The Rider’s Mind Podcast Episode 91: Exploring Yin and Yang in Horsemanship with Cristy Duce
You’re in for a real treat today. I’m excited to introduce you to my friend and soul coach, Cristy Duce. I had some questions about feminine and masculine energy, the yin and yang and I knew right away that I wanted to ask Cristy my questions. We decided to record our conversation so I could share it with you. In this episode, you’ll learn more about how you can find harmony between your energies.
Michelle: Would you be able to share a bit about your life as a horse person, and your journey to being a soul coach?
Cristy: I feel really at home with my horses and they have been part of my life. I was part of your Mental Toughness Bootcamp long ago and I’m glad it brought us together. I taught school for quite a long time. I did yoga teacher training and taught yoga all over the world. I have a background in psychology and coaching as well. I felt so pulled to share things I’ve learned about life. I have a big transformation story and I felt pulled to share the story.
Michelle: Would you be able to explain masculine and feminine energy and how it's not explicitly about manly energy or womanly energy as the words seem to indicate?
Cristy: We all have both masculine and feminine energy. Usually people are naturally dominant in one type of energy. We can use different energies for what we’re working on. Yang is more masculine. It’s more disciplined, directional, focused and achievement-oriented. The feminine is more intuitive and feelings-oriented. Yin is more open to different possibilities and doing things in different ways.
Michelle: Is there an ideal state? Where “should” we be? Is there a normal or balance we want to aim for?
Cristy: What’s good is different for every person. We need to be responsive to the moment. Based on the context of your life, you need to ask, What energy can I bring to this? For example, if I’m teaching at school, I might need to lean into my yang energy. If I’m supporting a friend going through a hard time, I might lean more into my yin and be responsive and empathetic. We want to be in a state where we can be responsive. We need to be able to draw on different energies depending on what the situation requires.
Michelle: At a barrel racing or any competition, what energy would be best?
Cristy: I think that competition generally involves yang energy. We have an idea of how we want it to go and we have steps to prepare in a structured way. I think we can give ourselves an advantage by leveraging more yin when preparing beforehand. We can give ourselves the gift of better performance and better preparation by using some of our yin energy. Using your intuition can help you get to your goals.
When I was coaching volleyball and researching high performance teams, I found that one of the values of the dominant Golden State Warriors was joy. That is a really yin way of looking at competition. They leaned into the joy of partnership, teamwork and achievement to help them win games. The joy of competing with your horse keeps you present and connected to your animal. Even when you want to be responsive and ride the stride, carrying that yin with you can help in performance.
Michelle: If I were to approach starting a horse, how could I bring a balance of both energies?
Cristy: Boundaries are a gift, like the banks of a river that keep it from overflowing and flooding everywhere. Balance doesn’t mean equal. I like to describe a harmony between our energies. The key is having the flexibility to adjust for what’s needed with your horse.
We are often proud of the blood, sweat and tears in the horse industry. That yang energy can serve us and often pushes us, but when you look at really sensitive trainers, there is a lot of softness. There is give and take. The connection, respect and love is all in the yin energy. If you watch most respected horse people, they often work in that yin energy. We just don’t always acknowledge it and give it enough credit. The yang is often in our head; it’s our planning, our learning, our goals, our scheduling. The yin is felt in our body. Our body just knows.
Michelle: From what you said, I am thinking that when we are “in the zone”, our energies are in harmony.
Cristy: We have our mental zone when we’re in competition. We are very clear mentally and things start to slow down. You can make adjustments. However, very close to being in the zone is being in flow. When we’re in flow, we are not thinking as much. Our body is just doing things. We bring our experience and training into our body. I think you’re right that it’s a balance between the two. Often, if we are really dominant in one or the other, then we can unhealthily express them.
Michelle: I think children are naturally more energetically balanced. Why do adults struggle with this more?
Cristy: I think it’s a result of socialization. We look for validation and acceptance, so we turn to different ways of being. Sometimes being really available to all kinds of energy can involve being really vulnerable, so we might close up to where we are comfortable.
I think early on kids are really comfortable drawing from across the spectrum of energies. So we might have to do some unlearning to take the best from different energies.
Michelle: What can we do to improve our ability to draw on either energy when needed?
Cristy: To increase our agility between the energies, the first step would be to notice the character of both energies. Feeling and doing are different things. Notice where you spend your time. I spent a lot of my life trying to be in a very yang state. I started to realize that I could also have superpowers from the energies I was avoiding.
Let go of limiting beliefs and unpack where our beliefs come from. The more we get rid of what doesn’t serve us any more, the more we can start opening up. When we get out of our head, we open up more parts of ourselves. Meditation, journaling and mindset work open this up. One yin way of growing is embodiment. We can think of ways of being that feel outside of our range and practice embodying them. Think about the kind of person you want to be and practice being that person.
Michelle: If I were to approach halter breaking a horse, how could I bring a balance of both energies?
Cristy: We start with a goal, so we are in yang energy. We have a timeframe, which is also yang.
Imagine a confrontational, confident colt. We set boundaries, we get a few steps forward. Things are progressing. This is good stuff. Another colt is scared, trying to run away. The moment requires more softness. We need to let the colt settle in our presence and let him know that he’s in a safe place. A lot of what you know about the situation, you couldn’t tell someone else, you just sense it in your body. Your way of being is different. You try to draw in that colt and you use your voice differently. The softness and relaxation is different. That's yin energy.
Michelle: This is great. When you talked about awareness, it makes me think that everyone will see what others are doing and noticing their energies before they recognize their own.
Cristy: It’s interesting to look at it as all play. You can dance through it. It’s interesting to notice different ways of being that you think you don’t have access to. I’ve looked at different expressions of energy. Sometimes we do ourselves a disservice by saying that’s not how I am. Maybe you are very comfortable being soft and caring and empathetic. Look at that as a strength. You can lean into the energies that you naturally have access to and also look at ways of being that you are missing and start to fill in the gaps.
Michelle: Where does asking for help fall into this?
Cristy: To me, not asking for help or extreme independence is an unhealthy, unhealed expression of the yang. As humans, we are very interdependent. Independence is a beautiful expression of the yang, but there are limitations to that. If we are so closed off and think that connection weakens us, we are outside a healthy expression.
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