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Yin and Yang
Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) looks at all of life as a balance between yin & yang.
Yin is feminine energy; yang is masculine energy.
Yin is cold and dark; Yang is warm and bright;
Yin is soft and supple; Yang is hard and rigid
Yin is our blood and fluids; Yang is our energy (qi) and life-force
Yin & Yang DO NOT EXIST WITHOUT EACH OTHER! They are constantly spinning together, holding each other together, and transforming into one another. In order to build yin, you have to have enough yang to make it, move it and not let it stagnate. In order to keep enough yang, you have to have enough yin to settle it down, hold it in place, and be its foundation.
Both sexes have a balance of both yin and yang within their natures. This is not about women vs. men. This is about balance - balance in your foods (cooked & raw), balance in your body (cold & warm), balance in your mind (calm & excited), and balance in your lifestyle (rest & activity).
I do want to talk about women in particular, though, in relation to this concept of balancing yin and yang. We have been taught that women can be anything and I absolutely believe this is true. But there’s a caveat we haven’t been instilled with as much when we hear that message - that in order to be “anything”, i.e. a successful career woman and a nurturing mother, there has to be a balance. Creating that balance can sometimes feel like a disorienting juggling act between the yang activity of being in the external world and being successful and receiving recognition for your accomplishments and go-go-going all the time; and the yin activity of nurturing the internal world of softness and patience and compassion for yourself and your family and the slow pace of rest and rejuvenation. This juggling act is something that will inevitably need to be put into a steady balance at some point in life or it can wreak havoc on one’s health, emotional wellbeing, family life, you name it.
When we look at the common western lifestyle, we often see mostly yang activity. We work hard in school while also having a part time job. We earn some kind of work training or undergraduate degree, then possibly graduate level degrees and sometimes several. Then we get a much anticipated job and figure out how to "climb the ladder". We work hard constantly and we take very little time off. In fact, most people work over the weekend when they might have the opportunity to slow down a bit. Our "vacation" time is dosed in 2 week allotments to be used once a 52 week year. And then when we go on vacation, we rarely just stop and rest. Our generalized Western lifestyles are heavily weighted toward the Yang side of this integral balance we need to stay healthy and live a long life.
I'm not arguing here for a complete overhaul of our education and work systems necessarily. What I want to drive home is that it is essential to find a balance within your life situation that allows you to work hard, play hard, but also rest and restore. It's all about the daily things we do for ourselves. Little things, done regularly, add up.
So, what kind of little things can you do on a daily basis that help restore your yin and bring balance to your life? Here are a few ideas with TEAM in mind.
Getting our lives into a nice balance between yin and yang activities may seem inconsequential, but I can tell you from experience and from listening to my patients who have made subtle changes in their lives, that it is ESSENTIAL to short term and long term good health and high quality well-being.
What changes have you made in your own life to incorporate a better daily balance of yin and yang? How has it helped your health?
Ashlie Martin is an acupuncturist and lover of nature - and loves connecting the patterns of nature and theories of Traditional East Asian Medicine.