Yin Yang – Part 1: It's all about balance

You’ve probably seen it before, and may have even wondered what it meant – the Yin Yang symbol, that strange looking circle with a couple of dots and squiggly lines:

Yin Yang Symbol
Yin Yang Symbol

Yin – Yang is actually a concept that comes from ancient Chinese science and philosophy and was an important part of their approach to viewing nature. Originally meaning “the shady side of the mountain” and “the sunny side of the mountain”, Yin and Yang came to symbolize opposing forces of Nature, such as:

  • Moon & Sun
  • Winter & Summer
  • Darkness & Light
  • Water & Fire

(It is interesting to note that much of Western science is also based on this concept, such as positive & negative terminals for electricity, north & south poles for magnetism, acids & bases for chemistry, etc.)
This Eastern way of categorizing everything in Nature as Yin and Yang was later introduced into their system of medicine, and is one of the main ways that both sickness and health is analyzed.

Although at first glance Yin – Yang theory appears to be a very simple and basic idea, it is one of the most important concepts in Traditional Oriental Medicine, including acupuncture and shiatsu treatments.
An example of using these opposite-quality pairings can be seen when treating someone experiencing pain:

  • is the pain acute or chronic?
  • is it at a fixed location or does it move around?
  • is the pain sharp and piercing or more of a dull ache?
  • does it improve with rest or with movement?
  • is it better with heat or cold?

Because health problems are regarded as an imbalance in the body, treatment is intended to bring a person back into a healthy state of balance thereby allowing their body to heal itself. For acupuncture, this can be viewed as regulating the meridian energy pathways that flow throughout the body – some of them may be weak and need to be strengthened and nourished, while others are stagnant and blocked and need to flow better.

However, it’s also important to realize that everything we do in life can also be categorized in a similar way, and that nothing can truly be considered as neutral – it’s either creating balance or imbalance in our lives.

As you go about your daily routine this week, why not try to take some time just to observe how you respond to various things such as:

  • the foods you eat or crave
  • how much sleep you get
  • the thoughts in your head
  • your work environment
  • the people you spend most of your time with
  • your posture throughout the day
  • exercise habits

Can you identify anything that’s helping to improve your health, or is there something contributing to the problem?