The Taijitu, or yin/yang symbol, represents the opposing energies of yin and yang flowing around each other, with the seed of one existing always in the other. This symbol represents the balance and interconnectedness of the bright, expansive yang and the dark, contracting yin energies.
All forces in the universe can be classified as either yin or yang, though within each yang energy there exists yin qualities, and vice versa. Both matter and immaterial things contain both of these energies, although one may predominate. While you might view yourself as a more yin or yang personality, for instance, there exists within you the opposite energy, as well. No thing is only just yin or just yang.
The Qualities of Yin Energy
Yin energy is dark to yang’s light, and inward-facing to yang’s outward-facing. Yin contracts and descends in opposition to yang expanding and ascending.
Here are some words that describe yin energy:
- New moon
- North slope
In the body, yin energy supplies the physical form: the skeleton, cellular structure, the size and shape of organs, etc., while yang energy influences the activities of the body (the beating of the heart, the flowing of the blood, the creation of hormones, etc.). However, the two energies work to complete each other, as is illustrated by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) classics:
“Yin essence (nutrient materials) is the material basis for the transformation of yang qi (physiological functions), while the actions of yang qi lead to constant production of yin essence. Yin essence and yang qi mutually transform and consume one another.”
As an example of how yin essence produces yang qi, we can look at how internal organs function. The organs require nutrition in order to operate (a yang process), after which the organs can promote material metabolism and produce the nutrients needed by individual cells (a yin process). Within each of the processes of supporting correct structure and receiving and creating nutrients, we see the interplay of yin and yang constantly in action.
Excess Yin or Diminished Yin
The five yin organs—heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys—are solid organs and mainly store essence and energy (qi) for current and future use. When yin energy is depleted, a person can suffer from symptoms of diminished yin as well as symptoms of too much yang, and will affect the yin organs more than the yang organs. Because yin is cooling, the body begins to suffer from deficient heat, meaning that heat is rising because of a deficiency of yin that is needed to counteract and cool yang activity.
Symptoms of yin deficiency can include (but are not limited to):
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Malar flush: flushed skin above the cheekbones
- The desire to sip water at night because of a dry mouth
- A red or scarlet tongue with cracks in the coating, a complete lack of coating, or a “mapped” coating
- Hot palms and soles of the feet
- Low-grade fever
Excess yin, on the other hand, occurs when a person has an overbalance of cold, or yin, energies, which can eventually dampen the heating qualities of yang energy. This can happen through diet, emotional duress (chronic depression or stress), or from the invasion of an external yin pathogen.
Symptoms of excess yin can be seen through some of the following:
- Pale skin
- Low basal temperature
- Aversion to cold, always feeling cold, and having cold hands and feet. This includes preferring warm or hot drinks and food, the desire to wear warm clothing even in warm temperatures, or hating air conditioning.
- Body-shaking chills
- Pale tongue, possibly swollen and with teeth marks on the sides
Treating Yin Deficiency or Excess
Traditional Chinese Medicine calls for first bolstering the deficient energy before helping the body gain more of the opposite energy. Diet is the first line of defense, and for yin deficiencies or excess, special attention is paid to cold foods (“cold” meaning foods that promote moistening and cooling bodily functions, including vegetables, fruits, legumes, some dairy, non-stimulating herbs, and coconut milk). Quality supplements can also be used to help balance the yin and yang energies.
Yin does not exist without yang, and a balance of both of these energies is required in your body in order to promote and maintain good health. Too much or too little yin energy can be first treated with diet, including quality supplements.