Empowering Curious Minds

& Open Hearts

Exploring Yin & Yang Energies in the Mental & Physical Practices of “Topping” & “Bottoming”

Share Post:

Rope Bondage & Yogic Alignment

The Three Gunas & Rope Roles

Rajastic, Sattvic, & Tamastic Energies in “Topping” & “Bottoming”

The three gunas of raja, sattva, & tamas, are the underlying compositional elements that are interwoven & present in any given experience.

  • Rajastic Energy: The energy of rajas is quick-moving. There is heat, aliveness, & movement.
  • Tamastic Energy: The energy of tamas is slow. There is a deepness to it & is often associated with rest.
  • Sattvic Energy: The energy of sattva is one of balance between rajas & tamas. It is here that we receive the gifts of being both present & alert, clear-headed & calm. Fully alive, but also well-rested in body, mind, & spirit.


It is the guidance of our wisdom mind that encourages us to become aware of the three gunas & how we tend to interact with them given our varying personal natures.

If we often find ourselves overwhelmed with mental chitter-chatter (an excess of rajastic mental energy) while feeling sluggish or lethargic physically (an excess of tamastic physical energy), stepping into the body via physical stimulation can be a way to even the scales of our natural tendencies & achieve a more sattvic presence.

If we often find ourselves physically spent, tired, & sore (an excess of rajastic physical energy) while feeling forgetful, blocked, or mentally foggy (an excess of tamastic mental energy), stepping into the mind via the mental stimulation of challenging our physical tensions can also be a way to even out our tendencies & achieve a more balanced, sattvic, presence.

Often, we experience an overlap of being both physically tired & mentally fried. We do too much (rajas) & rest too little (tamas). It is the intent of yoga to unite body & mind via the channel of the breath to create a shared awareness that embraces the rajastic, tamastic, & sattvic energies present in each individual & experience.

Receiving an experience: In Physical Surrender, We Find Mental Stimulation

The Yin & Yang Energies of “passive Bottoming”

Yin Energy: Tamastic Physical Practice

In essence, stepping into the role of “bottoming”, to me, means to open yourself entirely to yourself and/or your rope “top”. Strengths, scars, ugly truths, beautiful truths, physically, mentally, emotionally, & spiritually.

Mentally, the yin of bottoming is humbling our ego mind to the extent that we are receptive to our journey, our path, in its truest form. Free of the deceptive natures of pain & egos, it is in this truth we reside with love, faith, & gratitude for the breath & gift of the experience of this life, this body, this mind, & this soul.

Physically, it is our responsibility as bottoms to always honor & respect the capacity of our bodies. However, if our ego persuades us to leave the hold for any other reason aside from the true capacity of our limits, or perhaps even worse, convinces us to stay in the hold too long to “prove” something, we are not recognizing our limits & not honoring our bodies. In holding the poses for an extended duration, we are bringing awareness & vitality to the deep connective tissues of our bodies. In doing so, we must remain conscious & gentle with our bodies & limits.

If we leave too early or stay too long, if we don’t stretch enough or overly emphasize an area – if we do, we have not fully embraced our practice. Release & surrender. Our bodies carry the thoughts we repeat to ourselves. Tensions develop when an area (or thought), is over or underutilized. Become aware of those. Can we better support them by locating the tensional hold that restricts it & then, with underlying wisdom, let it go?

Yang Energy: Rajastic Mental Practice

Within these, often extended, endurance confrontations with our truest of natures, we will often encounter our instinctual desire to “run”, also known as our fight-or-flight response, or our sympathetic nervous system. The physical pain – as guided & respected by our wisdom mind – opens us to our deepest emotional & mental acceptance. It is in these decisive moments that we channel our yang energy & filtered through the consciousness of our wisdom mind choose courage & with that, to stay. Stay with that emotion, that thought, that word, that sensation. What is the truth that resides there? The discomfort or tendency for avoidance there, the lack of support or strength, or the overly exerted pressures of the body & mind – those pains & emotional, or mental anguishes, also have within them the ability to guide us.

The traumas that we all carry in our lives provide a doorway. Almost as if they create a wound of sorts that we, left to our own devices, are unable to heal. From that need, from that vulnerability, from that hole in our hearts, we create the space in which we receive love best. As Gary Chapman may categorize it, our “love language”. Acknowledgment & recognition of this pain allows us to move forward from the hurt & transform that pain into a beautiful way that we, as imperfect humans, can be human.

Our scars & how we carry the residing pain may not look the same, but the stories of how the wound was received are often too similar in that they are often not pretty & full of pain, heartbreak, & disappointment. And yet, if we offer our acceptance of them into us as a divine recognition of what it means to be human, we find ourselves overcome with prosperity, grace, & humility for the ropes that bind us in this form. While the expression of our traumas may not look the same, the underlying pain somehow bonds & unites us. In that unity we find one-ness. It is the pain that reminds us that we are not alone.

Offering an experience: In Physical Stimulation, We Find Mental Surrender

The Yin & Yang Energies of “Topping”

Yin Energy: Tamastic Mental Practice

Being in a repetitive state can feel trance-like. For good & for bad, being totally & completely engrossed in a repetitive task can be, strangely, oddly, & almost addictingly meditative. Being fully present in something soon transforms itself into not being fully present & with that newly founded ability to rely on muscle memory to execute the task in front of you, we permit mental freedom. Somehow, we find ourselves less occupied, mentally- speaking. From focus we create meditation & from meditation we create space. Space to be there, wherever the present moment is. In full recognition & embrace, permission, acceptance, & appreciation.

Through our responsibility as tops, we witness the transformation & simplification of the, initially, complex knots into something that we can execute without true mental presence. In that space, in that commitment to ritual & daily practice, we feel overcome with a wave of peaceful presence. Mental awareness of the here & now – of the present moment (that may otherwise get lost in the to-do lists of life).

Yang Energy: Rajastic Physical Practice

Listen up y’all – topping is hard work! Up, down & all around – strength is a necessary component of the yang physical energy involved with being a rope top. It’s a lot of sweaty, hot, hard work that requires a lot of strength & sometimes endurance. It can also wear on the body. Ensuring that you are well-rested, able to responsibly execute ties, & just generally take care of your body with things like finger & hand stretches before a rope session are just some of the accountabilities that we as rope tops take on when stepping into that role.

Within this practice of manual labor, we recognize matter as a divine offering. We become aware of & engage every inch of our body even though we are hot, have been tying for three hours already, & are just really fuckin’ fried.

Here is where we tap into that part of ourselves that is stronger than any person, including ourselves as motivated by our ego-mind, would have us believe. Here is where we show up. Here is where we confirm the expansiveness of our true nature by sharing that space with our rope bottom to continue to attune to & nurture each other’s energies & with that, expand beyond ourselves & unite with ourselves & our rope bottom in a way that isn’t motivated by any sense of “self”, but rather, the experience as a whole.

Self- Tying & Suspension

Yin & Yang Energies in Rajastic & Tamastic Physical & Mental Practices

It is here, in self-tying & suspension, that we hear & understand ourselves best. It is here that we are no longer lost & distracted in the many available pathways of misinformation in the process & flow of communication:

From intent – to expression – to perception – to digestion – to reflection, & vice versa.

In this space of self-awareness, we can put down the negotiations, & pleasantries & simply focus on our own practice. With our newfound independence of being both giver & receiver, we find a continually dynamic & fluid exchange like no other as our mental, physical, & energetic energies begin to overlap, blend, & influence one another. It is here that we must remain committed to our own truth, & perhaps even where we go to really give a listen to what that means & entails, before, during, & after our adventures in the kinky world of bondage. In understanding our own needs, wants, & desires prior to any external influence, we offer a clearer version of ourselves, free of input & therefore, more authentic in its rawest of forms.

Having the intimate ability to directly communicate the needs & abilities of our own bodies to our own minds grants us a direct understanding of just how much pressure we want/need, or how tight we want/need the ropes to be, where they are needed on our own individual bodies, & generally modify our entire practice to exactly what we need that day, that moment, or that location on our bodies.

It is here that we must be strong & courageous, thoughtful & reflective, generous & receptive. It is here where we occupy the rajastic & tamastic energies of our physical & mental practices, & all the overlaps in-between, simultaneously.

The Three Gunas & Fluidity of Rope

Rope-Space & Compatibility

No matter where you find yourself on your rope journey, what roles you fill, to what extent, or any other tanglings of perspective, we each have our own journey ahead of us.

In our journey as rope tops, we seemingly offer our physical bodies as sacrifices for mental liberation to achieve awareness of the present as we redirect the mental restrictions that previously bound us to feelings of anxiousness & unrest. As rope tops, we transform this excess of rajastic mental energy via physical stimulation, creating focus, meditation, & a perceived increase in mental space as we approach a more sattvic pairing of body & mind.

As rope bottoms, we seemingly offer our mental bodies as sacrifices for physical liberation to achieve awareness of the present moment as we redirect our physical tensions & restrictions that bind us to a mental lethargy. We transform our excess rajastic physical energy via mental stimulation, creating focus, meditation, & a perceived increase in physical space as we approach a more sattvic pairing of body & mind.

In either case, we boldly strive to balance the rajastic & tamastic energies to invite a sattvic presence to our rope space.

Together, the experience of the session & the energy between rope top & bottom, or the self-awareness as created through tying & suspending ourselves with dedicated awareness, holds the power to be absolutely transformative. “Rope-space”, or the role-defined terms of “top-space” & “sub-space”, are terms that allude to a meditative trance of sorts that we may experience as a result of our varying roles & focus in any given scene. In achieving sattva through our attempts to actively balance the rajastic & tamastic qualities of the space, if only momentarily, we are granted a glimpse into the peaceful existence of what it truly means to live in the here & now. That is – the present moment. Both with each other, & also at peace with ourselves.

In understanding, supporting, & creating appropriate space for all individuals & consensual experiences, we also see the array of possibilities with regards to the fluidity of yin & yang energy in “topping” & “bottoming”, & the beautiful & widely diverse range of variations therein.

And so, we ask ourselves:

  • What traumas and/or tensions do I carry? Beneath the initial pain, what opportunities for love exist there?
  • Most of the time, do I tend to live in my body, or do I spend more time inhabiting the realms of my mind?
    Where do I feel I am at today? What do I need in this moment to strive towards a place of balanced, sattvic, equilibrium?
  • Who is my top? Who is my bottom? Where do they reside (body or mind), most of the time? Where do they reside today, in this moment?
  • How can I best support & create a healing environment that fosters & supports safety, wellbeing, & respect, for them & myself?

These questions & many more bring into context the matter of compatibility when it comes to fully loving & embracing one another, & ourselves, in a symbiotic way. In aligning two opposite, yet complementary forces, we see the powerful union of something along the lines of:

“How I am able to best offer love is how you best receive love.
How I best receive love is how you are able to best offer love.”

We learn our vulnerabilities are our strengths through the process of compatibility, & therefore, our unity. In striving for balance, we support ourselves & others by accepting ourselves as a whole entity when perceived through the wisdom mind & are no longer bound by the limitations of the singular perspective of the ego mind.

In understanding ourselves, body & mind, we are more readily equipped & prepared to communicate those needs, wants, & desires to others. This radical self-acceptance gifts us with the opportunity to create a more informed journey, especially as we evolve & our paths continue to change & overlap. In accepting ourselves inclusive of our limits & where we may need a little extra support, invites & gifts others a way to love & support us best. In respecting others limits & understanding where they may need a little extra support, we are gifted the opportunity to love them best. If we can align compatibility in these matters of strengths offered & supports needed, well that’s money baby!

It is with humble admiration that I bow to you, dear friend. Namaste, for I see & honor the divine light that so too resides in you. I wish you only the very best on your journey. Let us practice, meditate, pray, & breathe, together. Blessings to my journey, and to yours. 

Stay Connected

More Updates

Pranamaya Kosha: The Water Element

Pranamaya Kosha: The Energy Sheath As we experience this change of seasons here in the PNW, I am reminded of nature’s temporal, well, nature. The

Sustainable Mind and Positive Body Image

Sustainable Mind and Positive Body Image Feeling Safe in Our Bodies It is an extraordinarily complicated mission to feel safe in our bodies.  Read that

There’s More to it than Asana

There’s more to it than asana Asana: One of Eight Limbs I’ll admit – I have a bit of a bone to pick with Asana (anatomical pun

Larissa Farrell

Environmentalist, yogini, sex educator, & graphic designer.