and Yang on all levels, from the atomic exchange of elements to the bloom of cellular activity, to the mental awareness of the forces of polarity, and more.

It's healthy and fun, too.


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