Balancing The Yin & Yang
Yin-yang is the dominant concept in Taoist philosophy that describes two halves that complete each other. The Taoists developed the system of Traditional Chinese medicine and saw the universe as a unified field, continuously shifting and altering while maintaining its unity. The theory of yin-yang was explained in written form in the book I Ching around 700 B.C., but the earliest evidence is found in inscriptions made on “oracle bones” that date back to the 14th century B.C.E. These opposing forces, yin –the feminine and yang- the masculine, are always joined and equally dependent in the natural world, and harmony is achieved when the two forces are in balance.
Nature conveys itself in an endless cycle of polar opposites. The heat of the sun (yang) will dissolve the morning dew (yin); the evening night (yin) will be replaced by the morning sun (yang). Shadow cannot exist without light as yin cannot exist without yang. The two fundamental forms of qi (life force) are yin-qi and yang-qi – the feminine and masculine energies. The polarities that run through the philosophy are life and death, heaven and earth, night and day, health and sickness, poverty and wealth, positive and negative, and the cycles of season.
Here’s a fun video explaining the meaning of yin-yang:
The Taoists define yin yang as polar energies that fluctuate and interact in constant motion. If you observe the symbol of two curved teardrops, you will see the black (yin) side descending and the white (yang) side ascending. There is an inner circle within each of the opposite color. There is a movement within the symbol to convey that whenever yin and yang come together, they separate only to reconnect as one.
- Everything in nature and the human body can be expressed in opposition. It is forever dynamic and the basic foundation for change in nature. It is a perfect expression of ordered chaos. Nothing is completely yin or yang as it is always in comparison.
- Yin and yang are interdependent and define one another. Even if they are opposites, one cannot exist without other. If we turn to nature, we can describe the heat as yang and the rain as yin and the daylight as yang and the night as yin.
- Yin and yang mutually control each other. Yin creates yang and yang creates yin. They form a whole. The Taoists believe that everything is part of the oneness of the universe; therefore the external forces of nature can be found in the internal process of the human body. In the Western world, we would say that the microcosm exists within the macrocosm.
In life we always need to find a balance and harmony with all things, when things are out of balance, they fall into the following four categories: deficiency yin, deficiency yang, excess yin, excess yang.
We are simply attempting to look at some of the ways in which to find balance in ourselves without delving too deep into Chinese medicine. We can look at the characteristics found in yin and yang as a way of looking at ourselves to better understand if we are in harmony or out-of-balance.
Yin is characterized by slow, soft, allowing, passive, submissive, cold, receptive, intuitive and able to let things unfold as they may. It’s associated with the moon, water, earth, femininity, downward movement, death and night.
Yang is characterized by fast, hard, solid, focused, dominance, expanding, strong, and aggressive. It is associated with the sun, fire, sky, heaven, dry, masculinity, daylight and birth.
When we look at the yin and yang qualities, we can observe them in our lifestyle, the food we eat and how we navigate and express ourselves in the world. Whether or not we are male or female, we all have a masculine and feminine side, and bringing that into balance will dictate our relationships with our children, partner and friends. When we think of yin, we think of emotions, connections, and intuition. When we think of the yang, we think of drive, movement, and expansion.
Some methods to find balance
We live in a patriarchal world that is slowly being re-created yet again. We often glorify the logical side of things and perpetually keep ourselves in a state of ‘doing.’ It is vital for both men and women to observe and understand how balanced their masculine and feminine sides are, specifically because we are learning to co-create a harmonious world.
Most of us are shaped by our education and upbringing, so if our parents were imbalanced, we may have compensated by filling in the deficiencies or excesses. We may have a gender that dominates, but it still means that we have a masculine and feminine side. Here are some traits to explore:
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Explore your childhood & adult self
The first place to examine your masculine and feminine traits starts with looking at your parents or caregivers. Did your mother and father have balanced natures? If we look at the example of an absent father in the home, we may ask ourselves if we have developed a trusting and loving relation with our own masculinity and our ability to manifest what we need in the world. It could be the other way, meaning an absent mother. If you grew up with one parent in the home versus both, this can then become the way in which you perceive genders. Self-worth, trust and intimacy issues are a shared experience tied to imbalances within the masculine-feminine connection. Another case could be a controlling mother or father who exhibited an overbearing, critical, or domineering nature.
The second step would be to observe yourself and understand what characteristics you exhibit and try to bring both qualities into harmony. For example, if you have a tendency to work overtime, try to balance that with playtime or restful activities. The traits in the above chart will help you determine if you are more of one than the other and it’s not necessarily gender specific. Here are some useful questions you can ask yourself to dive deeper:
- Do you need to maintain control all the time or are you able to go with the flow?
- How do you express your physicality in the world? Are you into dynamic movements or slow activities? Are you hyper or relaxed, or a combination of both?
- What kinds of emotions do you often express? Anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety.
- How do you react to others? Yin qualities are compassion, patience and listening while yang qualities are impulsive, direct and problem solving. See if you are a blend of both.
- Are you able to equally give and receive? As with all polarities, one is not better than the other, it’s a question of bringing both aspects into harmony.
Spend time in nature
The best way to nurture yourself is by being in nature where we can find that vital force, qi energy, in abundance. It is an excellent way to ground yourself and forget about stress and worry for just a little while. It could be the perfect way to dream, connect with yourself, and take in fresh air, sunlight and surround yourself with the best teacher of all: nature.
Eating nutritional foods & drinking sufficient water
As we all know, we are what we eat, so it is best to consume healthy foods and follow the season that you are in. For example, cool foods in the summer and warm foods in the winter. Heavy processed foods are not good for us, so keep things simple and intake fruits and vegetables that give your body what it needs. Keep a balanced diet where you pay attention to carbohydrates, fat and protein. If you find that you are overly yang, you can incorporate some yin foods to offset any excessive yang energy. Along with eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water can help your body eliminate toxins as well as consuming herbal teas that target your needs. A balanced diet will maintain a balance in your emotional states. Here is a great chart exploring yin yang foods:
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The best way to tap into our inner world is by shutting out the outer world through meditation. There are many practices that focus on basic forms of following the breath to fully guided meditations that take you on a journey. Keep it simple, 15 to 20 minutes a day will allow you to observe your mind and listen to your heart and bring you back into alignment.
Physical exercise to balance the Yin and Yang
It is really important to incorporate both forms of exercise in your life. Combining jogging, cycling or swimming (active yang) with yoga, stretching, tai chi or qi gong (slow yin) classes can mix things up and balance your energy levels. It may also depend on the type of work you do, so if you are overly physical in your job, you may want to slow things down when it comes to your exercise routine. Once you give your body healthy physical activity, you will likely have less problems relaxing when the time is right.
Feng Shui in your home
You may have not heard of feng shui, but it is worth investigating as it applies the same balancing principle of energy flow in your home. Our environment definitely has an impact on our workflow and psyche. This is very important and will add a great deal of harmony and balance in your home. A simple book on feng shui will help you follow some fundamental principles in color, function and flow. Here’s a short video explaining some basic concepts that may inspire you:
Chinese medicine or other therapies
If you’ve never tried Chinese medicine before, it is really worth exploring at least once, either through acupuncture or acupressure. The whole science of Traditional Chinese medicine is based upon yin-yang and every aspect can be comprehended and expressed through the study of it. It’s a very effective way of balancing the energy flow in your body and will determine any deficiency or excess you may have. If you are not keen on exploring that, a simple message can give you a deeper feeling of self-care and self-love that you may need.
That’s all, folks! We hope you have fun exploring your own yin and yang to find greater balance and harmony in your life.
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