So what is Yin and Yang? The concept of Yin and Yang relates to a process of transformation between values of relatively opposite but not opposing natures. Used within the context of Chinese medicine, Yin and Yang describes our relationship and response to the internal and external enviroments around us. Commonly depicted as the black and white Yin and Yang circle, it provides a framework for an integral pillar of our understanding disease within the medicine. Its principles have helped foster the development, expansion, adoption, and adaptation of Acupuncture across all socio-economic and cultural boundaries world-wide.
We can sometimes find similarities between traditional and modern theories and ways of thinking. As an example there is the first law of Thermo-Dynamics which states that:
In Quantum mechanics there are also recognized descriptions of the “wave-like and particle-like”interactions between energy and matter. The role of how unique and individual forces transform into each other is at the core of the meaning behind Yin and Yang. However, this does not cause any sort of disruption between forces but rather forms a delicate interdependence. This plays a pivotal role toward our understanding of the etiology of disease as in many cases there will be many facets of causality present.
The first reference toYin and Yang occurs in the Chinese book of Tao Te Ching in 600bc.
The traditional Chinese view point of Yin and Yang revolves around the idea that problems arise not when two forces are in conflict with one another but instead when there is an imbalance between them in the environment. As an example we can use the values of hot and cold in Chinese medicine. All foods carry specific temperature natures. Chili peppers for example would more of a “hot” natured food vs. lets say watermelon which would have a more “cooling” effect on the body. With the abundance of food and of refrigeration we usually consume many different types of food on any given day. Everything we eat will have their accumulated effects on our bodies.
Now of course our constitutions will vary. We each have our own individual strengths and weaknesses but our body’s capacity to adapt to stress will be the baseline to our health constitution. For instance, patients with low immunity will invariably get sick more often than average. Our internal and external environments as well as our emotions affect the levels and strength of our Qi.
If a patient has a tendency to feel cold all the time even when they are in relatively good health they might be said to to exibit some symptoms of what in Chinese medicine would be called“Internal Cold”. Upon evaluation perhaps the practitioner would uncover that the patient indeed was consuming large quantities of fairly “cooling” foods. This could very well be the main catalyst of their pathology. This does not mean, however, that they should go out and consume large quanties of hot foods in order to feel better. This is what is meant in Yin and Yang as opposing but not opposite. Automatically consuming hot foods could very well make their condition much worse by aggravating the already weakened state of their constitution. Thus begins the ever downward spiral toward imbalance and disease until the time comes when the original causes of their first symptoms are addressed and treated. Chinese medicine is a complete medical system where a patient can experience total reversal of all symptoms.
A condition that was essentially caused by having too much “cold” in the body can gradually transform into its relative opposite, too much “heat”. Practitioners need to think within an ever fluctuating continuum of variables that surround a patient’s health condition. Yin and Yang represents not so much polar opposites but rather how the transformation between forces that are of themselves naturally in balance takes place. The resulting conditions represent how well the body can adapt to the change, and thus one step closer to either health or disease.