Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yin and Yang, The Basis of Chinese Medicine

Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine - Yin and Yang
by David and Melissa Sokulski, L.Acs.

The concept of yin and yang is fundamental to Chinese Medicine.

The Chinese character for yin can be translated as the shady side of the hill, and so corresponds to dark, night, rest, coolness. Yang is the sunny side of the hill: light, day, activity, warmth.

What makes the idea of yin and yang so unique to Eastern thought, is the idea of relativity. Nothing is purely yin or yang, in fact nothing is yin or yang on it's own, it is only in relation to something else. For example, if heat is considered yang, is Florida considered yin or yang? It's climate is yang compared to New York's, but yin compared to areas on the equator. Nothing can be considered by itself, nothing is either one thing or the other.

Similarly, yin and yang are always transforming into each other. Day changes to night, and back into day. Summer to fall, winter, spring and back to summer. Even high noon is not purely yang, it has a seed of yin that grows and allows day to give way to evening and night.

The concept of yin and yang is extended to the body, health and Chinese Medicine. In fact, at it's most basic, Chinese medicine can be reduced to yin and yang, and treatment techniques can be thought of in these terms:

  • strengthening yin
  • strengthening yang
  • eliminating excess yin
  • eliminating excess yang

depending on what kind of imbalance is occurring within the patient.

Yet again, it is not as simple as it appears. If a person has a condition of heat: fever in the evening, night sweats, rapid we consider this excess yang or insufficient yin, both of which would lead to heat? The distinction is vital in terms of treatment. In this case the heat is likely due to insufficient yin (fluids which cool the body) because the fever and sweats occur only at night, so the treatment principle would be to strengthen the yin rather than clear away yang.

Sometimes it is helpful to pare things down to the basics, to begin to understand the simplicity, yet depth and wisdom of ancient medicine.