By Janice Dauw
This month I have decided to go back to the basics and explore the true foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), yin yang theory. Life reduced to yin and yang has imbued Chinese philosophy and medicine since the earliest recordings. It was first mentioned around 700 BC in The Book of Changes and was drawn as broken and unbroken lines. The concept itself, that being the theory of yin-yang, is both the epitome of simplicity and the embodiment of complexity.
More commonly in modern times, we see the representation of yin-yang as a circle, half black and half white, with a small seed of black within the white and a small seed of white within the black. The symbol exemplifies the nature and interdependence of yin and yang and the four basic tenants of yin yang theory;
yin and yang are both opposite and complimentary and are united by nature yang contains the seed of yin and yin contains the seed of yang. Nothing is all yin or all yang. Yin changes into yang and yang changes into yin.
It is also true that nothing is half yin and half yang. The balance of yin yang is dynamic and constantly changing.
If we apply yin yang theory to the medical field, we see four basic states of imbalance.
preponderance of yin
preponderance of yang
weakness of yin
weakness of yang.
It is crucial to grasp the difference between preponderance of yang and weakness of yin as it depends fully on which is primary and which is secondary. In preponderance of yang, yang is in excess so yin appears to be deficient. In weakness of yin, yin is predominantly deficient which leaves only an apparent excess of yang. The same holds true for the relationship between weakness of yang and preponderance of yin.
In response to these four basic pathological diagnoses of TCM, there exist four treatment designs to restore balance to the yin and yang.
eliminate excess yin
eliminate excess yang.
It is safe to say that all treatment plans in the Chinese Medicine setting, whether it be acupuncture or herbs, employs one or more of these treatment designs.
All parts of the human body as well as all illness experienced by the human body has a predominance of yin or yang. It is never just yin or yang but rather the relationship of yin to yang or yang to yin. The following list shows the general relationship of yin to yang and how it is represented on the human body;
Yang: superior, exterior, posterior lateral surface, back, function, head, above the waist, qi
Yin: inferior, interior, anterior medial surface, front, structure, body, below the waist, blood and body fluids.
In regards to clinical presentation, yin and yang are seen as follows;
Yang: fiery, hot, restless, dry, hard, excited, rapid, non-substantial and transformative
Yin: watery, cold, quiet, wet, soft, inhibited, slow, substantial and stored
The balance of yin and yang is the basic goal of all Chinese medicine. This balance is not just sought after in our health and healing. Rather it is a way of life and is present in everything we breathe including our work, exercise, relationship, emotional life, sexual life, and the food we eat. As we move further into this dark, cold, and introverted time of the year, I hope you all find time to balance this yin time with some yang and enjoy good times, warm food, drink, and dance with those you hold dear to you. Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and balanced new year.
(Janice Dauw grew up in New York City and went on to receive her B.S. in Horticulture from Oregon State University. Later she attended the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine and received her masters degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in 1996. She is licensed thru the Hawaii State Board of Medical Examiners and is nationally certified thru the NCCAOM. While maintaining a very busy private practice for 11 years in the Corvallis, OR area, she also worked as the acupuncturist for Oregon State University Student Health services. In 2007 she and her husband moved to their land in HPP. She took a hiatus from her medical work for 2 years and helped build their new home. Currently, she keeps busy seeing patients three days a week, immersing herself in her garden, and enjoying the beauty and aloha that Hawaii is so abundant in. If you are interested in learning about how acupuncture can help you, or in scheduling an appointment, please call her at 808.982.4309.)