AOMA Blog

5 Books to Read Before Starting Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine School

Posted by Kate Wetzel on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 @ 10:50 AM

Stepping into the world of traditional Chinese medicine as a student or a patient calls for an openness in acknowledging how tradition and science overlap. Some aspects of traditional Chinese medicine can’t be easily reconciled to a specimen under a microscope, yet the scientific community is increasingly expanding its understanding of how acupuncture and herbal medicine affect the body.

As an intern in the student clinic at AOMA, patients routinely ask why I’m immersed in this field, what the needles are doing, and about this word “qi” that keeps coming up.If you find yourself asking these questions, or are considering a life dedicated to Chinese medical practice, I recommend the following resources to help build your understanding of this medicine.

  

the_body_electric_robert_becker_gary_selden1. The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life 
Authors: Robert O Becker, MD, and Gary Seldon

Dr. Robert Becker’s writing offers a somewhat-rare voice from the modern medical community that connects compassionate medical care to scientific theory—a connection resonating with many of those curious about Chinese medicine. An orthopedist, Becker, opens his book with a description of his medical school experiences in crowded wards before the discovery and application of penicillin. Exposed as a student to this widespread suffering, he explores what it means to define pain as an objective and subjective experience. So compels his subsequent lifework researching electromagnetism as it shapes and heals our bodies. 

 

between_heaven_and_earch_beinfield_korngold

2. Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine
Authors: Harriet Beinfeld, LAc and Efrem Korngold, LAc

This text reads almost like an introductory course in Chinese medicine completely accessible to the Western lay reader. Beinfeld and Korngold describe their watershed introduction to Chinese medicine in the 1970s when it was first being introduced in the US. They quickly go through a stepwise comparison of Eastern and Western approaches providing a readable, informative explanation of Yin-Yang theory, the Taoist Five Phases, and tongue and pulse diagnosis—Chinese medicine concepts fundamental to every beginning student.  Rounding out the last chapter is a collection of therapeutic recipes resting on the ubiquitous concept that longevity and vitality require keen understanding of “kitchen alchemy.” Anyone who wants to dive into the world of Chinese medicine through the personal voices of American authors should check out this book.

 

the_web_that_has_no_weaver_ted_kaptchuk3. The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine
Author: Ted Kaptchuk, OMD

Like the previous selection, this book holds a place as a foundational staple for new students and curious patients of Chinese Medicine. The Web, however, dives into detail rapidly, quoting readily from classics in the canon of ancient Chinese medical text. It reads less like a personal narrative and more like a compelling cultural textbook. It moves beyond a basic overview of Taoist theory and digs into richer detail of TCM diagnosis, the zang fu (organ) patterns, and meridian system. This book is best appreciated as a cover-to-cover read, appropriate for someone wants to spend time delving into and ruminating on the broader implications of a life in Chinese medical practice.

 

staying_healthy_with_seasons_elson_haas4. Staying Healthy with the Seasons
Author: Elson M. Haas, M.D.

Many of us who enter the field of Chinese medicine--or merely seek care from an acupuncture and Chinese medical practitioner—appreciate to varying degrees that ancient healing is a life practice and not just a 1-hr session of needles with a bag of medicinal herbs. Staying Healthy with the Seasons fastens a Western life to manageable ancient Eastern practice. It takes the Taoist Five Elements and expands them heartily into a guide for diet, exercise, meditation, and disease prevention. Not only does this book provide great introductory information but also is a bookshelf staple in the homes of wellness-seeking families

 

the_spark_in_the_machines_daniel_keown5. The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine
Author: Daniel Keown, MD (England)

Dr. Keown commences his book by hitching together a functional definition of qi (“chee”) to the sheet-like bands of tissue under our skin called fascia. He continues in an explanation of how human anatomy develops prenatally, where acupuncture points emerge in this development, and how fully developed meridians course in the mature human body to connect these points. The book uses anatomical references to define more esoteric acupuncture landmarks. Any layperson can pick up this book for a concrete understanding of where and why major points in the body exist. If you have found yourself as an acupuncture patient asking about the where and why of the needling points, definitely check out this text! 

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

 

 About Kate Wetzel:

kate_wetzel_imageKate is a graduate student within AOMA’s Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program. Prior to beginning her studies in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine she completed a BA in English at Trinity University and worked as special education teacher for the Austin Independent School District.

 

 

 

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese medicine philosophy, student spotlight, acupuncture school, yin/yang theory, chinese medicine school, admissions

7 TCM Tips for Staying in Harmony with the Fall Season

Posted by Lauren St. Pierre, LAc on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 @ 10:38 AM

7_TCM_Tips_for_Staying_in_Harmony_with_the_Fall_Season.jpg

Open your windows, everyone... fall is here! As the Autumnal Equinox just happened, we look forward to dusting off our sweaters for cooler days, apple- and pumpkin-picking, and digging into nourishing comfort foods. We are transitioning out of the active, highly social energy of summer. Fall is ruled by the metal element and is a season for letting go. It ushers in a time for wrapping up projects from the previous months and looking more toward introspection and stillness, and it’s a wonderful time to reflect and spend quality time with loved ones.

In TCM, during fall we are most susceptible to dryness which can affect the lungs, skin, and digestion. Common signs of disharmony in the fall are thirst, dry nose and skin, itching, and sore throat. There are a number of things we can do to combat dryness and fortify our bodies for the coming winter months.

1. Drink waterDollarphotoclub water w

So simple, yet often overlooked. It’s always beneficial to be hydrating with teas and water, and it’s an especially good idea during the fall when dry skin and constipation are a bigger issue.

2. Sleep more

As the days grow shorter, allow your body to rest. In a city like Austin, with so many fun things to do at night, it can be hard to rest. But if you feel ready for bed at 9pm, allow yourself to snuggle in with a good book and move with the energy of the season. It can be restorative for your body and mind.

3. Incorporate moistening foods and thoughtful meal preparation

The raw, cold foods that sustain us in the summer can be too harsh on the system at this time of year. Soups, steamed foods, and cooking “low and slow” are all in harmony with fall.

Ingredients that have moistening qualities:

  • Pears, Apples, Persimmons, Loquatspears are moistening
  • Lotus Root (available at many specialty stores and Asian markets), Yams, Spinach
  • Edamame, Tempeh, Tofu
  • Almonds, Pine Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds
  • Lily bulb (bai he) and Chrysanthemum (ju hua) are good herbs to use in teas or in a congee. Ask your acupuncturist about using Chinese herbs in recipes.

4. Organize what feels scattered and let go of what you don’t need

It’s a great time to transition from the outward energy of summer in preparation for the contracting energy of the coming winter.

  • Pay your bills
  • Organize your kitchen pantry
  • Check expiration dates on food, medication, and personal care products
  • Donate those shoes you haven’t worn in three years

5. Avoid processed sugar

It’s acidic and drying and in nearly every tempting treat that will come your way in the following months. Make conscious choices with food, and your immune system will thank you for it during flu season. Cravings too much to take? Drink a glass of water and eat some apple or pear lightly drizzled with honey and a bit of cinnamon.

6. Dress for the season

acupuncture austin aoma

While fall in Austin sometimes feels like summer, it’s a time when we again can be more susceptible to common colds, sore throats, and coughs. Make sure to layer your clothing in case a cold snap or an unexpected thunderstorm hits. Scarfs and cozy sweaters for everyone!

7. And of course...get acupuncture!

What better way to harmonize your body and boost your immune system than a restorative session with your acupuncturist at AOMA. The great thing about working with an acupuncturist is the opportunity to get tailored information, herbs, and food recommendations based on what your specific body constitution needs.

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

About the author

lauren st pierreLauren has lived in Austin since 2006 by way of Lake Tahoe, California. While pursuing her MAcOM at AOMA she continues to work with The American Cancer Society as a cancer information specialist. She counts ATX as her home with her husband and two Boston terriers. http://www.earthspringacupuncture.com/

Topics: nutrition, chinese medicine philosophy, self-care

Staying Cool in the Summer Heat

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 @ 11:57 AM

Taking Care: Summer
AOMA’s recommendations for staying on top of Summer Heat

by Lauren St. Pierre-Mehrens

Summer in Austin is full of many wonderful things. summer bbq Dollarphoto wSwimming at Barton Springs, backyard BBQs, free concerts at Zilker Park, and the HEAT. Well, for some the heat is wonderful; for most of us, it can be a challenge both mentally and physically. Summer Heat is one of the “six pernicious evils” in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory and is nothing to scoff at. Protecting yourself and understanding how to avoid dehydration and heatstroke are vital to making the most of your summer and protecting your body for the rest of the year.

Summer is yang in nature and a time of increased energy and expansion. It gives us long days to explore this yang nature, to be social and active. A wider variety of local seasonal food is available, and it’s a wonderful time to diversify our diets with fresh fruits and vegetables. Nature has harmony in mind when we look at the foods around us. What’s local during the summer months often is what we should be eating due to the cooling nature of the foods.

It is also a time that requires protecting our yang from damage. Nothing sounds better during a midday scorcher than an ice cream or downing a full cup of ice water, but in TCM, this damages your yang. Why does that matter? Our body is constantly trying to balance yin and yang, hot and cold, moist and dry. When we damage one, the other can become relatively too great, or unchecked. Simply put, yang is the fire in us while yin is the water. If you keep pouring ice water over a fire, eventually it will be too weak to burn. We don’t see the problem with this in the summer when all we want is to put that fire out, but as the seasons change, we will start to see digestive and circulation problems. Acupuncture, herbs, and qigong can help to restore balance, but why not prevent potential problems in the first place?

In Austin, we also have Damp mixed in with our Summer Heat. Austinites might experience more heavy sensations in the body, as well as fatigue, abdominal fullness, and digestive upset. All the more reason to get in harmony with the season.

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

What might Summer Heat look like?

The excessive yang nature of Summer Heat affecting the body comes in many forms. We often will see a very red face, bright red tongue with yellow or no coating, fever, insomnia, irritability, restlessness, constipation or diarrhea, elevated blood pressure, headaches, mouth sores, skin rashes, and acne.

Children and the elderly as well as those who tend toward excess yang, or heat, may find they are more susceptible to Summer Heat.

What can I do to support my body?

  • Stay hydrated and avoid peak sun. In Austin that can be from 10am to 4pm, or later, given that we’re on Daylight Savings Time. Use good judgment and always carry water and a hat or umbrella with you.
  • Use cool packs on your elbow creases and the back of your neck if you’re overheated.
  • Increase these foods, which have cooling properties:

◦     watermelonwatermelon for summer heat

◦     millet

◦     mung beans

◦     celery

◦     peppermint or chrysanthemum flower tea

◦     lemon/lime and other citrus

  • Moderate/avoid these foods, which can be too warming, if you’re seeing Summer Heat signs:

◦     anything spicy and/or fried

◦     red meat

◦     lobster, mussels, and prawns

◦     chicken

◦     peanuts

◦     alcohol

Acupuncture and dietary therapy can be an effective way beat the heat, but watch for red flags of actual heat exhaustion or heatstroke and seek medical attention if they occur: fainting, dark-colored urine, rapid heartbeat, confusion, throbbing headache, and vomiting. Be safe, have fun, and come see us at AOMA for more personalized support.

 

Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Nutrition

About the author

lauren st pierreLauren has lived in Austin since 2006 by way of Lake Tahoe, California. While pursuing her MAcOM at AOMA she continues to work with The American Cancer Society as a cancer information specialist. She counts ATX as her home with her husband and two Boston terriers. http://www.earthspringacupuncture.com/

 

 

 

Topics: chinese medicine philosophy, self-care

5 TCM Tips for Taking Care: Spring

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, May 19, 2014 @ 10:40 AM

Spring comes and goes fast in Austin. With summer just around the corner, what can we do now to strengthen our body and mind?

Here are AOMA’s traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tips for staying healthy, happy, and in harmony with the season of spring.

1. Wear a scarf

  • Wind is one of the six pernicious evils (Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp, Dryness, and Summer Heat), and it is the external evil associated with spring.
  • Many of the points that can be easily affected by Wind are on the upper back, neck, and head.
  • Wearing a scarf or hoodie, especially when it’s windy or after an acupuncture treatment, can help prevent wind attack.
  • Common symptoms of wind attack:

◦     common cold

◦     headache

◦     nasal obstruction

◦     itching

◦     allergies and rashes, to name a few

  • When your acupuncturist tells you to stay covered up after a treatment, the wind points may be more open. So risk looking like a hipster to prevent catching a wind invasion.

2. Eat your greensgreen salad

  • Spring is charged by the energy of the Liver and the color green.
  • It is a vital time to eat foods that are sprouting, in harmony with the natural growth of the season. Eating more of the light, healthy greens like asparagus, kale, collards, watercress, and lettuce while avoiding rich foods can help to unblock the heavy energy of the previous winter months. 
  • Pungent foods like garlic, onions, peppermint, basil, dill, fennel, and rosemary all work well at supporting the upward and outward energy of spring and unblocking stuck energy.
  • Start the day with a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon. The sour flavor soothes the liver and helps rid the body of toxins.

3. Let go of old grudges

  • Holding on to anger constrains the Liver and its natural harmony.
  • Developing self-care for the spirit is just as important as what we do for our body.
  • Consider journaling, writing poems, or meditating on letting go. You don’t need to have confrontations to heal.
  • Forgiveness can be very therapeutic for balancing energy and is in perfect harmony with spring.

4. Move your qi to put some spring in your tai chi austin, qigong austinstep

  • Whether it’s taking a walk in the open air, starting a taiji or qigong practice, or joining a gym, spring is a wonderful time for renewal, growth, and transformation.
  • Breathing fresh air supports the Lung qi which directly balances your Liver qi.
  • Liver qi stagnation can manifest as irritability, digestive upset, PMS, depression, and poor appetite, just to name a few.
  • Ask your acupuncturist to show you some exercises for harmonizing the Liver and get that qi moving smoothly.

5. Get acupuncture

  • Nothing can support your efforts to cleanse and detox the Liver like a springtime acupuncture treatment.
  • Acupuncture stimulates the channels, clears out stagnation, and smooths the flow of qi.
  • Liver qi stagnation (irritability, depression, PMS, etc.) responds well to acupuncture.
  • While all treatments are tailored to the individual, the practitioner will be working in conjunction with the ancient principals of seasonal movement of qi and can help to harmonize your body.

 

Stay tuned for our tips to beat the heat of the upcoming summer months.

Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

About the author

lauren st pierreLauren has lived in Austin since 2006 by way of Lake Tahoe, California. While pursuing her MAcOM at AOMA she continues to work with The American Cancer Society as a cancer information specialist. She counts ATX as her home with her husband and two Boston terriers. http://www.earthspringacupuncture.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese medicine philosophy, Complementary Medicine

Chinese Medicine School: Zang-fu Organ System

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Oct 21, 2013 @ 03:14 PM

You’ve probably heard someone describe the sensation of nervousness as having “butterflies in the stomach.” Perhaps you’ve referred to a person displaying restraint in the face of hardship as having a “stiff upper lip,” or a sensitive person as “wearing their heart on their sleeve.”

What about complimenting someone’s gallbladder when they accomplish something brave? Probably not, right?

This saying, often heard in China (and AOMA’s classrooms), has its foundations in the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept of the gallbladder as the source of courage and judgment. Attributing emotions, bodily manifestations, and physiological functions to organs is an important aspect of our medicine and an incredibly informative lens through which to view the body.

This practice is referred to as the Zang-fu system; it is a foundational tenant of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It builds upon Yin Yang theory as well as Five Element theory and is used as a launching pad for more complex TCM diagnosis. (If you need to brush up on Yin Yang theory and Five Element theory, read our Chinese Medicine School posts on the topics.)

The Zang-fu consist of eleven organs in total—five of which are considered Yin in nature and six of which are considered Yang in nature. The five Yin organs—Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, and Kidney—are referred to as the Zang. The Zang are solid organs and are responsible for the generation and storage of Qi, Blood, Body Fluid, and Essence.

Every organ has unique characteristics and functions. They are also said to “open into” certain body parts (thereby controlling that body part’s functioning) and manifest in others.

Liverchinese medicine organs

Element: Wood
Physiologic Functions:

  • Stores Blood
  • Controls the flow of Qi throughout the body
  • Controls tendons and ligaments
  • Houses the Ethereal Soul (“Hun”)

Opens Into: Eyes
Manifestation: Nails

Heart

Element: Fire
Physiologic Functions:

  • Governs blood and controls the blood vessels
  • Houses the mind (“Shen”)
  • Controls sweating

Opens Into: Tongue
Manifestation: Facial complexion

Spleen

Element: Earth
Physiologic Functions:

  • Governs transportation and absorption of food and water
  • Controls the generation of ingredients for Blood
  • Holds Blood inside the vessels
  • Controls the muscles and the limbs

Opens Into: Mouth
Manifestation: Lips

Lung

Element: Metal
Physiologic Functions:

  • Governs Qi and respiration
  • Controls channels and blood vessels; Governs the exterior of the body
  • Controls dispersing and descending of substances in the body
  • Regulates water passage
  • Houses the Corporeal Soul (“Po”)

Opens Into: Nose
Manifestation: Hair of the skin

Kidney

Element: Water
Physiologic Functions:

  • Stores Essence
  • Governs birth, growth, reproduction, and development
  • Generates Marrow
  • Controls Bones
  • Controls water
  • Control the reception of Qi (“root” the breath)

Opens Into: Ears
Manifestation: Hair of the head

Each Zang is paired with a Fu—one of the Yang organs. The Fu organs are hollow. They primarily receive and transport food and water throughout the body. These more active functions are the reason they’re considered to be more Yang than Yin. The organs and their pairings are listed below.

Zang: Liver
Fu: Gallbladder

Zang: Heart
Fu: Small Intestine

Zang: Spleen
Fu: Stomach

Zang: Lung
Fu: Large Intestine

Zang: Kidneys
Fu: Bladder

Zang: Pericardium (Though not always grouped with the five Zang organs, the Pericardium is considered the protector of the heart; it is also an acupuncture channel.)
Fu: San Jiao (also called the Triple Warmer and Triple Burner)

Itcm school zang-fut is important not to conflate the TCM organ with the Western anatomical organ. For instance, the Spleen in TCM isn’t necessarily the organ that filters the blood. Some features do overlap—for example, the Heart being involved with blood —but it’s best not to think of the Zang-fu as literal organs, but rather consider them figurative entities.

Just as the Five Elements follow a generating and controlling sequence, the Zang-fu system can also be examined in this context. (For an overview of the Five Elements and to view the generating and controlling sequences, check out our blog post on the subject.)  

These controlling and generating sequences are used to visualize the source(s) of pathological conditions and can be used to approach a treatment. For example, it is said in TCM that if an element (or organ) is in excess, an acupuncturist should “sedate the child.” So, if the Liver organ was hyperactive in a patient, the acupuncturist may choose to sedate the Heart.

The Zang-fu system is an incredibly important and consequential method of TCM diagnosis: It influences the diagnostic decisions, treatment plans, herbal prescriptions, and overall understanding of acupuncturists and herbalists the world over. The Zang-fu organs (including the Pericardium) also constitute the twelve primary acupuncture channels and are consequently used on a daily basis by most practicing acupuncturists. Take a moment to review the Zang-fu system and soon you will discover an entirely new way of viewing the human body.

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Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese medicine philosophy, acupuncture school, chinese medicine school, zang-fu

Chinese Medicine School: Basic Five Element Theory

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 @ 10:03 AM

7 chakras elementsThe theory of the natural elements is an enduring philosophy across cultures, appearing in separate countries in vastly different eras around the world.

The ancient Greeks used the five elements of earth, water, air, fire, and “aether” (quintessence/spirit) as a guiding principal to better understand the universe. Both ancient Egyptians and Buddhists understood the elements as fire, water, air, and earth. Hinduism utilizes the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind, and “aether”) as well. In fact, the seven chakras pair with Hindu and Buddhist five element theory. Western astrology also makes use of the four classical elements in astrological charting.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Five Element theory (also called Wu Xing) is a powerful, foundational lens through which medicine, our bodies, and the world at large can be viewed. Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood are understood to be the Five Elements in TCM.

Each element is awarded a number of characteristics and correspondences. They all have their separate natures, movements, directions, sounds, times of the day, and much more. Similar to Yin Yang theory, many specific aspects of life and the world can be attributed to a certain element.

In addition to these basic qualities, the elements also correspond with certain internal organs, tastes, emotions, and sense organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine—a very important feature of the theory with great implications to the medicinal practice.

Below are the Five Elements and their commonly discussed and widely held attributes.

Fire

  • Season: Summer
  • Direction: South
  • Color: Red
  • Environment: Hot
  • Taste: Bitter
  • Emotion: Joy
  • Organs: Heart; Small Intestine
  • Sense Organ: Tongue
  • Bodily Tissue: Blood vessel

Earth

  • Season: Late summer
  • Direction: Center/Middle
  • Color: Yellow
  • Environment: Damp
  • Taste: Sweet
  • Emotion: Worry
  • Organs: Spleen; Stomach
  • Sense Organ: Mouth
  • Bodily Tissue: Muscles

Metal

  • Season: Fall
  • Direction: West
  • Color: White
  • Environment: Dry
  • Taste: Pungent
  • Emotion: Grief
  • Organs: Lung; Large Intestine
  • Sense Organ: Nose
  • Bodily Tissue: Body hair

Water

  • Season: Winter
  • Direction: North
  • Color: Black
  • Environment: Cold
  • Taste: Salty
  • Emotion: Fear
  • Organs: Kidneys; Urinary Bladder
  • Sense Organ: Ear
  • Bodily Tissue: Bone

Wood

  • Season: Spring
  • Direction: East
  • Color: Green
  • Environment: Windy
  • Taste: Sour
  • Emotion: Anger
  • Organs: Liver; Gallbladder
  • Sense Organ: Eye
  • Bodily Tissue: Tendons

 

five elementsIn TCM, the Five Elements are dynamic: they create, control, and constantly interact with each other.  Each element is said to generate—give rise—to another element. This generating sequence is a type of “mother-son” relationship, where the parent gives life to and nurtures the child. In Five Element theory, Fire generates Earth. Earth generates Metal. Metal generates Water. Water generates Wood. Wood generates Fire. One jumping off point for remembering this sequence is to think of how rubbing twigs (ie: wood) together can create fire.

Additionally, each element controls and is controlled by another element, creating a system of checks and balances. Ideally, this system guarantees that one element will not over-dominate another element for any lengthy period of time. The controlling sequence is as follows: Fire controls Metal. Metal controls Wood. Wood controls Earth. Earth controls Water. Water controls Fire. An easy way to begin memorizing the controlling relationships is to think of how water can easily douse—control—fire.

Disturbances in these natural generating and controlling orders give rise to pathological symptoms. For instance, if the Wood element is too excessive in the body it may begin “over-controlling” the Earth element. This is a common pathology in clinical practice. One way it can be used is to understand why feeling excessively angry (Wood’s emotion) can give one a stomachache (the Stomach is one of Earth’s organs).

These symptoms are intricately analyzed in AOMA’s didactic classes and utilized to great effect in clinical settings. Even without going into the depth required in Chinese medicine school, however, Five Element theory can provide structure to our daily lives, an understanding of the interconnectedness of our planet, and a richer appreciation of our bodies. Put simply, the Five Elements can be seen as a natural law of the universe.  

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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.

Topics: chinese medicine philosophy, yin/yang theory, chinese medicine school, five elements

Chinese Medicine School: Basic Yin Yang Theory

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, May 20, 2013 @ 12:42 PM

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:  

Yin:

  • 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
  Yang:
  • 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  

 

Topics: Traditional Chinese Medicine, chinese medicine philosophy, yin/yang theory, chinese medicine school

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