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The world of duality: Yin and Yang


Foundational to Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is the concept of Yin and Yang. It’s a fairly simple idea but can become very complex and multi layered. It is probably something you have seen more often than thought about or heard about. The symbol is depicted by a circle, one half white with a black dot and the other half black with white dot, both drawn in a way where they are encircling and merging into and out of each other.


What these two colors indicate is that where there is life there is duality, we have light and heavy, cold and hot, active and passive and so on so forth. It is the simplest way to observe the world around us. Yin and Yang can be applied to anything and everything.


One of the ways that we use this in acupuncture is that it helps us to differentiate the diagnosis. Yin and Yang are broken down to the following;


Yang / Yin

Hot / Cold

Exterior / Interior

Excess / Deficient


All aspects of the condition of someone’s symptoms can be differentiated with these categories. If we are talking about place, an exterior condition involves the more superficial aspects of the body closer to the skin. Exterior often refers to some form of outside influence that is affecting the person. For example, if the temperature is cold outside if we have a strong system we are able to combat the advances of the cold but if we are run down and down have the energy to fight this, the cold may invade the body causing us to have a reaction and show symptoms of “catching a cold”. If it is interior we are talking about deeper parts of our body, which would refer more to our organs. We won’t go into depth here but the organs in Acupuncture each have a special function and if they are out of balance they can manifest with their own set of symptoms. Most interior imbalances arise from emotional stress, diet and working too hard. Looking at the difference of hot and cold, if one has a raging fever or there is red, hot swelling or the person just tends to run hot these would point to patterns of heat. However if they have the chills and feeling cold, have a sensation of cold in their joints or their body is cool to the touch that would indicate patterns of cold. Then the last set of differences is the comparison of excess and deficient. When in excess this refers to the body’s ability to be strong and be full of the necessary energy to combat the disease. If one is deficient, this indicates that the body is weak, tired and if there is some form of illness that it is not able to fight against it very well.


This is just a very small part of a much greater, much more complex theory of Chinese medicine and acupuncture, but hopefully it give you a glimpse into the way that we think and the way that we see the world. These methods and techniques have been around for centuries. They might not adhere to western, scientific method of analysis, but these practices continue to this day so the proof is in the pudding.

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