Learn Your Yin from Yang: Exploring the Foundations of Chinese Medicine
“The superior physician helps before the early budding of the disease,”
This is a quote from the oldest Chinese medical text, The Huang Di Nei Jing, compiled sometime around the 2nd century. This medical system is based on a foundation of what we currently conceive as ‘prevention’, but what I like to think of simply as smart living that helps you feel great, have abundant energy and the mental, physical and spiritual capacity to make meaning out of your life and deeply experience its richness.
Based on the transforming energies of nature, the system is paradoxically simple and complex, and can inform a lifetime of study and reflection in its intricacies. For the Western mind, it can stretch the imagination to digest that this healthcare practice is generated from the philosophy of Taoism, a spiritual philosophy looking to nature as a way to organize and comprehend every aspect of our selves and the world we live in. As an example we can look at a major organizing principle, the theory of yin and yang.
Yin and yang are two polar energies that can literally be witnessed operating in everything. To offer a simple description: yin energy is translated into descriptors like cool, heavy, darkness, sinking, fluids, receptivity and the yang as active, movement, penetrating, rising, light and heat. Each aspect of your physical and psychological being has these energies to describe it. The closer these yin and yang energies are to a balance, the more functional balance is exhibited, and the closer to true nature which translates for humans to better health.
When we understand how to perceive the yin and yang functions in an individual’s health cosmology we can use this knowledge as a method to assess and ultimately balance health in a person. If we watch closely we can do this at early onset of imbalance before disease settles, noticing more subtle excesses or deficiencies of these energies and balancing them with the pillars of health. These pillars of health are the foundation of Chinese medical practice and include acupuncture, nutrition, herbs, movement (particularly qi gong) and meditation.
In my next posting I will describe an example for further clarification.