Perhaps the first thing to know about Yin and Yang – a foundational principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine – is that we’ve all been pronouncing it incorrectly for a very long time.
Yang does not rhyme with “bang,” “sang,” or “clang,” but has a softer “ahng” sound.
“I used to pronounce it that way as well,” says Dr. Leara Graves, L.AC, DIPL.AC., with Resilient Health Acupuncture. “My Chinese professors swiftly corrected me. But it’s OK. That’s just the American accent, that’s all.”
According to Dr. Graves, the concept of Yin and Yang is deeply entrenched in Chinese culture and medicine. Both are separate entities that nonetheless depend upon – and complement – each other.
“If Yin and Yang are not in balance within the human structure, symptoms will soon appear, along with disorders and disease,” Dr. Graves says.
Dr. Graves, a licensed massage therapist and a certified Yoga instructor, knows of what she speaks, having earned her Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine from the Pacific College of Health and Science.
In acupuncture, the opposing principles of Yin and Yang are paramount and correspond to infinite functions of the human body.
Yin, for example, is equated with cold temperatures, Dr. Graves says. Yang hot.
“When balanced in the human body – that’s warmth,” she explains. “We are warm-blooded mammals.”
Likewise, Yin is associated with downward motion, Yang with upward movement.
“When balanced, we would call that circulation,” Dr. Graves says.
Dr. Graves cites hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism as primary examples. These medical conditions relate to muted and overactive thyroid glands, respectively. Hypothyroidism, she says, is often associated with Hashimoto’s Disease, and occurs when the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to fatigue, numbness in the hands and fingers, weight gain, and a host of other symptoms.
“Hypothyroidism is considered a Yin disease,” Dr. Graves says. On the Yang side of the scale is hyperthyroidism, linked to the condition known as Graves Disease, involving excessive production of the hormone that results in a rapid heartbeat, weight loss, and anxiety.
Yin is feminine, and Yang is masculine.
Yin is estrogen, Yang testosterone.
Alkalinity and Acidity. Anatomy and Physiology. Solid and Hollow.
Yin and Yang.
You get the picture.
According to Dr. Graves, these opposing forces must be balanced to achieve homeostasis – a stable equilibrium maintained by physiological processes.
Acupuncturists like Dr. Graves utilize special needles to strategically stimulate various points along the body’s energy pathways to bring Yin and Yang modalities back into balance. Using this framework, practitioners help patients identify disruptions in their body’s Qi – or vital energy – as a result of environmental factors or lifestyle choices. Personalized treatment plans can then be established to correct them.
At Resilient Health Acupuncture, when a patient seeks relief for migraines, treatment frequently targets acupuncture points in the legs. Yin – again, a downward force – is associated with the body’s lower energy pathways.
“And there’s the balance,” Dr. Graves says. “We’re using Yin points in the lower parts of the body to help balance the Yang of the migraine headache. Conversely, if there’s a Yang condition, we apply Yin modalities, and that creates balance.”
Dr. Graves recalls treating a 55-year-old woman who was experiencing hot flashes. Because Yang is equated with hot temperatures, she used Yin points to drain the heat, and achieved lasting success.
“It’s all about balance,” Dr. Graves says. “And that’s not just with acupuncture – but with any form of medicine.”
Dr. Graves, who endeavors to take an open “heart to heart” approach to healing with every patient, knows that some individuals are still hesitant to try acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine.
“This is just one of the methods we can use to create balance,” she says. “But balance is the key to life, right? Here’s an option that can create that balance we need – along with other medicines. So… why not?”