I think there is no better place to start when it comes to Chinese medicine then the Yin/Yang theory. I think a lot of us have heard the Americanized version of Yin and Yang and we have been mislead from the core of why it is important. The Yin/Yang theory has been around for thousands of years so it is prone to misinterpretation like anything else from a long time ago. As a reminder, this is my personal interpretation of what Yin and Yang truly means after receiving my masters degree in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
I think the classic Yin/Yang picture is really beautiful. In this picture you have a circle with two dominant colors, white and black. Within these colors you have a piece of the opposite color, white with a black circle and black with a white circle. It doesn’t matter which color is Yin and which color is Yang. This picture is showing us a lot of information if we know what we are looking for. First, the symmetry of the picture shows us that Yin and Yang are meant to be in balance with each other, if there is too much Yang, it will override the Yin and vice versa. Second, Yin and Yang operate as opposites, meaning yin is like water, while Yang is like fire. However, Yin and Yang are not limited to water and fire like most people think, the yin/yang theory is about relativity, but I will explain that later. This opposite but yet dependent relationship shows the complexity of the Yin/Yang dynamic. The dots in the middle of each color represent the connection both Yin and Yang have with each other. Although they are opposites, they will also need each others energetic and physical contributions.
Yin can be represented as water, its cooling, its mellow, it’s the part of us that moistens and nourishes our body. Within our bodies, Yin can be represented by our blood and all of our body fluids. The yin side of our body is represented by our front side, our chest and our stomach. The yin is always on the side facing inward or downward. In Chinese medicine, they relate yin and yang as if we were crawling on all fours, meaning the stomach would be downward while the back would be facing outward.
Yang can be represented as fire, it’s the heat, the power, the mover within life. It is represented in the body by our body heat, our stomach acid, our energy, and our movement. The yang part of our body is the outward and upward parts. Our backs, the outside portions of our arms and legs.
Yin and Yang can be represented in EVERYTHING in life, not just our bodies. However, the relationship between Yin and Yang change depending on the circumstances. For instance, summer and winter, Yang is the summer and Yin is the winter. However, if we compare two seasons, summer and late summer, Yin is the summer and Yang is the late summer because late summer is hotter. Here is another example, if we compare two temperatures, 50 degrees F and 70 degrees F, yin is the 50 degrees and yang is the 70 degrees. But if we compare 70 degrees F with 90 degrees F, Yin is the 70 degrees and Yang is the 90 degrees. These are minor examples to show that Yin and Yang are constantly in a state of flux, they never settle, just like life.
So what happens when they become imbalanced? I am going to describe these imbalances within our bodies from a Chinese medicine standpoint.
The first step as a Chinese medicine practitioner in deciding how the yin and yang are out of balance is to look at the signs each patient is having. To know what the signs mean, we first need to look at the impact that yin/yang imbalances have on the body. For instance, someone who is complaining of heat symptoms, is not necessarily suffering from a Yang (fire) imbalance. Heat shows up in the body as a symptom of yin/yang imblance due to many reasons. First, the Yang could be in excess while yin is still in balance which means the yang would dominate the yin and create heat signs in the body like the following: fever, sweating, red face, red tongue, thirsty, etc. Second, the heat signs could arise in the body due to the yin being deficient which means the yang would still dominate because there is not enough cooling agent to balance it out. These yin deficient signs or deficient heat symptoms are different, they are: night sweats, afternoon fever, five center heat (both hands, both feet and abdomen), a tongue that has a peeled coating, dry skin, dry mouth, dry eyes, blood tinged nasal discharge, blood tinged sputum. This is just one example of how the yin/yang theory is applied during everyday treatments with patients.
Although the relationship of Yin and Yang is very complex, the idea behind it is still very simple. First, life is constantly in a state of flux. The more we become in alignment with this, the less stress arises within our life. Second, the best way of living life is within balance. However, balance is different for everyone, so it is your job to decide what balance means to you. And last, we are all dependent on each other, whether we are aware of that or not, is irrelevant. These days we may not see how our food is grown and watch it arrive at the grocery store but we still rely on the farmer and mother earth to grow it. If we try to stay aware of our own personal balances, the chances of us living a high quality life greatly increases.
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