What is yin and yang and what does it mean for our health?

Written by Debra Godson | 9 February, 2021

You made have heard that acupuncture works by balancing yin and yang in the body… but exactly what is yin and yang?

The difference between yin and yang

Yang is traditionally explained as the sunny side of the hill – it’s brighter and hotter and relates to day time. Activity and noise are also associated with yang. Yin, on the other hand, is the shady side of the hill. Cooler and darker than yang, it relates to night time which is more quiescent and quiet.

By now, you have probably picked up that these are comparative terms. Nothing is pure yang or pure yin. The bright side of the hill is hotter than the shady side. But the bright side of the hill would be yin in comparison to the actual sun.

In broad terms, within the body our structure is a more yin aspect of the body and function is more yang. Each relies upon the other to exist. If the structure is damaged, function can be lost. You can’t walk on a broken leg.

A happy balance of yin and yang keeps the body working in harmony. Within our daily activities things that are stimulating, for example, a dance party, create yang in the body whereas meditation and mindfulness tend to induce a more yin state.

To put it simply, yang has been likened to the accelerator and yin to the brake pedal.

Foods and their effect on yin and yang

Foods may also have a more yin or yang aspect. Coffee or spicy foods are yang in nature, whereas fish or tofu are considered more yin. Too many yang foods can dry out the body. Too many yin foods like ice cream can slow digestive processes.

Too much of one or the other creates imbalance and sets the stage for ill health. Neutral foods that are neither too hot nor cold, too drying nor too oily usually form the bulk of the diet when the body is in balance.

So, how does acupuncture help to rebalance yin and yang?

Major acupuncture points that are used for treatment lie on acupuncture meridians. These connect the interior and exterior of the body and reach the internal organs. There are 12 main meridians, six yin and six yang, connecting to yin and yang organs. By carefully selecting the appropriate meridians and acupuncture points on those, meridians balance may be restored.

Your acupuncturist might also suggest lifestyle or dietary changes to support or redress the balance of yin and yang in your body to work on your health holistically. Just remember, this information should not be considered health advice. If you have health concerns, please consult a qualified health professional.


Debra Godson

Debra Godson owned and operated a busy acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine clinic prior to starting her teaching career. Joining Endeavour in 2000 as an acupuncture lecturer, Debra shares her passion for teaching from the Brisbane campus.

In addition to her primary qualification in acupuncture, she also has post graduate qualifications in Integrative Medicine, Chinese Herbal Medicine and Tertiary Education. Currently, she is extending her studies with honours by research in acupuncture. Debra’s hope is that the outcomes of her research will improve acupuncture point location practices.

Read more by Debra Godson

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