Yin & Yang

Despite the esoteric-sounding title of this post, the main message that I’m going to convey here is, quite simply, Balance.

Yin and Yang is a concept in Asian philosophy that is used to describe how seemingly contradictory forces are often interconnected and interdependent. Opposites can only exist in relation to one another.

But enough of the philosophical expositions, let’s get down to how the idea of balance can help you in your everyday life.

Our school and work often take up a huge part of our lives, and we tend to spend more time awake at school or in the office than in our own homes. This makes us feel fatigued, especially when projects or presentations are eating away at all of our time and energy.

It is almost impossible to strike a true work-life (or study-life) balance before we enter semi-retirement, or unless you are earning truckloads without needing to put in gruelling hours. However, without an effort to maintain such a balance, we will become truly lost within ourselves.

Unless your work or your study is your passion, it is almost always a chore. However, no matter how tight your timetable or your schedule is, there will always be pockets of free time here and there, which are often, if not always, under-appreciated and under-utilised.

I still remember my days in junior college, when my best friends and I would hit the pull-up bars during the breaks in between our classes. And then for about 20 – 30 minutes of absolute (albeit short-lived) bliss we will briefly forget the looming term papers and semestral exams, while we did muscle-ups, one-arm chins, handstand presses, and the like. We even gave the pull-up bars a fond nickname: the PUB (a beautiful acronym for pull-up bars, haha).

During days when there were longer breaks (who has 3-hour breaks in the morning right after assembly and before the first lesson?!) we would brave the threat of disciplinary outcomes and sneak out of school to grab a bite at our favourite prata place, a couple of bus-stops away.

Yeah, I know it is not right of us to do so, cos in the unlikely event that all 6 – 7 of us were kidnapped together it would have been hell for the school to explain our unauthorised absence to our grieving kin. But kids will be kids, right? Show me a kid who has never broken a school rule in his entire life, and I’ll show you a hundred others who have broken a hundred rules in their schooling days, haha.

And then I got myself mandatorily-enlisted into National Service, which really sucked cos for the majority of my army days (which totalled an agonising 1 year 10 months) I stayed in (camp) and could only go home on the weekends. Sometimes it got really hectic, but I can’t go into details here or I’ll probably get myself hauled in for suspected treason.

But the point is, even when I had very little free time to myself, whatever time I had I spent on doing fun and sometimes crazy stuff, which I think really helped to keep me sane. From working bodyweight skills to talking (and bitching) about life and the world in general with my close friends, I found a tenuous sort of balance in the tremendously imbalanced life that I was leading. (Hey, I slept in camp more than twice the time I did at home on pretty much a regular basis, I think that is really saying something.)

Even in your working life, the dudes you see who appear to be coping well usually fall into one of these 4 categories:

1. The lucky chaps whose work happens to be their passion.

2. The dutiful workaholics who are able to find purpose in whatever they are doing, whether they like it or not.

3. The psychotic individual who sees chaos in everything and treats life like one big cosmic joke.

4. The guys who find time for their hobbies and passions, thereby keeping depression at bay.

My guess is that most of us will not find ourselves in the first 3 categories. Therefore, to keep depression (or just a general bad mood or a down feeling) at bay you need to find time for what you enjoy doing. Weekends are great, but it’s best if you can find time even during your working hours to engage in something that you love.

An idea is to pick up a small and unobtrusive hobby, like reading books, writing a dairy, listening to music, playing an instrument, origami, wood-carving… And the list goes on. You will realise that most of these pastimes can be considered as artistic pursuits, and their introspective and somewhat spiritual nature will provide a good counterpoint for the more official demands on your body and your intellect.  


The same concept of balance applies to everything. If your are serious about your physical training, you should be equally serious about getting the proper rest and recovery. The two are opposites that are intricately linked. One has no business existing without the other. It is a fine and delicate scale, and if the weight on one side gets too heavy in relation to the weight on the other the whole setup will tip and everything will then fall to pieces.

So as you can see, sometimes the most dangerous sort of balance is the kind that we have to maintain with our passion. Man is an obssessive creature and when given free rein he will ruin himself doing that which he loves most or does best. I have suffered greatly in the past for this. I have said this many times before, but I’m going to say it again because it is of paramount importance:

Those of you out there for whom serious, hardcore athletic training is an obssession, you got to watch yourselves. It is tempting to push on in spite of injuries and inadequate rest and recovery, but if you do so, you’ll more often than not end up feeling extremely sorry for yourself.

So there you have it, make sure you strive to maintain balance in your life, even though chances are you will not be able to manage it. But the very effort of you doing that should keep you sane, and sound, and healthy. 🙂

~ This post is written by Lionel Ng, part-time Personal Trainer & full-time Fitness Enthusiast. ~


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