The Chinese concept of Yin/Yang is represented in the opposing polarities found in all phenomena. There is no right without left, no pain without comfort, no rest without work; each definition gestates its counterpart.
The traditional example illustrating this concept is the 24-hour cycle of day and night.
Night is defined in her Yin qualities of: darkness, coolness, and stillness.
Day is defined in his Yang qualities of: light, warmth, and activity.
The 24-hour day/night cycle is a continually changing process, a cascade of moments. Midnight is the time of maximum Yin and minimum Yang. High noon is the time of maximum Yang and minimum Yin. Yet upon reflection, like the moon in a pool, these claims blur when we examine the interlocking influences of all phenomena balancing under day and night, in the influential dance of life.
The existence of Yin and Yang is a continual movement and transference of energy. Nature strives for balance. Indeed, nature exists healthily, in balance. When elements of nature become out of balance (human beings are, of course, included in the realm of natural phenomena, and conscript in the loss of balance), balance can be restored; but it is paramount to acknowledge that to have great strength there must be weakness, to have power there will be the powerless, to have light there must be darkness to remove … and so on. To define one ‘thing’, is to create another. Balance does not ask for healthy or unhealthy; it simply is, moment-to-moment. For to define great health, we must define great dis-ease. Balance exists between the definition; it is our most powerful attribute. Balance is our home to return to, our healing spring.
Primary Precepts of Yin and Yang
There are five traditional primary observations used to illustrate and define parameters governing the powerful relationship of Yin and Yang. These can be summarized as follows:
Yin and Yang are two phases of one universal cyclical movement
Yin and Yang Elements may be subdivided into Yin and Yang components
Yin and Yang mutually define one another’s parameters
Yin and Yang engender change in each other
Yin and Yang transform into each other
These five precepts delineate qualities through which Yin and Yang are expressed in all phenomena.
The goal of TCM is to maintain an individual’s health of mind/body/spirit, or, if dis-ease has set in, to return an individual to a state of balance and harmony. This is the touchstone of maintaining health. The concepts of Yin and Yang are foundational to understanding TCM’s nomenclature and inner workings.
Yin and Yang in Chinese Medical Assessment
In TCM assessment and diagnosis all the variables involved with a person in an ‘unhealthy’ state are taken into consideration and analyzed for their relative proportions of Yin and Yang. A diagnosis is formed based upon the assessment of relative balances. Treatment primarily seeks to reestablish harmony within systems that are out of balance, whether they are physiological, psychological, emotional, dietary, or lifestyle related. Through a deep understanding of Yin and Yang the workings of TCM reveal themselves. Through seeking balance, we realize the complexities involved in healing a dysfunctional body, mind, or spirit.
Virtually all TCM diagnoses can be simplified into the Yin/Yang dynamic. To apply Yin/Yang in medicine we must consider that their relative balance may be skewed in several ways. We must also understand that illness indicates balance has been lost. There are a finite number of ways Yin and Yang can be out of balance. The most common diagnoses are as follows:
At a glance, these diagnoses could appear to be different ways of saying the same thing. After all, would an excess not require a deficiency? As an example - to note - Yin Deficiency and Yang Excess do have similarities. It could even be said that as a ‘whole’, they seem to have the same ‘ratio’ of Yin and Yang. This can, at times present a confusing diagnostic picture due to similarities, however, a skilled TCM practitioner can easily differentiate these two similar clinical presentations. Patients with either of the above imbalances may present with symptoms of fever, sweating, dark urine, agitation, restless thoughts, and a feeling of heat. So, the practitioner must inquire and observe carefully to determine the true nature of the imbalance.