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What’s Yin & Yang?

written by Head Health Nutter December 3, 2010

Yin and Yang is more than just a cool ancient Chinese symbol. In today’s post we explore this concept and how understanding it can help us achieve more balance in our lives.

A few weeks ago we learned about the life force which makes up all things in this Universe in What is Chi? Yin and Yang is an extension of this where Chi, this universal energy, is described as two opposite energies that make up the whole.


The following information is sourced from Essential Feng Shui: Your Practical Guide to Health, Wealth and Happiness by Simon Brown.

Yin and Yang is a comprehensive way of looking at the world and how it affects you. The theory is that we can use knowledge about yin and yang energies to get more out of life with less effort.

For instance, during a full moon people tend to be more yang, which means we tend to be more social and active. If you want to throw a party, this is the time to do it! Meanwhile, if you host a get-together during a new moon, many of your guests may not show up because they are feeling more yin – more peaceful, spiritual and focused inwardly.

Here are the basic principals:

Everything is either more yin or more yang.

Yin and yang are relative terms used to compare everything in the universe. Things are more yin or more yang depending on what they are compared with. For example, resting is more yin than working, but more yang than sleeping. Yin and Yang can describe physical things or non-physical things. You need to be clear about how the terms are applied in particular cases. For example, a flame is more yang than a stone in terms of process: the flame produces heat and light. But the structure of stone is more yang than flame: more solid and harder.

Everything seeks a state of balance.

Although everything is either more yin or more yang, as an entity it seeks some kind of balance. Individually, nothing is in perfect balance, nor can it be as everything is either more yin or more yang. Something that is more yin can reach a more balanced state with something that is more yang. Often we drift either side of the middle path. For a while we become more yin and then make changes that make us more yang, and vice versa.

Yin and yang attract each other.

Things that are more yin attract other things that are more yang, rather like the poles of a magnet. As you become more yin you attract things that are more yang into your life and vice versa. A simple example is that by eating something more yang, such as dry, salty snacks, you begin to crave liquids, which are more yin. An extreme of yin or yang will attract its extreme opposite. For example, someone who becomes very yang – angry or aggressive – may end up in a very yin state – confined in a hospital or prison (because of an accident or crime).

Nothing is wholly yin or wholly yang.

Everything has some yin and some yang. Nothing is entirely one thing or the other, though everything will be more one thing or another. It is better to think of yin and yang in terms of varying shades of grey, rather than black or white. Even the most ruthless criminal will have a tender spot just as the gentlest person will have known frustration and anger. There is always something positive in a negative situation just as there is something negative in a positive situation.

Everything changes.

The relationships between things that are more yin and things that are more yang are constantly changing. Everything is always moving from being more yang to becoming more yin or more yin to more yang. For example, a person might be more yang – irritable, frustrated and pushy – but in the process of becoming more yin – relaxed, peaceful and calm. In the long term the direction you are going is more important than where you are now.

Are You Too Yin or Too Yang?

More yin people tend to be relaxed, physically supple, sensitive, creative and imaginative. However, if they are too yin, they can be lethargic, slow and prone to depression.

Conversely, more yang people tend to be alert, quick, more active, and more able to concentrate and pay attention to detail. If they are too yang they can become tense and irritable, angry or physically stiff and tight.

Some people are always more yin than most people, some are always more yang, and others will be more in the middle. With an understanding of yin and yang you can adjust these natural tendencies to your advantage by tailoring your diet (macrobiotics is specially designed for this) and lifestyle.

If you find it difficult to concentrate, for example, and your work is suffering, decide first if you are too yin or too yang. Concentration is a more yang activity, so a lack of it suggests you are too yin. The solution would be to avoid more yin foods such as alcohol, sugar and coffee, and include some mineral-rich yang foods, such as root vegetables, fish and natural soya sauce.

Intuitively and from my observations of life, this just all makes sense. We caught a bit of yin and yang in Staying Healthy in Autumn, where we learned cold weather and less sunlight triggers a more inwardly focused state in us, and more recently in Foods That Make You Strong.

What are your thoughts on yin and yang? Do any of the above principals help you understand the world better? Do you think identifying the different types of energies can help us in our healthy living pursuits?

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