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Yin and yang in Chinese medicine

Yin and yang underpin the most basic fundamentals of Chinese medicine. This familiar symbol is often simplified in its meaning but contains a deep poetic insight, describing so much of our experience in this world within its simple image. The depth to which it encapsulates the principles of the universe and its application to all levels of manifestation, never ceases to amaze me.

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe the opposing yet complementary elements in all that exists. Yin and yang are opposites, yet one cannot exist without the other – like day cannot exist without night. The opposition, however, is relative and can therefore only really be understood within relationship. For example, spring is more yang than winter but more yin than summer. Yin and yang are dynamic forces and always in constantly changing relationship and at their extremes they transform to the other. This highlights the interdependence of yin and yang – as we reach full yin, yang begins to grow. As we reach the depth of winter, the spring energy begins to emerge.

The theory of yin and yang can be applied to everything, from minute cells in our bodies to the expanse of the universe. Everything contains opposing forces, which in health, maintain balance and harmony. When elements are out of balance, it will have a knock-on effect on everything else. All physiological processes, signs and symptoms can be defined in terms of yin and yang. When yin and yang are out of balance, or one is struggling, it will have an impact on the body. For example, in relationship to each other – yin cools and nourishes yang, whereas yang warms and activates yin. They are both essential elements within the harmonious functioning of our bodies. When yin is deficient, and cannot cool and nourish the yang – yang tends to rise up, leading to headaches, sore throat, sore eyes, irritability etc. When yang does not warm and activate yin, we tend to experience cold limbs, poor circulation and low energy.

There are many elements which can knock yin and yang out of balance, including injury, stress, diet or lack of exercise. Acupuncture can be a really powerful tool in helping to rebalance the body and find a new harmony.

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