Yin and Yang

No exploration of Traditional Chinese Medicine is complete without a discussion about the concept of Yin and Yang. To help me do so, here are a few quotes from one of my favorite books The Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia.

The concept of Yin-Yang, together with that of Qi, has permeated Chinese philosophy over the centuries and is radically different from any Western philosophical idea….Yin and Yang represent opposite but complementary qualities. Each thing or phenomenon could be itself and its contrary. Moreover, Yin contains the seed of Yang so that Yin can transform into Yang and vice versa. (p.3)

Yin and Yang are two stages of a cyclical movement, one constantly changing into the other, such as the day giving way to night and vice versa. (p.5)

Yang symbolizes the more immaterial, rarefied states of matter, whereas Yin symbolizes the more material, dense states of matter. (p.6)

Yin and Yang…show themselves when they are out of balance. Visualize the Yin-Yang symbol spinning very fast: in this case the white and the black will not be visible because they cannot be separated by the eye. Similarly, when Yin and Yang are balanced and moving harmoniously, they cannot be separated, …symptoms and signs will not arise. (p.13)

Examples of Yin and Yang out of balance in our bodies:

  • Yang-Yin
  • Acute disease - chronic disease
  • Restlessness, insomnia - sleepiness, listlessness
  • Hot limbs and body - cold limbs and body
  • Red face - pale face
  • Scanty dark urination - Frequent pale urination
  • Constipation - diarrhea
  • Loud voice - weak voice (p.13)

It could be said that the whole of Chinese medicine,…could be reduced to the basic and fundamental theory of Yin  and Yang. Every physiological process and every symptom or sign can be analyzed in the light of the Yin-Yang theory. Ultimately every treatment modality is aimed at one of these four strategies…:

  • Tonify Yang
  • Tonify Yin
  • Eliminate excess Yang
  • Eliminate excess Yin  (p.9)

Our modern lifestyle presents a special challenge when it comes to maintaining balance between the Yin-Yang aspects of our life. Acupuncture is a wonderful tool to help us do just that, as are exercise, meditation practices and a healthy diet. Together these are essential components of maintaining balance and preserving health.