In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang symbolize fundamental principles of duality that are within the fabric of all universal phenomena. As relative terms, they are complementary yet opposing forces that form an interconnected system that invigorate and nourish life. Yin and yang each contain the seed of their opposite, as represented in the symbol. Image credit: Dirk Czarnota.
By Hayley Stobbs, R.Ac, CNC
Perhaps your acupuncturist has mentioned that yin deficiency and/or yang rising is presenting. Then, something about yin being relative to cooling water or nourishment and it not being able to subdue the fiery hyperactivity of yang. That the yang is depleting the yin and that you need more yin! But what does this all mean? And what can you do for yourself between treatments to restore the balance?
Yin & Yang Explained
Yin and yang are polar yet complementary opposites and relative terms that embody a central language in Chinese medicine and their culture’s school of yinyang naturalists . In health, yin and yang harmoniously interact in a dynamic of constantly changing balance to maintain physical equilibrium. A common way that Chinese medicine uses yin and yang theory is to help understand how to prevent and treat imbalances or rapid swings from one to the other, for ex. Over-working (yang) transforming into exhaustion (yin). In this way they become an efficient system of assessing how things function in relation to each other with the intention of organizing the understanding of parts in relation to their whole.
“Every cell in our body – as well as in the greater universe – has to have a balance of yin and yang to function well. If these energies are out of balance, the cell, as well as the organism, must regain that balance to thrive. When we have a good balance of yin and yang, we feel healthy. If we have too much or too little of one or the other, we begin to see or feel signs of imbalance.” - Claudia Welch, Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life
The following yin-yang relationships are how we understand the dynamic nature of energy in relation to physiological functioning.
Yang and Yin Have 4 Relationship Aspects:
1) Opposition: All things have yin and yang duality, as relative to what is being discussed. For example, when comparing the relationship of meat to vegetables, meat is yang while vegetables are yin. However within categories, yin-yang qualities are also relative, for example lamb is yang compared to chicken.
2) Inter-dependence: Yin and yang cannot exist without the other. For example, there cannot be activity (yang) without rest (yin).
3) Mutual consuming: Yin and yang are in a constant state of change for preserving balance. For example, when hot (yang) we sweat (yin) more to cool down. When cold (yin) the body shivers (yang), and too much cold (yin) consumes heat (yang).
4) Inter-transformation: Yin and yang can change into one another when the conditions are ripe. For example, day (yang) turns into night (yin), and conditions such as hypothermia and heat stroke transforming into heat and cold in their end stages.
As you can see, yin and yang are one of the fundamental concepts for the foundation of Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment. Both yin and yang therapy takes time, self-responsibility, regular acupuncture treatments, and persistence of dietary and lifestyle routines in order to restore dynamic balance. The following are general guidelines to help balance yin or yang at home. As always, seek guidance from your registered acupuncturist or doctor of traditional Chinese medicine before implementing a change to your treatment plan.
Meet Yin Energy
Healthy yin energy is relative to adequate, good quality nourishment reserves within the body-mind, which can be readily utilized for fuel, repair, and maintenance when required. Signs of sufficient yin indicate that that the body is well ‘oiled and lubricated’, cooled when needed, blood nourished, and the mind rested and calm.
Examples of too much yin: Lethargy, feelings of heaviness, dullness, depression, stagnant, feeling cold, slowness, water retention, bloating, fatigue, muscle soreness, sharp or stiff pain, low sex drive, apathy, over-sleeping, foggy thinking, adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, digestive imbalances, food sensitivities, amenorrhea, and tumors or cysts.
“Our yang keeps us warm and provides heat for all the body’s functions. If our yang is low we cool down and our metabolism slows down. The moist yin of the body cannot be transformed and we may begin to accumulate. As a result we begin to under-function and we may become cold and sluggish. ” – Claudia Welch
Too Much Yin? Increase Yang Energy
Yang diet therapy:
Patients are encouraged to consume cooked, warmed, mildly sweet, and pungent foods that stoke digestive fire and encourage circulation in the body. Good quality yang type foods are considered sharp, warm, dry, and rough. Avoidance of cool, damp foods such as raw and cold food and drink, processed foods, milk, natural and refined sugars, refined salt and overconsumption of oils; these foods hinder digestive and metabolic fire. High doses of bitter and cold herbs, purgatives, laxatives, and over-eating injures spleen and stomach yang, while regular timed and enjoyed meals supports yang energy.
Foods to increase yang (energizing, lightening, reducing, and motivating):
Ginger-rosemary tea or a cup of high quality coffee first thing in the morning, hot water, foods cooked for a long amount of time, soups and stews, beef, lamb, venison, trout, shrimp, sprouted walnut, pistachio, sprouted quinoa, sprouted pumpkin seed, scallion, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, ginger, and garlic. *Yang vegetables tend to have drying and cooling energetics therefore add oil and spices.
Exercise to increase yang:
Keep moving throughout the day. Engage in gentle to moderate intensity exercise such as walking and strength training, dancing, rebounding, tai chi, pilates, and yoga. Excessive physical and sexual activity consumes kidney yang.
Fresh air and sunshine first thing in the morning, camping in nature, applying warmth with a hot water bottle, keeping warm, listening to uplifting music, engaging in purpose and passion, creativity, self care product overhaul/detox, and taking self-responsibility. Self care therapies to compliment acupuncture such as hot stone massage, Indian head massage, Thai and Ayurvedic massage. Excessive mental activity such as over-thinking, worrying, and over-working hinders yang energy.
Meet Yang Energy
Healthy yang energy is relative to our ability to be naturally motivated to get up, move, and do throughout the day. It is the body’s metabolic and digestive fire and assists in physiological functioning, for example water regulation, blood circulation/warmth, and the breaking down and assimilation of food into nutrients for available energy.
Examples of yang: doing, energizing, activating, motivating, breaking down (catabolic), higher parts of body, function, male, light, warm/hot, sun, north or east (sun rising in east), bright, moving, loud.
Examples of too much yang: fever, feeling hot, thirst, dark scanty urination, mania, high sex drive, rage, hyper-excitability and hyperactive, restless, high cortisol levels, foul and urgent bowel movements or constipation, dry stool, red eczema and rashes, dryness, palpitations, sleep disturbances, headaches and migraines, nausea, dizziness, tinnitus, hypertension, hard to gain weight, scattered.
Too Much Yang? Increase Yin Energy
Yin diet therapy:
Patients are encouraged to consume sweet, salty, and sour real food flavors, high water content produce, quality fats and proteins, and deeply nutrient dense items to help build yin. Avoidance of stimulant food and drinks such as coffee, alcohol, processed foods, extremely pungent/spicy foods, individual food sensitivities, and sugar, are recommended as they draw upon yin resources to buffer nervous system activation form components in these foods. Regular times meals and snacks in a relaxed atmosphere and thorough chewing of food supports yin.
Foods to increase yin (grounding, building, and nourishing):
Vegetables and fruit, baked sweet potato, zucchini and spaghetti squash, soup purees, fish and seafood, sea vegetables, egg, ghee or butter, home-made yogurt, lemon, apple cider vinegar, mint, seeds, black sesame butter, oats, raw honey, high quality organic oils (avocado, extra virgin olive, macadamia), avocado, and coconut. *Balance yin foods with a little spice to ease digestion, for example baked spaghetti squash with cinnamon, and roasted vegetables with black pepper.
Exercise to increase yin:
Gentle movement including walking in nature, swimming, restorative yoga, and qi gong. Strength training 2 - 3 times per week and running once per week is okay for some individuals with yin deficiency.
Yin lifestyle suggestions:
Connecting with others, time for replenishment, rest and relaxation, gentle and loving self-talk, napping, self care product overhaul/detox, digital detox (technological break), avoiding excessive air conditioning and central heating, classical music, self oil massage (abhyanga), restful vacation in nature, foot baths with epsom salt, meditation, and vipassana retreat. Self care therapies to compliment acupuncture include counselling, hypnotherapy, reflexology, and craniosacral therapy.
I’d be happy to guide you along! Please visit www.vcaspa.com to book online or call 250-590-4341. To learn more about my acupuncture practice, follow @hayley_stobbs on Instagram.
In health & happiness,
Hayley Stobbs R.Ac, CNC