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:
- Fall and Winter
- North and West
- Lower part of the body
- Front of the body
- Spring and Summer
- South and East
- 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.