The Meaning of Yin

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Jeanne’s upcoming book, The Yin of Medicine.

Yin and Yang is unfamiliar in western cultures and a common philosophy in many eastern countries. It is a concept of how life flows. In Chinese society it is the root understanding of health and disease. In fact all of life in the orient is based in the understanding of opposites. It somewhat comparable to a scientific principle “For every action there is a reaction”. Dating back to third century BCE the Yellow Emperor said ”The principle of Yin and Yang is the foundation of the entire universe. It underlies everything in creation. It brings about the development of parenthood; it is the root and source of life and death. It is found with the temples of the gods. In order to treat and cure diseases one must search for their origins. (Source)

This yin can be equated to feminine but she does not exist without balance of yang. The same holds true for yang as it cannot exist without the yin. In matters of health this balance is very important.

Homeostasis is the a term used to denote a balance in physiology within the human body.

Can we have homeostasis without knowing the yin or yang? Yes and no. A simple rhetoric to this is: can we have warm water without hot and cold? Can we have fever without chills? These are truly simple comparisons to make a point. Achieving homeostasis in the body is quite complex; much more complex than the simple hot and cold principle, but more comparable to fever and chills of an illness. Furthering this point is to say yin and yang is essential for balance in healing.

When the body is imbalanced what factors are in play? Our immune system gets very involved in acute illnesses but so does the mind and emotions. Our minds play into the state of affairs with worry – will I get well? The “what if’s” can plague our mind.

So in the balance picture it is not just a matter of hot and cold makes warm, but a complex interplay of the physical activity of what each cell is experiencing. When illness sets in all the factors of getting well get into the mix. These include feelings about being taken care of (or not wanting to), pain (control of and relief from), fatigue, loss of mind clarity, anxiousness of being a burden, feeling hopeless of ever being well, etc. All these factors serve to help in the healing process but can hinder the return to a state of health.

Returning to a state of health: what does that imply? Are we ever in a pure state of health? More likely we are in a constant search of the body’s innate ability to seek balance. That search can be conscious or we may not be aware at all. But it is still occurring. We are continually moving toward or retracting back from that balanced position. The action of yin and the response with yang (or yang in response to yin) occurs quite naturally almost silently.

Yin and yang are the contrasting and complementary opposites that flow in and out of each other. They symbolize the duality of life is all aspects. One set of qualities is not more important; each supports the other. When expansion occurs there must be contraction; darkness gives way to the light. Heat needs coolness to keep the balance or we would be exhausted by too much heat rising and expanding. Even the starkest places on the planet have a contrast of yin and yang. The time frame may be different but the contrasting continues.

Yin represents feminine qualities. The feminine is the container, the holder of life. She sits quietly contemplating the unknown. She is the mystery and contraction; the going within for answers. The container is symbolized by the womb. This deeply embedded organ holds all life’s possibilities. The embryo grows and is nurtured by the female body. She then brings forth life for the continuation of the human species.

Without the yin the yang would be out of balance and could not survive but rather would explode and dissipate. In studying table 1 the contrast is striking. Neither yin nor yang is good or bad. Each holds an important role in universal life in matters that matter.

Know the goodness of each quality as they weave through life seeking its own balance.

Table 1.

Yin Yang
Feminine Masculine
Contraction Expansion
Moon Sun
Small Large
Black White
Cold Heat
Darkness Light
Imperfect Perfect
Bad Good
North South
Negative Positive
Downward seeking Upward seeking
Consuming Producing
Night time Day time
Water Air
Earth Sky
Intuition Intelligence


How does balance affect health?

The word balance brings the mind to a place of equal status with each side containing equal parts or amounts.. Balance has many definitions and meanings in the world. Balance sheets in finance, balance scales, a balance watch or a wheel and balance board are a few examples of this important word in our common experience. Homeostasis is a scientific example for balance as it applies to the body and its ability to function moment to moment. In chemistry and in the physical world equilibrium is balance. All chemical and biochemical reactions seek balance (equilibrium) in nature whether it is in the human body or in the plant and animal kingdoms. It’s the natural order of things. From the microcosm of each cell’s function of any living being to the macrocosm of the universe, balance, equilibrium and homeostasis is the common denominator.

The practice of contemporary medicine reveals an imbalanced yin. This is what needs to be righted. Everyday our energy moves us about our day. Some days we are calm, content and settled then some days we are frantic, excited, adventuresome, overworked. This is an example of more yin in our day or more yang playing out.
At the end of our day we must rest and sleep, which often inadequate. In western cultures the belief of hard work numbs out our sense of balance. How many of our days are spent in happy hours of laughter, rest and relaxation? At the end of a work week do we take off days to spend in pure rest and enjoyment? In this 21st century, the common pattern is to do more and more and have less and less down time. More yin is needed to balance the yang energy.

Next…. How women practice yin medicine.


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