Yin and Yang (pron. ‘young’) was first conceived through patient observation of the forces of nature. The Taoists who developed the system of traditional Chinese medicine 3000 years ago, saw the universe as a unified field, constantly moving and changing while maintaining its oneness. This constant state of change was explained through the theory of Yin and Yang, which appeared in written form around 700 B.C. in the I Ching (“Book of Changes”).
According to the theory, nature expresses itself in an endless cycle of polar opposites transforming into each other such as day and night, moisture and dryness, heat and cold, and activity and rest. Balance of Yin and Yang creates an ease in the flow of ‘Qi’ or vital energy throughout the body. These forces when out of balance create stagnation of Qi and blood as a result pain, weakness and dis-ease.
So how can we put this ancient concept into practice to attain the best health and life possible?
Yin and Yang 101
- Often represented by two half circles flowing into each other
- Black (Yin) and White (Yang) – who thought it was the other way around?
- Over 4,000 years of Oriental medicine is based on this principle
- Yang = movement/heat/expenditure /dryness/expansion/insubstantial
- Yin = rest/coolness/nurturing/hydrated/contraction/substantial
- Yang and Yin are not mutually exclusive, there is always an aspect of Yin with Yang and Yang within Yin – there will be more of one relative to the other.
- The presence of each energy within the other is denoted by the small dot of the opposite energy contained within the flowing symbol
- Both are needed to create “flow” in life – Yin nourishes Yang and Yang creates movement within Yin. This allows for quick healing, resilience when under periods of stress, recovery from sickness or immune protection
- If Yin & Yang are not in harmony then “stagnation” occurs resulting in loss of vitality, pain in our body, emotional stagnation/depression, lack of nourishment to highly-strung nerves/anxiety, sleep and digestion disturbances, organ dysfunction, immune disorders and ultimately chronic or fatal disease conditions.
In our fast-paced, urban existence we often need to put the Yin back in our Yang. By getting to know ourselves and our tendancies we can intuit what we need before a health crisis grabs our attention. Here are a few tips that I have incorporated over the past 20 years to create resilience in this world of extremes:
- Slowing down at different times of the day is essential to build our Yin energies (which builds good quality blood and fluids). This ensures our Yang (movement, thinking, vitality) receives the nurturing it needs – having muscles, organs and brain tissue receive the hydrating nourishment that they require to perform their functions and actions.
The best times for Yin nourishment are during sleep (essential that we sleep 12 – 4am) during meditation or yin yoga, digestion time of our largest meal 1-3pm and then 6-9pm when we are preparing food, relaxing with family/friends.
It’s important not to over-exert yourself with long periods of exercise – new research shows that less is more is terms of ageing and disease due to organ, gland and hormone health being compromised by too much ‘doing’ (yang) and not enough ‘being’ (yin).
- Get treated regularly by an Acupuncturist, Herbalist or therapy which switches off the Sympathetic (Yang – action and stress-related) part of the Autonomic nervous system and switches on the Parasympathetic (Yin -healing/repair/rejuvenation) part of this system. As a result of Para-sympathetic dominanteffect, many people feel a natural high from the pain-relieving endorphins and harmonising neurotransmitters flowing around the body.
- Go outside and soak up the negatives ions from around trees and the ocean. Human bodies are fantastic conductors and these negative ions attach themselves to the positively-charged ‘free radicals’ that cause inflammation and disease in our body and remove them from the bloodstream and tissues. Gardening, walking or just relaxing in nature are awesome ways to do this (being barefoot on grass or wet sand is even better just 5 mins a day does wonders)
- Eat nourishing foodswhich are high in water, vitamins and minerals (known as Alkalising foods) homemade soups, lightly steamed veges, fresh green juices, colourful salads with homemade dressing, smoothies (no ice), herbal teas, coconut water, spring water. Avoid too much spicy food, even though this creates energy and movement (that’s why “stagnant liverish” people love it) it also creates heat and dries out our Yin fluids if not kept in check. Cayenne pepper is a great spice to use in small amounts as it has approximately 150 activating molecules to improve circulation and digestion. Fennel seeds, Fenugreek, ground cumin, coriander are also great nourishing additions in the kitchen.
- Show love and compassion for yourself and others as this is the most nurturing of all. It sends a message to all of our cells “that things are well” and is the basis of the new science Epigenetics, where a cell’s environment rather than it’s DNA blueprint determines if it switches on or not the DNA codes for disease.
So remember weCANbe masters balancing our own inner and outer realities, making conscious choices that support us, our goals and the effects we have on our world.
Join Diane on our upcoming Oriental Medicine Retreat in beautiful Bulli. Oriental Medicine explores the nature of Yin and Yang and the pathway to balance. Perhaps you’ve been experiencing hormonal imbalance, stress and anxiety or low metabolism.Your highly qualified teachers will share self care rituals and practices that will include Yin Yoga, Meditation, Acupressure and Acupuncture which bring vitality and the energy “Chi” back into your body removing dullness and stagnation. You will leave the retreat feeling revived and restored.