About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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The Yin and Yang of Good Health

You may have heard of Yin and Yang before, or seen the Yin/Yang symbol that looks like a black and white fish swimming together in a circle.  Many people think that Yin and Yang are just a way of describing opposites, but they’re much more than that.  Yin and Yang play a role in all aspects of our life, from our overall health, to how we age, sleep, and even how our skin looks.

To best understand the concept of Yin and Yang, consider the Chinese written character for each.  Yang contains the elements of a hill and the sun, indicating the sunny side of a hill.  Yang, like the sunny side of the hill, is warm and bright.  Because of its warmth, Yang moves upward and outward and is transforming.  It’s associated with activity, change, daytime, and the warmer, sunnier months of the year.

In contrast, the character for Yin contains the elements of a hill and the presence of clouds, which has been modernized to the element for the moon.  Yin is represented by the shady side of the hill, which is darker, cool, and moist.  The cool nature of Yin moves downward, and inward, and is more nourishing.  Yin is associated with rest and recovery, nighttime, and the cooler months of the year that have less daylight.

Yin and Yang are relative terms in that nothing can be called Yin or Yang without being in relation to something else.  For example, spring is considered Yang when compared to the cold dark months of winter.  However, compared to summer, which is very Yang in nature (hot and bright), spring is considered more Yin.

In your body, Yang is a force that is transforming and warming; a little bit like metabolism.  Yin, on the other hand is cooling and nourishing and shares some of the same characteristics of body fluids and some hormones.  You could say that the physical substance of the body’s organs is relatively Yin, and the activities that the organs perform are relatively Yang.  So your stomach might be considered Yin, but the process of digestion is Yang.

How does this affect you?  Well, the relationship between the Yin and Yang in our bodies is continually shifting.  This relationship may be in balance, indicating relatively good health, or it may become out of balance and causing health problems and uncomfortable symptoms.  For example, too much Yang in the body may produce symptoms of heat and restlessness, such as irritibility, sweating, insomnia, and feeling too hot.  However, too much Yin might produce symptoms of cold and dampness, such as feeling cold all the time, edema, excess weight, and feeling heavy and tired–almost waterlogged.

One of the keys to good health is to keep the relationship between Yin and Yang in balance.  This can be achieved or corrected through the use of warming or cooling foods, Chinese herbs, and acupuncture.

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