The concept of the Yin-Yang balance originated in ancient China, during the Yin and Zhou dynasties. It was an attempt to explain the workings of nature and all natural phenomena. Because early physicians applied the theories to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it became a central concept in acupuncture, herbal remedies and bodywork. Therefore, all treatments and diagnostic methods are deeply influenced by, and securely rooted in the Yin-Yang theory of balance.
So, what do "Yin" and "Yang" mean? They are Chinese words and although they are not easily translated into English, we will define the general concepts behind them. Yin and Yang are opposites and are used to describe the opposite and dual nature of our world. For example, duality can be seen in the idea of daytime and nighttime, north and south, hot and cold, fire and water. These things are the exact opposite of each other, and are represented by Yin and Yang in the following way. Generally, those things with the basic properties of warmth, heat, fire, movement, upward and outward direction, functional activities, excitement and light pertain to the Yang aspect of nature and our bodies. In contrast, those things with the basic properties of coolness, cold, water, stillness, downward and inward direction, nutrient substances, inhibition and darkness pertain to the Yin aspect.
The categorization of Yin-Yang is not absolute, but it is relative. We can see this if we consider that daytime is Yang relative to nighttime, which is Yin. We can further divide daytime, by realizing that the morning is Yang in relation to the afternoon. Both morning and afternoon are in the daytime (which is Yang), but when comparing the two times, one is more Yin and one more Yang. So you see, it always more accurate to view Yin and Yang as relative values, realizing that all things can be differentiated into Yin and Yang to infinity.
Even though Yin-Yang are opposite in nature, they are interdependent. Without the concept of "Yin", there can be no "Yang" and vice-versa. Just like without the concept of "light" (Yang), there could not be "dark" (Yin), without upward movement (Yang) there could not be downward movement (Yin). Yin and Yang are not "fixed" but are in a state of continuous consumption, support and transformation. For the body to make the Yin substances of our body (the fluids, bones and muscles) it must use some of the Yang-functional energy. The functional (Yang) aspect of the body uses a certain amount of the nutrient (Yin) substance of the body. At other times, Yin and Yang will transform into each other; Yang becomes Yin and Yin becomes Yang. This usually happens when there is extreme Yin or extreme Yang. For example, when there is a high fever (extreme Yang), it is usually followed by severe cold manifestations (extreme Yin).
There is a symbol called the "Yin-Yang Symbol", or a "Tai Chi symbol", which illustrates all of the concepts of Yin-Yang theory. It is a circle with a swirl of white on the left interlocking with a swirl of black on the right. Within each swirl is a small circle of the opposite color. The white color indicates Yang, while the black indicates Yin. The opposition and interdependence are shown by the fact that while they are both within the circle, they are opposite in color. The curved line indicates the continual inter-consuming and supporting relationship of Yin and Yang. The small circle within each swirl indicates the potential for inter transformation. The symbol displays that Yin and Yang are interconnected and necessary for the other's existence.
Applying Yin-Yang theory in TCM takes experience and discernment. Many times clients display a complex mixture of both Yin and Yang imbalances. Generally, TCM theory relies on the concept that when there is an imbalance between Yin and Yang in the body, disease occurs. If there is too much Yin, it will overpower Yang and "cold" symptoms manifest in the body. If there is too much Yang, it will overpower Yin, resulting in "heat" symptoms in the body. Sometimes, there is not an excess of either Yin or Yang, but a deficiency. If the Yin is deficient, there will be a relative abundance of Yang, giving rise to heat symptoms, whereas if there is a Yang deficiency, there will be a relative abundance of Yin, leading the body into more coldness.
The Yin/Yang theory enables the TCM practitioner to look at complex illnesses and see the general pattern of imbalance and therefore render a focused treatment. It also teaches us the importance of opposites in our lives and helps us see where we might be out of balance. Only through the proper Yin-Yang balance, can we live in a stable environment and live a happy, healthy life.
Nicole V. Rotondi is a New York State licensed acupuncturist with a master's degree in Oriental Medicine. She specializes in Chinese and Japanese needle techniques and traditional herbal formulas. Her practice is located at Universal Health and Rehabilitation, 152 Islip Ave (Rte. 111), Islip. Please call 631-277 6767 for more info.