Do you know your ‘Yin’ from your ‘Yang’?

In conversation, we often hear about one aspect of the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which is “Yin” and “Yang”. For most of my life, I never really knew what that meant, apart from the facts they were the opposites of each other.

In my previous blog, I mention how Yin and Yang are guiding principles of TCM. The reason these terms are well known is that “Yin and Yang” are also principles in Chinese martial arts, natural sciences, and relaxation techniques such as Taijiquan (tai chi), Qigong (Chi Kung), Feng Shui, and I Ching.

They are terms to describe opposite forces that are interconnected and mutually interdependent in nature and the human body. Yin and Yang therefore are metaphorical images used to express these constantly transforming interactions.

Everyone has both Yin and Yang energy in their body’s energy system and energy field. Together they permeate all individual and collective evolution, in particular that of the human body.

The balance of Yin and Yang is required to maintain a healthy life and neither should predominate. Yin energy reflects the feminine, and it has the Chinese symbol of the moon. It represents the cold, earth, water, right, night, darkness, autumn or winter, interior, and deficit.

In the human body, it also refers to blood, body fluids (such as secretion), and substances, such as muscle or body mass. Yin energy is at its fullest at midnight, which makes sense as it is dark and cool.

Yang energy, with the Chinese symbol of the sun, is the masculine facets of nature that are boisterous, bright, and expansive. It represents heaven, fire, left, hardness, day brightness, spring or summer, exterior, heat excess, and ‘Qi energy’, which is the energy activity in the human body. During the day, Yang energy rises to its peak at noon when the earth is at its hottest.

However, we almost never have perfectly balanced Yin and Yang, as they are in a constant state of fluctuation and therefore subject to change. Unlike Western medicine where you are given one diagnosis and generally receive a standard treatment protocol, in Chinese medicine this constant change means that no disease, condition, emotion, treatment or diagnosis remains the same day to day.

Illness is observed when one force greatly exceeds another for a prolonged period of time, e.g. if Yang is in excess and Yin is in deficiency. As mentioned earlier, changes in our thought patterns and emotions can block the healthy flow of Yin or Yang. In today’s often materialistic culture, Chinese medicine practitioners often observe the effects of over-intense Yang (its all about me, me, me!) without the necessary proportional balance of Yin.

When we have an excess of self-driven Yang energy, it narrows our diversity and ignores our wider relationship to society and the environment. If our perceptions are very individualistic, narrow and selfish, we become unaware of the full consequences of our actions.

Such behaviour is often encouraged by a society that promotes ruthless self achievement – the Donald Trump’s, Rupert Murdoch’s and even Adolf Hitler.

There comes a point that no matter how much money you earn and power you obtain, it just never seems enough to satisfy your inner hunger. That unsatisfied emotional desire can lead to fears or anger and if prolonged can lead to physical disease.

Remember that the mind, body and spirit are all connected through energy.

Occasionally, when someone presents with extreme Yin/Yang imbalance and deficiency, he or she may have puzzling presentations to Western trained physicians.  For example, people with Yin energy deficiency frequently have insomnia characterized by waking up early and have difficulty falling asleep again.

An example of Yang deficiency may be a person complaining of chronic fatigue, feeling cold, having difficulty losing weight (due to slower metabolic rate) and/or depression.   Chinese medicine practitioners who see disorders and symptoms secondary to Yin and Yang imbalance are able to treat patients simply by rebalancing these forces.

Western medicine practitioners on the other hand, would take a vastly different approach to the problem and may prescribe a sleeping pill (which on occasion may be addictive) or connect you to a cumbersome sleep apnoea device, amongst other things.

Whilst the latter treatments are perfectly valid, they could be complemented by approaches that consider the underlying energy disruption, and reduce the need for more invasive treatments. Energy medicine approaches are potentially very beneficial in complementing conventional Western treatments.

It was clear to me therefore that Chinese medicine had clearly penetrated the western medical systems, despite that penetration being in its infancy. With the growth’s of China’s population and economic influence worldwide, I have no doubt that this trend will continue in mainstream allopathic healthcare.

Can you share with me one interesting experience with your Yin and Yang?

The Basics of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

I find it fascinating that in today’s world we have more information about every single aspect of life, yet we seem to know less about how to live.

All the ‘chatter’ on the internet has made us closer in so many ways, yet the complexity of information creates a mystery that it is almost too difficult to understand our own bodies, much less its relationship with energy.

One major paradigm that has integrated energy into our body’s state of health and wellbeing is Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for over 3000 years and even in that course of time, it has yet to be fully integrated into Western medicine. Whilst most doctors would have heard of Chinese medicine, the basics of how it works would probably shock most of them.

Fundamentally in TCM energy flows through the meridians in perfect balance unless disturbed by internal or external forces that affect 5 key elements of life.

The five key elements are found in nature which is earth, metal, fire, wood and water. Each element is related to an organ, all of which is captured in a overarching 5 phase chart.

Traditional Chinese practitioners also comprehend that emotions affect your energy and thus how your body functions on a day-to-day basis. In the Chinese system, there are 7 main emotions all of which relate to a particular organ and the 5 phase chart.

Organs create an emotion and they also are affected by an emotion.

Organ Emotion
Heart Joy
Liver Anger
Lungs Worry and Sadness
Spleen Thought
Kidneys Fear and Shock

Some emotions also give rise to other emotions, which can make the understanding of this relationship even trickier.

In order to quell emotional problems, Chinese medicine advocates natural solutions such as certain foods, whereby their flavours can boost certain emotions and reduce overstimulated emotions.

I know this may sound very strange but remember this has been observed over thousands of years. I did say it would shock most western healthcare practitioners, didn’t I?

There are several other theories that comprise the entire Traditional Chinese Medicine system but what is apparent is that the energy system is also divided into a three-component where Jing is mainly related to body energy, Chi is related to Mind energy and Shen to spiritual or soul energy.

Within this context, there are 8 guiding principles to help treat the energy imbalances when we are sick or unwell. These 8 principles relate to four pairs of opposing forces.

The first two guiding principles is Internal vs. External. Internal organs are often affected by an emotional issue, whereas external issues often arise from a foreign bug or invasion from outside the body.

The second set of principles is Hot vs. Cold which can give rise to fevers or chills, depending on the condition.

The third set of principles is Full vs. Empty where full often arises from acute conditions while empty often indicates chronic syndromes or some form of deficiency.

The final set of principles is a synthesis of all other categories and is commonly known as Yin vs Yang.

I find it fascinating that none of this was taught to me in medical school, yet it plays a critical role to how we can keep up our performance at work, prevent illness and even help our recovery from disease.

What was your one most memorable experience with Chinese Medicine?