According to traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture theory, yin and yang are the two forces of nature which are vital for good health. When they are in balance, your body and mind will be strong and healthy. But if one of them becomes excessive or deficient, you will quickly become ill.
Most people have heard of yin and yang, but what are they? And how do they have such a huge influence over your health?
What are Yin and Yang?
Very simply put, yin and yang are complementary opposites. They are cold and hot, water and fire, female and male. Everything in nature can be classified as more yin or more yang.
You are probably familiar with the symbol that represents yin and yang. It is called the tai ji. This means “Supreme Ultimate” in Chinese.
This symbol shows how yin and yang transform into one another like night into day or the shift through the seasons from winter to summer. It also shows that both forces contain a seed of the other. Nothing can ever be completely yin or completely yang.
It would be easy to think of yin and yang as two separate entities, but this is actually not true. The best way to understand this is by looking at the Chinese characters. In Chinese, yin is written as阴 and yang is 阳. You might notice that both characters contain the same symbol on the left. It looks a bit like a capital “B” and represents a hill or a mound. The right hand side of the characters are different. Yin contains 月, meaning moon and yang contains 日, meaning sun. Therefore we can view yin and yang as the shady side and the sunny side of a mountain. Not two separate forces, but different sides of one whole.
The most important qualities of yin and yang are:
- They are complementary opposites
- One cannot exist without the other
- They transform into one another
- As one increases, the other must decrease
How do Yin and Yang Influence Health?
As well as being present in every part of nature, the forces of yin and yang are also present in the human body. Yin cools and yang warms. Yin allows you to sleep at night while yang gives you energy throughout the day. Yin allows you to think and rest while yang keeps you moving, and so on.
In order to stay healthy, it is important that the yin and yang within your body are in a constant state of balance. If one or the other becomes excessive or deficient, this is when problems start to occur.
Too much yin, and you could suffer from fluid retention or edema. Not enough and you might feel restless and unable to sleep. Too much yang and you could suffer from headaches or high blood pressure. Not enough and you might feel cold and fatigued all the time.
Most people tend to be more prone to either yin or yang conditions. This is known as their constitutional tendency and can predict what kind of symptoms they are likely to suffer from. This is one way in which yin and yang can be used to diagnose and treat disease.
Unfortunately, it is not quite as simple as this. If yin becomes deficient, yang is left in a relative excess. There is not actually any more yang than normal, but because there is not enough yin to balance it out, you might get the same symptoms as you would with a true excess of yang.
One of the best examples of this is menopause. Female hormones are classed as yin. As a woman gets older, her levels of female hormones, and her yin, decrease. At menopause, her levels of yin are so low that they can no longer balance out her yang. This is why menopausal women suffer from the yang symptoms of hot flashes, restlessness, irritability and insomnia.
So when you see an acupuncturist for the first time, their job is to identify whether you are suffering from a true excess of either yin or yang, or a deficiency in its partner. They can then decide the best course of action to restore balance and treat your individual condition.