Yin and Yang: what’s it all about?

You have probably heard of Yin and Yang, but what exactly is it all about and what does it have to do with traditional Chinese medicine? The answer is everything!

Yin YangThe yin and yang theory is one of the most basic principles ruling traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The theory is based on observations in nature that are then applied to health and the human body. The theory says everything in nature has two aspects – yin and yang. These aspects are opposing and complementary, they are interdependent and relative to each other, one cannot exist without the other. The symbol you see to the right is called a tai ji symbol, it represents how yin and yang interplay. The black part represents yin and the white part represents yang. You can see how they transform into one another and each contains some of the other, they are not entirely separate.

In nature yin aspects include night, moon, darkness, earth, autumn, winter, cold. Yin qualities are soft, slow, passive, forming, and contracting. Yang aspects include day, sun, light, heaven, spring, summer, warmth. Yang qualities are hard, fast, active, expanding, and functioning.

The clearest representation of yin and yang in nature are day (yang) and night (yin) and how they transform into each other; you can also see how day and night are opposing, complementary, and interdependent.

Yang energy is considered masculine energy. Men tend to have more yang than yin energy. Young boys are especially active, fast and they often feel hotter. Men’s yang energy declines with age; older men tend to get colder and excessively fatigued.

On the flip side, yin energy is considered feminine energy. Women tend to have more yin than yang energy. As women age, they go through menopause and often experience yin deficient symptoms such as heat and dryness causing hot flashes.

On the body, the 12 primary channels are divided into 6 yang and 6 yin channels. Yang channels run along the back and back/outside of legs and arms. The upper and outer part of the body are considered yang. Yin channels run along the front of the body and the front/inside of legs and arms. The lower half and inside of the body are considered yin.

In the body, the natural yin and yang energies can become imbalanced. A yang excess or yin deficiency can have similar symptoms including heat, dryness, fever, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, restlessness, agitation, and hypertension. Yin excess or yang deficiency also have similar symptoms including coldness, fatigue, weakness, depression, damp accumulation such as edema or weight gain, and hypothyroidism.

In treatment, one of the things TCM practitioners do is attempt to correct this imbalance by looking at symptoms, clues from the tongue and pulse, and whether yin or yang channels are involved. Often times, internal disorder are treated via the yin channels and pain and structural issues are treated via the yang channels. Practitioners can use the needles to sedate yang excess or tonify and nourish yin deficiency.

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of yin and yang and how TCM practitioners use this theory to bring about harmony in the body. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Gaffney to experience this yourself!

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