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Tue, March 1, 2011
The Yin and Yang of Health
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the body’s internal organs or, more properly, “organ systems” are classified as being either Yin or Yang, which is somewhat analogous to electricity or magnetism. For example a magnet will exhibit polarity in the form of a positive pole (Yang) and a negative pole (Yin), yet we would still simply call the energy “magnetism.”

Within the body, the Chinese call the internal life force energy “Qi” which is commonly pronounced as key or Che, usually spelled Chi. In my October 2010 article, we discussed the 5-element model of Chinese medicine, which focused on how emotional states can impact physical health. Stanford University Medical School, and numerous health experts, say the number one killer on the planet is stress. Most physical and nonphysical health problems have long-term, physiological stress as their origin. The CDC also estimates that 80% of all health care dollars are spent on illnesses related to stress. To simplify, we can simply say that all negative emotional states cause stress to the body and all positive emotional states remove or alleviate the influence of stress. In terms of Yin and Yang, this can be as simple as choosing Love over Fear. 

In the book Conversations With God, author Neale Donald Walsch states:

“Every single free choice you ever undertake arises out of one of the only two possible thoughts there are: a thought of love or a thought of fear.

Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, runs, hides, hoards, harms.

Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, stays, reveals, shares, heals.

Fear wraps our bodies in clothing; love allows us to stand naked. Fear clings to and clutches all that we have; love gives all that we have away. Fear holds close; love holds dear. Fear grasps; love lets go. Fear rankles; love soothes. Fear attacks; love amends.

Every human thought, word, or deed is based in one or the other. You have no choice about this, because there is nothing else from which to choose. But you have free choice about which of these to select.”

In this perspective, Fear is the Yin polarity and Love is the Yang polarity. Now, one should also understand that Yin isn’t always bad, nor is Yang always good. Fear can save your life in a “fight or flight” situation and misguided love can result in becoming a codependent for someone that needs professional intervention for their problems.

Thus, the underlying principal of polarity exists in all things. In basic terms, Yin and Yang are simply opposites, which exist as duality. In other words, they exist in pairs of counterbalancing polarities or expressions such as night and day, positive and negative, male and female. Yin is relatively passive, while Yang is relatively active. Keep that in mind in the following examples. In medical terms, here are some pairs of opposites: Yin symptoms can present themselves as being cold, quiet, wet, soft or inhibited, whereas Yang symptoms may be hot, restless, dry, hard, excited.

Excessive Yang manifests as heat, whereas excessive Yin manifests as cold. A person who feels hot all the time has excessive Yang, while the person who feels cold all the time, has excessive Yin.
Being restless, suffering from insomnia, shaking and tremors are states of excessive Yang. Feeling lethargic, having a poor appetite, no “get up and go”, indecision, and depression are states of excessive Yin.

Qigong exercises balance these energies primarily through cultivation of the Earth (Yin) energy and Heaven (Yang) energy. Nothing is totally Yin and nothing is totally Yang. They change into each other. Just like day (Yang) turns into night (Yin) and night turns back into day. Winter (Yin) turns into spring (Yang) and summer (Yang) turns into fall (Yin) and so on. Thus, Yin and Yang perpetually transform into each other.

Yin and Yang are simply two opposing stages in the process of change and transformation. Therefore, most Qigong cultivation exercises are more concerned about the quality of energy acquired via the person’s emotional disposition or state of mind than they are concerned about whether the atmosphere is excessively Yin or Yang as these external conditions tend to balance themselves over time. Yin and Yang totally depend upon the other for its existence. Therefore you cannot have Yin without Yang, nor can you have Yang without Yin. The transformational process absolutely requires this interdependent relationship.

Chinese medicine utilizes herbs and dietary recommendations to counterbalance or tonify energetic weakness or excess. In Traditional Chinese Medicine proper diet is an important component of health. All foods are categorized into temperature, from hot to cold as well as flavors: pungent, spicy, sweet, sour and salty. Different temperatures and flavors of food influence the body in specific ways. One should try to include all flavors and a balance of temperatures in every meal. If too much of one type of food is consumed it can create an imbalance within the body.

Traditional Chinese Medicine views the stomach and spleen as a cooking pot that breaks down the food that is eaten, turning it into energy and blood for the body. The stomach is the cauldron and the spleen is the digestive fire that warms up the pot. The stomach cooks and breaks down the food, sending the pure part of the food to the spleen to be distributed to the rest of the body and eliminating the waste products. It is important to maintain this digestive fire and too many cold and raw foods can put out the digestive fire, weakening and slowing the digestive system.

As previously discussed, the body is viewed in terms of the 5-element theory (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood), which correlates to organ systems or pairs that represent both Yin and Yang. The Yin organs are: Heart (fire), Spleen (earth), Lungs (metal), Kidneys (water) and Liver (wood). The Yang organs are: Small Intestine (fire), Stomach (earth), Large Intestine (metal), Bladder (water) and Gall Bladder (wood). These are the Yin and Yang organs and they depend upon each other and exist in pairs.

Yin organs depend on Yang organs to produce Qi (energy) and Blood. Yang organs depend on the Yin organs for the nourishment they store. So Yin organs store the precious energetic essence of food and the Yang organs transform the food into the precious essence.

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