Monday, August 2, 2010

Yin and Yang Integration

Men and women climb differently. They move differently, learn differently, process information differently and mentally approach climbing all together differently. Yet, both can climb the same climb and you may not notice much of a difference at all in their internal processes when the outcome is the same. Now before I get a bunch of emails about being sexist or stereotyping, let me explain.

Men and women bring different strengths and different ways of being and knowing to climbing. Both feminine and masculine styles are valuable in knowing and understanding to help your climbing grow. Understanding both styles can help you assess where your own climbing is at and where it may need to go in order to grow and get past a plateau. When we are stuck in our climbing development we often need to broaden our perspective and apply what is missing in order to get unstuck. Thinking about different climbing styles is one of those perspectives.

Having a feminine or masculine style of climbing is not limited to what sex you are. I have known lots of women climbers who embrace a more masculine style of climbing (think muscular boulderers). And I have known male climbers with more grace and subtlety than their female counterparts. Whatever style you seem to inhabit most often is fine – until you reach a plateau. A plateau may indicate that you are developing too much of one style over the other and you have lost a key balance that is needed to keep growing both physically and mentally.

Different rock climbing styles are best likened to the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang. Wikipedia says “Yin and yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, although yin or yang elements may manifest more strongly in different objects or at different times. Yin and yang constantly interacts, never existing in absolute stasis… Though they are opposing, they are not in opposition to one another.”

Climbing has many yin and yang components that we juggle and balance each time we go climbing (see Table 1).

Yin and Yang Table by Rana Betting Climbs may draw upon different components depending on the rock and the route. For example, I find crack climbing to be more masculine (yang) in its approach. Grunting up cracks often leaves me feeling like I lack grace in my movements. But if I get on a bolted face climb (more yin) then I feel my movements open up and the feeling of grace returns. It doesn’t mean that cracks cannot be climbed gracefully. Anyone who has ever watched a video of Steph Davis climbing a crack knows it can look graceful. It just means that I have a hard time climbing them gracefully. I have over developed my face climbing yin skills and I need to consciously develop more of my crack climbing yang skills to compensate and grow. How about you? Where in the balance of yin and yang climbing styles could you use a little more growth or development?

We may also be unconsciously drawn to a style of climbing that best fits with a way we already relate to the world. Assessing the levels of yin and yang in our personality as a whole may give us some clues as to why our climbing development may be stuck. Think of your career or your relationships. Do they have more yang qualities than yin? Or more yin qualities than yang? This information could correlate to your climbing style. Climbing reflects life. Life reflects climbing.

That last concept will be one that I come back to again. I believe that climbing has a lot to teach us about our life in general. But I also believe that our climbing often reflects the chaos or peace in our lives. How is it reflecting yours right now?

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