Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks






Yin and Yang

Brian Carter is the founder of the Pulse of Oriental Medicine, medical professor at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and author of Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure.

The tai chi tu, an ancient symbol depicting the relationship between yin and yang.  Notice the yang within the yin, and the yin within the yang.  yang is white, yin is black.

One of the basic elements of Chinese Philosophy and Oriental Medicine is the concept of yin and yang (rhymes with 'song,' not 'sang'). These fundamental opposites were first recorded in the I-Ching around 700 B.C. This duality is a basic part of our experience as human beings. Early in life we leave behind primary narcissism and realize that the world consists of both us, and not-us. We also become aware of other opposites. For example

This is a representation of yang, also mimicking the tai chi tu, or Yang Yin The moon is a symbol of the yin aspect of life.  Acupuncture, and herbs like shu di huang are used in Oriental Medicine to increase the yin when appropriate.
Sun Moon
Light Dark
Fire Water
Heat Cold
Life Death

We can also think of more day-to-day examples such as

Yang Yin
Physical Exercise Sleep
Worrying Meditating
Speaking Listening

Walking along a busy street

Walking in the woods

It is safe to assume that, in our modern American society, the more yin things you can add to your life, the better you off you will be. Actually a more yin thing to do might be to let some of your yang activities go.

Why are we so yang? Do you think our society is more active or passive? More loud or soft? Do we reward each other for listening well, or meditating? Do we encourage passivity? No, we are much more yang than yin. We reward the loud, the aggressive, the active individuals. Value-judgements aside, this emphasis on yang has certain effects on us as individuals and as a society

What happens when we are too yang? When there is too much yang, there will result a deficiency of yin. For example: If your car runs too hot (yang) for too long, its fluids(yin) are consumed. Your car is left with a deficiency of yin (fluids). In this state it is more likely that your car will become hot(yang) again with even less exertion than before. What is the solution? Add more yin(fluids). What is the cure? Don't run your car too hot(yang) for too long again, but if you do, keep a closer watch on the fluid(yin)-levels so that you can add more, sooner to avoid overheating

How can we live more wisely? If we are too active for too long we end up in a state of disease. We get to a point where we cannot help running hot, because we have lost our balance between action and inaction. We may even feel an aversion to the yin things that would restore our balance because we have built up identities, both personal and social, that reinforce our excessively yang natures. As painful as change may be, we might forego future emotional and physical disasters by injecting some yin into our lives. Spend some time reading, praying, or meditating instead of watching TV in the evening. Give your mind a rest. Take "yin" breaks during work. Let eating be the only "yang" thing you do during meals.

A neon represenation of Huang Di, the Yellow Emperor, whose Internal Classic of Medicine (third millenium B.C.E.) is one of the most direct sources for Oriental Medicine.   "Their bodies will remain light and strong. Although they grow old in years, they will stay able-bodied and vigorous and be capable of governing to great advantage. For this reason the ancient sages did not rush into the affairs of the world."
  - The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicin

But when do we really need more yang? There are individuals and situations that are yang deficient. Prolapse, chronic diarrhea, sluggishness, and excess coldness may be signs of deficient yang. Say, for example, we eat a meal of rich, heavy foods. Mightn't we drink some coffee (a very yang substance) to push us through the resultant sluggishness? Of course, eventually we may come to understand the negative consequences of both rich foods and coffee and give them up, but until then we have a yang deficient problem and a yang solution. Other situations such as depression can be a deficiency of the yang element. The yang quality of movement may be necessary to restore health, but often the lack of movement is due also to a lack of yin, because..

Yin and Yang are interdependent. Without space(yin), there would be nowhere for time(yang) to happen. Without air(yin) the action of a propeller(yang) would have no effect. Without a listener(yin) there would be no point to speaking(yang). Without blood(yin), qi cannot move(yang). Without water(yin), there is no bubbling(yang) brook

What about Ginseng? Who hasn't felt tired? How many people drink coffee in the morning to get up and go? Sometimes we feel a sense of fear that we don't have enough to keep up. Maybe we wonder if we are enough to keep up. These are some reasons to seek a yang substance like as coffee, or Ginseng. The public has not been fully informed about Ginseng, however, and it is important that they understand that it is not beneficial for all people and all situations. Read more about Ginseng



All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.
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