Yin and yang are the cornerstones for understanding,
diagnosing, and treating the body and mind with acupuncture or Chinese
medicine. In a sense, all the other theories and concepts of Chinese
medicine are nothing other than an elaboration of yin and yang. Most
people have probably already heard of yin and yang but may have only
a fuzzy idea of what these terms mean.
The concepts of yin and yang can be used to describe
everything that exists in the universe, including all the parts and
functions of the body. Originally, yin referred to the shady side
of a hill and yang to the sunny side of the hill. Since sunshine
and shade are two interdependent sides of a single reality, these
two aspects of the hill are seen as part of a single whole. Other
examples of yin and yang are that night exists only in relation to
day and cold exists only in relation to heat. According to Chinese
thought, every single thing that exists in the universe has these
two aspects, a yin and a yang. Thus every thing has a front and a
back, a top and a bottom, a left and a right, and a beginning and
an end. However, a thing is yin or yang only in relation to its paired
complement. Nothing is in itself yin or yang.
It is the concepts of yin and yang that make Chinese
medicine a holistic medicine. This is because, based on this unitary
and complementary vision of reality, no body part or body function
is viewed as separate or isolated from the whole person. The table
below shows a partial list of yin and yang pairs as they apply to
the body. However, it is important to remember that each item listed
is either yin or yang only in relation to its complementary partner.
Nothing is completely and by itself either yin or yang.