Yin and Yang
Most people are very familiar with the symbol, as it has become a very well-known symbol that represents an essential idea/philosophy within Chinese thought, and even more specifically in Chinese Medicine. This picture represents Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang represent opposites of one another. However, it must be understood that they also have a connect-ability because you cannot have the one without the other. Their opposites define one another. You cannot have hot without cold and vice versa. Other opposite would be left and right, up and down, light and dark, summer and winter, etc… They are not opposing forces but are complimenting forces that find their ultimately connection in the balance between the two extremes. The idea of Yin and Yang as well, is that things are always constantly changing, shifting from one thing to another from Yang to Yin and Yin to Yang.
It must be understood that this view of explaining things in the world is found just by looking at nature. Nature is the teacher. In a book called the HuangDi NeiJing (reportedly written almost 5000 years ago), the Yellow Emperor said ”The principle of Yin and Yang is the foundation of the entire universe. It underlies everything in creation. It brings about the development of parenthood; it is the root and source of life and death and in order to treat and cure diseases one must search for their origins. ”
What is the importance of the understanding of this in Chinese Medicine?
Yin and Yang help to explain different conditions or attributes of things that the body may be exhibiting at any particular time. In the body Yin is represented in the idea of things that are maintaining or enduring, inward and cold, nourishing and supporting. Yang on the other hand is expanding, warm, outward, constantly moving, creative and dynamic.
Conditions in the body can be loosely categorized as falling into an expression of one of these two dualities. For example, pain in the body is generally associated with Yang because pain tends to be warm. Since the ultimate expression of this philosophy is balance, one would seek a treatment through acupuncture and points that helps to release or dispel heat, herbs that cool or through food therapy help the patient to eat food that may be cooling and less the heat or inflammation in the body. By using the different modalities over time, one should be able to restore balance to the body.
Some other examples of this philosophies are easily expressed in the following ideas as well of things that pertain to the body. Sperm would be considered Yang because it is moving, while the ovum is not moving and would be considered Yin. Together they unite forces and come together to be an expression of balance that is found in human life.
In Chinese medicine, Qi (chi) energy would be considered Yang, as it is considered to help be the thing that actually helps to move the blood around the body. Blood is then considered to be the source of Qi, and without it Qi cannot be created. Blood is yin and is material and substance. They both are interdependent upon one another and they phase in and out of one form to another forming a relationship that truly expresses the idea of Yin and Yang.
This is one of the base philosophical ideas in this system you will many expressions of Yin and Yang being discussed as being opposites. It is the job of the Chinese medical practitioner to really determine what the problem is by identifying what is in excess or in short supply in the body and then working with the various methods of restoring balance to bring health back to each and every individual.