Are you yin or are you yang?

Hugh Hayward - Chinese Medicine Practitioner

Acupuncture is culturally based on ancient taoist philosophy and despite the recent advancements of the western scientific approach to ancient medicines, it remains a crucial part of Chinese medicine application. The concept of the tao has origins in China, although it has influenced spiritual practitioners and acupuncturists in other parts of Asia like Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
The yin-yang is probably the most basic and well known of taoist symbols and is popularly found among tramp stamps and bush doof wear. Although revered in the west for its defining beauty and simplicity, it is a recurring element of Chinese medicine theory and is applied in acupuncture and herbal medicine in diagnosis and treatment.

It is a symbol of the concept of balance and the duality of existence.

So how can a conceptual phenomenon be useful in a practical medicine?

We can all understand balance on a basic level. We all relate to the idea of cause and effect and a sense of action and reaction, or karma. The more scientifically minded will think of polarity. This understanding comes down to the meaning of our being and the birth of the universe. Nothing in this world exists without balance, which is why we recognise it so clearly. It is what we are made of and the essence of our biological existence. Yin and yang are an expression of this phenomenon in its simplest form.

Where did yin and yang begin? Knowing its origin is a start to understanding this concept. The theory of yin and yang helps us to grasp the tao, which is infinite in nature. So before there was duality, before life and death, before there was the chicken, there was the egg. This egg is the tao.

The tao, being all encompassing, does not have an origin. It is a description of the sureness of change and the balance of nature in all aspects of existence. The where and how and why and when, is inconsequential to the tao. We have a habit of trying to quantify everything in order to make sense of it.

Yin and yang were created to measure that which can not be measured. So in a way, yin and yang would not exist without the tao; and the tao would be incomprehensible without this theory. They oppose each other and redefine each other, and the cycle of yin and yang renews itself therein. Now I’m not sure which came first… the chicken, or the egg? 

Here is the answer that helps me sleep at night. There is a little bit of something in everything else. The light of day and the darkness of night can only be quantified by their relative comparison. They only exist in our minds because of the other. This can be realised in every aspect of life. Everything is subject to change and thus everything is bound to become balanced. This is the reality that connects us, nothing and no one can be separate. Chaos is order and one begets the other. The chicken and the egg are not one without the other and they grow and evolve together.

So speaking practically, if we can learn to live in a harmonious state of balance, the scales of yin and yang wont be ever tipping so dramatically and pure healthy goodness will follow.
Our job as practitioners is to discover the imbalances and restore our inner body landscape.