Visualize the human body as a little microcosm, just like the rest of the universe, with its duality of male, female, Yin, Yang, Right and Left, etc.  Visualize the landscape of your bones, the oceans and rivers of your fluids, the winds of your breath, the different climates of warmth and coolness.  It helps to think of the body this way when we use our Asana to bring more balance to the little world that we are.

The Chakra system is a great representation, among other things, of this balance of opposites in our bodies.  It is when one of the two opposing forces becomes too strong that imbalance happens.  Each of the seven chakras tends to be dominated by a male or female energy:

First, third, fifth, and seventh are masculine in nature, expressing the forces of rooting, stability, strength, expression, and spirituality.  It governs the Right side of the body, it is cool, bright and downward moving.  Masculine energy helps us to root and to move towards the core.  Shiva the destroyer and the creator represents those forces in us.

Second, fourth, and sixth express the feminine forces of openness, connectedness, and intuition.  It is warm and nurturing, inward turning.  The feminine energy is intuitive feeling, profound depth of knowledge that is beyond words.  It governs the Left side of the body and is upward moving and dark.  Shakti, the creation, signifies those forces in us.

They need each other, as only in contrast we can know true nature of anything, and in our practice we can strive to achieve a balance between them.  In a nutshell, that's what the word Yoga means - to yoke, to unite two opposites.  Shiva and Shakti uniting in bliss, Ananda.

One of my teachers used to say that strength without flexibility is weakness, and flexibility without strength is also weakness.  We need strength, but in excess it can bind and limit us.  Our flexibility, in turn, without the support of strength creates anarchy, unstructured, shapeless, purposeless wandering.

So we need to work towards a sense of balance between strength and flexibility.  We are born with a certain prakriti, or constitution, that makes it likely for us to be either more strong than flexible, or more flexible than strong.  Knowing which one you are is already a good start towards balance.  If you tend to put on muscle quickly, have "tight" hips and shoulders, hate bending backward but are not averse to abdominal work and have relatively steady balance - masculine energy dominates, and you would benefit from a Yoga practice that emphasizes flexibility.  If you can do a split or a deep backbend your first time to a Yoga class - strength is needed to balance the overabundance of female energy.  You need strength deep in the core to support the open and overstretched body.  It doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman - we are not talking about gender, we are talking about energy.

What often happens, however, is the reverse.  The flexible people gravitate towards a class where they can show off their natural talents, whereas the strong people join a vigorous Power Vinyasa class, where one can muscle their way through.  I was blessed to have met a wonderful teacher who understood this, and who told me to do the things that were hard for me.  Hard not just in a physical sense, but also mental - things that I tended to avoid.  That was the moment of intense transformation for me, when I finally surrendered in a Pigeon pose one day.  I am more of a male energy prakriti, not terribly flexible, but give me a Chaturanga - and I am there.  I have opened up considerably in my Yoga practice, precisely because I have been seeking this balance, but I still can't do a split or touch my feet to my head in Raja Kapotasana.  I am not built for that.  Accepting that fact has been a major relief and it freed up enormous energy to apply towards gradual, incremental opening without judging, criticizing, softly surrendering an inch at a time.  Now the balance may have shifted the other way, and I need to invest some time into strengthening, this time deeper in the core, to support my new found flexibility.

That's the thing about balance - it tends to shift.  Our inward gazing allows us to notice these shifts and to respond intelligently.  Watch my video on how to find Balance in Twists.