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Chinese Medicine School: Basic Yin Yang Theory

The introductory tenets of Yin and Yang are among the first subjects AOMA students learn in Chinese medicine school. The theory is one of the foundational principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine and its elegant wisdom guides students throughout their years at AOMA and acupuncture school.

When we hear the phrase “Yin and Yang” many of us may first think of the Yin Yang symbol so ubiquitous on key chains, college posters, childhood doodles, and t-shirts throughout the country. The theory of Yin and Yang is much more profound than an image on an old t-shirt may lead you to first believe, however.  This ever-present symbol is called the Taijitu. It’s the universal symbol for the theory of Yin and Yang and of Taoism.

Yin and Yang can initially be understood as darkness and light. Yin (the black part of the Taijitu) is the “shady side of the mountain,” while Yang (the white portion of the Taijitu) is classically referred to as the “sunny side.” From here, we can attribute many characteristics to either a Yin category or a Yang category. Some of the more common examples of Yin and Yang include:  

  • Nighttime
  • Fall and Winteryin yang_chinese medicine school
  • Female
  • Right
  • Cold
  • North and West
  • Darkness
  • Substance
  • Slow
  • Wet
  • Lower part of the body
  • Front of the body
  • Daytime
  • Spring and Summer
  • Male
  • Left
  • Warm
  • South and East
  • Light
  • Energy
  • Fast
  • Dry
  • Upper part of the body
  • Back of the body

Yin and Yang

Though Yin and Yang can be understood individually, they cannot exist separately. They might seem like opposites—and do typically represent two different sides of one coin—but their properties are actually complementary and dependent on one another.

This indivisibility is a central aspect of Yin and Yang. Without Yin, Yang cannot exist. Without Yang, Yin is not present. Yin and Yang are inseparable; just as we cannot have only sunny days throughout the year, we will not only have cloudy either.

Another important element in Yin Yang theory is the concept that Yin and Yang can change into one another. Clouds can give way to sun in the same way that Yin can be transformed into Yang. Within Yin, the seed of Yang exists; within Yang, Yin is always present. This dynamic balance between Yin and Yang is represented in the Taijitu symbol by the small circle of opposite color within each half.

As a consequence of this nature, Yin and Yang can be divided infinitely. For instance, we might say that a cloudy day is Yin while a sunny day is Yang. However, we can divide the cloudy day into Yin parts (the nighttime of the cloudy day, as an example) and Yang parts (the morning of the cloudy day). We can then further divide the Yang (morning) part of the cloudy day into Yin and Yang, and so on.

Yin and Yang is a theoretical way to understand the natural dualities present in our world, our relationships, and within ourselves. The simple wisdom gained through an understanding of Yin and Yang enriches our lives and constantly reveals itself in our medicine and personal experiences.

Applying the theory of Yin and Yang to our everyday living is simple and rewarding. Recognizing the natural ebb and flow of our world will allow you a comfort in your current circumstances and in your future, while providing an illuminating viewpoint from which to see our Yin and Yang world.

About the author:

Carly Willsie enjoys putting Yin Yang theory into practice as an acupuncture school student and tutor. Carly grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and has a background in journalism and publishing.

Free Video: Yin & Yang Theory in Chinese Medicine Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program  


New DAOM Faculty Support Integrative Medicine Focus


AOMA’s premier doctoral program welcomes its first cohort of students this summer and the program director, Dr. John Finnell, has been hard at work recruiting world-class faculty and putting the finishing touches on the doctoral program curriculum. Check out this easy-to-browse overview of the curriculum with links to DAOM faculty rosters.

DAOM Program Overviewacupuncture doctoral program

  • Specialty in Integrative Management of Pain

  • Professionalism, Leadership and Teaching

  • Inquiry and Scholarship

Modular Format

  • 2 year program of study

  • 14 week-long intensives on campus

  • Continue professional practice while enrolled

DAOM Program Competencies

  • Integrate Traditional Chinese Medicine and Biomedical Concepts

  • Systems-Based Practice

  • Pain Management Specialty

  • Systematic Inquiry

  • Scholarly Publication

  • Leadership, Teaching & Professionalism

  • Lifelong Learning

DAOM Curriculum: TCM Theory, Classics and Techniques
Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Faculty
DAOM faculty

The Classics

  • Classical Chinese theories on pain

  • Psychosocial phenomena in the Classics


  • Advanced techniques for treating pain

  • Advanced electro and laser acupuncture techniques

Herbal Medicine

  • Family lineage treatments of pain

DAOM Curriculum:  Topics in Pain and Associated Psychosocial Phenomena

  • Pain in oncologic and palliative care

  • Gynecologic, pelvic and visceral pain

  • Vascular and lymphatic pain

  • Neurological, sensory and dermatologic pain

  • Pain from musculoskeletal disorders

  • Eco-psychosocial pain and associated psycho social phenomena

Integrative Clinical Partnerships

AOMA Clinics - Specialty pain clinics

Austin Pain Associates - Integrative pain management

Seton Family of Hospitals and Clinics

  • Palliative care

  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation

DAOM Curriculum: Integrative MedicineDAOM program
Integrative Medicine Faculty

Biomedical Theories of Pain

  • Embryology, anatomy and physiology

  • Pharmacology and drug-herb interactions

Functional & Nutritional Medicine

  • Dietary and nutritional approaches to treating pain

  • Clinical application of functional medicine

Integrative Medical Practice

  • Case management in integrative care

  • Integrative practice management

DAOM Curriculum: Research & Inquiry
Research & Inquiry Faculty

Paradigms of Inquiry - Exploration of scientific paradigms and beliefs

Qualitative and Quantitative Assessment - Overview of types of research

Research Methods and Design - Design of research proposal and Institutional Review Board application

Research Project - Publication of research manuscript

Potential Inquiry Topics (examples)

Quantitative Research

  • Pilot clinical trial of TCM intervention in pain care

  • Biomedical models for Qigong

Qualitative Research

  • Recursive assessment of TCM in practice

  • TCM knowledge survey for health professionals

Mixed Methods Research

  • Patient centered outcomes research

  • Comparative effectiveness research

DAOM Curriculum: Leadership, Professionalism & Teachingaccredited DAOM
Professionalism & Leadership Faculty


  • State and National Associations

  • Legislative Issues in Healthcare


  • TCM in integrative healthcare settings

  • Negotiating position and remuneration


  • Educational techniques and technology

  • Developing effective teaching materials

  • Supervision and evaluation of student clinicians

Ready to learn more? Explore the Program:


DAOM @ AOMA : Explore the Doctoral Program

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