By Ela Pekalska

The Yin Yang theory is the most basic concept of Chinese medicine upon which more complex principles are built such as the Five Elements theory.  From Oneness or Whole, Yin and Yang are separated into two aspects. They are opposing, yet at the same time complementary.
Yin and Yang express the basic duality we perceive on all levels in life, such as:

  • Up and Down.
  • Left and Right.
  • Forward and Backward.
  • Cold and Hot.
  • Light and Darkness.
  • Fire and Water.
  • Action and Rest.
  • Nurture and Nature.
  • And so on.

Not only is the duality important, but also the interaction between the polarities. Yin and Yang are never fixed or passive aspects. On the contrary, they are inter-dependent, interconnected and mutually supporting. One will transform into another. As such, nothing in life is totally Yin, neither Yang. Yin arises from the depth of Yang and vice versa. They are processes of transformation and change.

It is the dance of polarities or a transformation of one polarity into another that gives the basic structure to our existence. Think of the swing of the pendulum, the cycle of day and night, activity and rest and so on. It is the power of duality – through action – that gives birth to Active Diversity. As such, the duality becomes a trio, where the third element arises through the interaction of polarities. And this allows us to experience a direction, say:

  • Birth, life and death.
  • Past, present and future.
  • Beginning, middle and end.
  • Positive, neutral and negative.

The number three, the duality plus one, allows us to introduce a meeting point or a place in between. It can be the moment of Now being experienced between past and future. It can be the Flow between the beginning and the end. Or, it can be intuition arising as a creative act between emotions and rational thought.  Suffering and pain occurs when the Yin and Yang aspects are divided, separated or when one over-consumes the other. Dis-ease happens when Yin + Yang loose “the beat”, the co-creation movement, because their interaction is distorted. Metaphorically, as Yin arises from Yang and vice versa, the transformation power that comes from within of one of the polarities is weakened.

Wholeness (or well-being), on the other hand, relies on the harmonious dance between Yin and Yang. It is the spiralling existence in which one aspects supports and gives rise to the other. Once there is imbalance, there is stagnation caused by over-powering of one of the aspects. The dance between Yin and Yang becomes clumsy, distorted or one-sided.  Even if this happens, the healthy body can find its own internal resources to guide the transformation back to the harmonious dance. The ill body gets stuck.

The goal of Chinese medicine is to help you to restore wholeness which can be found in co-creation and active co-operation between Yin and Yang.  Yin and Yang can be distinguished in every aspect of life, physical, emotional and mental health. Every dis-ease can be looked at by considering imbalances between Yin and Yang aspects on multiple levels. This includes organs, blood and qi, physical occurrence of the pain (such as front or back, upper or lower body and so on, time of occurrence (day or night), the nature of the problem, related emotions, diet and climate, and so on.

Hence, the Yin Yang theory helps to guide a TCM practitioner to both discriminate and unite various syndromes and problems of ill-being. Seemingly unrelated patterns are viewed through
the lenses of duality and the interaction between Yin and Yang. This makes the Chinese medicine effective in solving complex problems that involve Body and Mind.

In summary, the Yin Yang theory is used to make a practitioner observe, integrate what he/she perceives and understands by looking at the two inter-dependent aspects of well-being. The four principles of Yin and Yang, namely their opposition, inter-dependence, mutual support and inter-transformation, serve as the only the foundation.

Author: Ela Pekalska, TCM Practitioner –