A couple of weeks ago I was in beautiful Washington state attending an acupuncture seminar. Living in Austin I don’t get to see fall colors like in Washington. The reds and yellows of the changing leaves was visually stunning. Since Chinese Medicine has a correlation with nature it was the perfect place to observe nature and relate it back to our studies.
One concept of observing nature is understanding the energies of Yin and Yang. Instead of using the word energy I will use the word Qi. (Qi is a whole concept in itself and one that I cannot answer easily and will save for another time.) The Qi of Yin and Yang has directional qualities. It’s not chaotic, but has order and direction. The Yang Qi is a downward direction coming from the Heavens and the Yin Qi has an upward quality that comes from the Earth.
Yin and Yang have different qualities. Let’s use the anatomy of a tree to describe these qualities starting with Yin. The roots of the tree have a Yin quality. The roots grow slowly spreading out horizontally, are in a cool environment and go deep into the Earth. Imagine the Qi starting at the tips of the roots and traveling up the inside of the tree reaching the tops of the branches and leaves. As it peaks the Qi changes into a Yang quality and directs downward traveling on the exterior. It’s a constant flow of Yin going up and Yang going down. A flower blossom in the Spring is the full expression of Yang. The roots that spread under the Earth are the full expression of Yin.
The Meridians of our bodies are the same. The Yang channels have a downward direction as the Yin has an upward direction. Yang is more exterior as Yin is more interior. Kids have a lot of Yang Qi and as we age we lose our Yang. Just as we see the vibrancy of the leaves or blossoms of a tree, our Yang Qi also provides us with vibrant energy. But it is the Yin that gives us longevity and we strive to keep it nourished.
When a patient first comes to me it is what I first try to analyze. Is this a Yin problem or a Yang problem? I’ll be honest…it’s usually both. Yin and Yang rely on each other. I’m going to use sciatica for an example. Sciatica occurs on a Yang channel. When I treat the afflicted channel this is called treating the branch. To treat the root of the problem I may treat the patient’s Yin. Sometimes the Yang Qi gets trapped in the upper part of the body because for some reason the Qi is not descending as it should. This can cause headaches, irritability or sensations of feeling hot. Or maybe the Yin is not going upward and is bogged down in the lower half the body making someone feel lethargic and heavy.
These are very simplified examples. We are complex and unique with each of us telling our own story. The theory of Yin and Yang helps Chinese Medicine practitioners work with complex health issues. If you have more questions, schedule an appointment today!