Understanding Yin and Yang Theory – Part 2: Yin and Yang Theory in Health and Chinese Medicine

The importance of Balanceskye

The theory of Yin and Yang outlined in Part 1 can be applied to health and is fundamental to the philosophy of Chinese Medicine. Throughout its development and evolution, Chinese Medicine has drawn parallels between patterns observed in nature and people. Lets take the example described in part 1 of the blog which demonstrated the importance of getting the balance between yin and yang right… Plants need the sun to grow – which is Yang – it is light, dry and provides warmth. However the plant also needs water, which is Yin, it is cooling and moistening. If the balance of sun and water is wrong the plant can either shrivel and die or become saturated and rot.

The same can be said for people, we need to live a balanced life. We can use the theory of Yin and Yang to understand what balance means. A good illustration is Hot (Yang) and Cold (Yin) in people. If it is too hot, people become red, to cool themselves down, they need more water due to increased sweating. If the heat continues people can become irritable, get headachy, agitated and so on. If people overheat, it can lead to serious illness such as dehydration and heat stroke. There are similar impacts on the other end of the scale if it is too cold. When someone gets cold, they shiver and lips can go blue as blood is stored in the trunk to conserve heat, eventually they can become sleepy and even hypothermic. However, we as humans have ways to keep warm in the cold and cool in the heat – we naturally try to keep ourselves at the right temperature. We put on jumpers and coats when it is cold or sit in the shade and drink ice drinks when it is too hot.

There is another dimension to this – not everyone will feel the heat and the cold to the same extent – some will be able to tolerate the heat much more than others and similarly, others can tolerate the cold much better than others. From a Chinese medicine perspective, this is due to the balance of Yin and Yang in the individual. Yang is warming, so someone who is lacking in Yang will feel the cold much more than someone who is lacking in Yin. Yin provides basis for the cooling and moistening function in people so if this is lacking, the person may experience symptoms of heat and dryness. This might manifest in agitation, anxiety and restlessness. The Yang deficient person on the other hand, in addition to feeling the cold may also feel sluggish and tired.

The theory of Yin and Yang in health does not just apply to Hot and Cold, but can be applied widely to every part of our lives. If we think about activity and rest – activity is Yang and rest is Yin. If we do not have enough activity in our lives and oversleep and lack exercise our Yang energy can’t move causing us to become more lethargic. The stuck Yang energy can create stagnation and doesn’t flow to the organs and muscles as it should resulting in reduced functionality. On the other hand, if we are overactive and work too much we don’t have enough restful, Yin time. We may also feel tired but struggle to sleep and switch off. Overtime, the over use of our Yang side – this heating, active function, can deplete the Yin as it overworks trying to keep the Yang in balance. This can result in sleeplessness and feelings of anxiousness or an overly active mind.

This is why living in balance is so important for our health. However, lives tend to be complicated and living a life in balance is not always possible. We can try to mitigate it by making adjustments where we can, but where we can’t and imbalance arises, illness or lack of wellbeing can occur. Traditional acupuncture addresses these imbalances in the body and mind’s function. By stimulating carefully selected points, the acupuncturist can move stuck energy, sedate overactivity or restore good function as needed for the individual. This can make significant improvements to our sense of wellbeing.

Springing Forward

Changes afoot this Spring for Jill Storstein Acupuncture
Changes afoot this Spring for Jill Storstein Acupuncture

Its been a while since I’ve written a blog entry and what better time to write one than the start of Spring when the clocks have just gone forward.  Chinese medicine theory developed over the millenia based on observance of patterns of symptoms in people and correspondences of nature with people. Spring is a season of change with the most dominant organ being the Liver which in the 5 elements, corresponds to Wood and is susceptible to Wind. It is also a time of growth and development. Interestingly both of these factors have been demonstrated in my own practice.

A Flurry of Sore Necks and Painful Shoulders

I have had a lot of patients in my practice in recent weeks coming to me with neck and shoulder pain. In Chinese Medicine theory, the Liver is responsible for ensuring flexibility in our muscles and sinews and corresponds to wood, hence its vulnerability to Wind. Trees need to have some flexibility in them to be able to sway and move  in the wind. If they are too rigid they will break in the wind or they will break if the wind is too strong. Wind is the element in dominance in the Springtime and so we need to be careful to protect ourselves against the Wind, by keeping vulnerable areas such as our necks wrapped up – particularly on windy days or in drafty places. If the wind gets in, and our Liver is not functioning as well as it could our muscles and sinews will have less flexibility and so be more susceptible to the wind invading and causing injury. So, it certainly does fit with Chinese medicine theory that I would be seeing more patients with this complaint just now.

Protecting your ‘Liver’

So what can you do to help protect against wind invasions and to help your Liver nourishing your muscles and sinews to keep them supple?

  • The Liver doesn’t do well under stress, whether its personal emotional issues, or work pressures. Make time for yourself to unwind and acknowledge your emotions. Even just closing your eyes for a minute and focussing on your breathing can help drain the tension from your neck and shoulders.
  • Keep the wind out! Seal up drafts in your house or work place and if you are outdoors, wear a scarf – particularly on windy days.
  • Drink plenty fluids – particularly warm drinks on cold days.
  • Get enough sleep – the Liver recharges and builds blood at night which is essential for nourishing your muscles and sinews to keep them supple.
  • Exercise to keep your energy and muscles moving – but don’t overdo it – to much could damage your muscles and sinews too. (And remember to keep your neck and shoulders covered if your outdoors in the wind)
  • Visit your acupuncturist! Acupuncture is great for keeping you energy flowing smoothly through your muscles and can be very relaxing.

Growth and Development for Jill Storstein Acupuncture

I also mentioned that Spring is a time for change and development. Things have certainly been happening for Jill Storstein Acupuncture. My practice is continuing to grow and getting more and more patients coming to me for treatment. It is about to grow even more. I have just joined the KnotStressed team of therapists. KnotStressed is a therapy centre who’s outlook is very similar to my own. They have three main areas they are particularly passionate about:

  • Helping to relieve tension, stress and ongoing chronic issues
  • Supporting women and their families through fertility issues, pregnancy, birth, the postnatal period and the menopause
  • Empowering people to take ownership of their well-being

I am very exited to be affiliated with them – I’ll still be working at my own clinics in Portobello and Clerk Street, Southside, Edinburgh but now have links to them so will participate in open days and you might see flyers with my name on the KnotStressed branding in addition to my own flyers. Find out more about KnotStressed and my practice with them at the following links:

http://www.knotstressed.com/eastern-acupuncture/

http://www.knotstressed.com/fertility-acupuncture/  

http://www.knotstressed.com/jill-storstein/

This is a development and adjunct to my existing general practice where I treat whatever condition you come to me with.

Things are continuing to develop with my new clinic space at Natural Foods Etc. Their new website is due to be launched within the next few weeks and we will have having some promotional events later in the spring/early summer so look out for more updates.

And last but no means least, my practice is continuing to grow in Portobello. I am still based at GW Allans Pharmacy on the High Street every week. I do love working down in Porty – it has such a great community feel and being so close to the beach is just heavenly. I also get to meet all sorts of interesting patients with conditions such as back pain, gynaecological issues, urinary difficulties, insomnia and tendonitis. Its a real privilege to get to work through these difficult health issues that people face and to be a part of their recovery.

 

Chinese Medicine and the Winter Season

Traditional Chinese methods of preserving optimal health are grounded in the theory of maintaining a natural balance and living in harmony with our natural surroundings and environment. There are a variety of ways we can do this including living according to the seasons. We are almost at the winter equinox when the days are at their shortest and often their coldest.  Our bodies are using a lot of energy just to keep warm so we must preserve our energy as best we can by wrapping up warmly and eating warming foods such as stews and soups made with root vegetables – it is not the time of year to be eating cold salads! Try warm salads with steamed or roasted vegetables instead. Drink warm drinks such as herbal teas rather than drinking cold water. We need to make sure we get plenty sleep and rest to conserve our energy. However, that doesn’t mean no exercise at all – it is good to get outdoors in the daylight  for a walk or gentle run to keep our energy moving freely, reduce stress and keep our spirits up. By taking these steps we will help to keep our immune systems working well and wrapping up will help to avoid the cold getting into our muscles and bones and causing constriction and injury.

Keep healthy and enjoy the festive season!

Jill Storstein Acupuncture will be open on Monday 23rd December (3 appointments left), closed on the 30th and open again on 6th January.