Yin and Yang: The basics

Author: R Tolhurst yin-yang
Chinese Medicine philosophy is based on a number of different ideas, but the main one, and perhaps the easiest to explain, is the concept of Yin and Yang.

Almost everyone has seen the Yin/Yang symbol in their lifetime, yet few people know what it really means. The explanation that follows is in simple and understandable terms.

In the Yin/Yang symbol, we see two tadpole-like shapes which interlink with each other and form a circle. The circle shape represents the complete whole – for example, the complete body. The dark and light interlinking tadpoles represent two different types of energy within that body. When we’re looking at the black and white shapes in the symbol we might be prompted to ask, “Which is Yin and which is Yang?”. The answer is that it really doesn’t matter which one you name as what, just that they are opposites which are relative to each other and rely on the other to balance and restrain them. Once we talk about what types of energy and substances are Yin and which ones are Yang, everything will become a little more clear.

Yin energy has ALL of the following qualities:
Solid, cold, holding, tangible, fluid, liquid, static, still, dense, heavy (weight), darkness

Yang energy has ALL of the following qualities;
Intangible, hot, warm, upward and outwardly moving, burning, light (weight), brightness

For a very clear and obvious distinction between Yin and Yang, think about a block of ice (Yin), and the flame from a fire (Yang).

To apply this to our bodies, the Yin energy is the blood that flows through the vessels, and the Yang energy is the movement which pushes it along. This is a very simple way of expressing the difference between the two and they have as many applications as there are bodily functions so they are by no means limited to the above examples.

Imagine what would happen if we ran out of blood? This is one of the problems that can occur when Yin and Yang are out of balance with each other. The Blood (which is Yin) is insufficient and can no longer balance and restrain the Yang (Heat and movement) which, without an anchor, flies around the body at will. The types of illnesses this may produce range from insomnia and heart palpitations to eczema, psoriasis, and emotional disturbance.

Chinese Medicine Practitioners work on the balance of Yin and Yang in the body to address the causes of disease. Sometimes the symptoms of both Yin and Yang can present differently in not such an obvious way. On occasions, you might think you have Yin symptoms and they are actually Yang, and vice versa. The best practice is not to self-medicate – as you can run the risk of making the condition worse – but to see a fully trained, registered and experienced Chinese Medicine practitioner who can give a proper, complete diagnosis.