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“They are so Yin and Yang.” I’m sure you’ve heard that expression used to describe the two individuals in a couple who are seemingly very different in viewpoints or personality.

According to 5,000-year-old Chinese medicine, everything in the universe is Yin and Yang. (Hint: Notice I said “and,” not “or”—more on that coming up.) Yin and Yang are interrelated but opposing, yet one of the pair can’t exist without the other. For example, both hot and cold are essential within the same natural year. These duos are called “complementary opposites.”

Such pairs characterize just about everything in the world. Yet, how we view or rank these matching/contradictory elements is all relative and changeable. Individual people, indeed, are not made up of “just” Yin or “only” Yang. We are all unique blends. Like the winter-to-summer of that natural year, our personalities, strengths, talents—every part of us—includes shadings from both ends of the continuum.

As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I believe the philosophy of Yin and Yang is central to helping a person maximize and balance energy (or “qi,” life force). Read on to gain an understanding of this fascinating way of viewing the world. It might just open your eyes to more possibilities in your life!

“What does it mean, Yin and Yang?”

Yin and Yang (pronounced “yong”) is a traditional Chinese concept that values both the universe as a whole and the duality of its different aspects. Opposing, but complementary attributes are “Yin” and “Yang.”

In fact, you don’t have to look far to find many examples of this duality in everyday life—the yin being first in each of these pairs, followed by the yang: night/day, cold/heat, darkness/light, ending/beginning, passive/active, female/male, rest/movement, receptivity/reaching out, chronic/acute, gentle/firm, moon/sun, expansion/contraction.

2014-06-23-yinyangThese opposites depend on each other while also forming a whole. Sound strange? Just look at the Yin-Yang symbol:

Each half has a dot of its opposite, representing the essence of the one inside the other. Yin and Yang are not absolutes. Rather, they are interdependent. In fact, the white (yang) turns into the black (yin) in the natural order of life: Night turns into day and then back into night. The seasons flow one into the other. Women have male qualities and men have female qualities. “Good” actions may even have “bad” consequences. These are all part of that greater, universal balance.

“How does this apply to me, personally?”

Yin and Yang are all about YOU and what makes you special. You can have it all. In fact, you do. Nothing and no one is completely Yin or completely Yang. But in fact, their existence is relative within each individual. Some of us carry more Yang attributes than Yin, or vice versa. For instance, the appropriate activity level and time needed for you to rest might be too little or too ambitious for another person. Even health and illness are an integral part of this flow.

Unity and wholeness are what Yin and Yang combine to create. Keeping a balance is where the role of the Chinese medicine practitioner comes in, making sure that the levels of Yin and Yang are aligned with the essence and personal qualities and circumstances that characterize each individual.

“Is this what you’re talking about when you urge balance?”

Absolutely! In today’s modern world, respecting a Yin-Yang balance is more important than ever. A happy, low-stress, fulfilling life depends on it. Working late hours, feeling rushed and overwhelmed, over-serving, expecting from ourselves nothing but absolute perfection—these habits leave little time for rest, calm, and downtime.

Optimal wellbeing and happiness require that you add that “Yin” back to your world. To neglect the peaceful Yin qualities might well result in burnout—a disrupted flow of qi, poor health, and frustration. It behooves us all to pay attention to the Yin-Yang balance of our lives and to listen to the signals of the need for rebalancing, recalibrating, and replenishing the fundamental activities that nourish our best, most luxuriously full and vibrant lives.

Take a fresh look at your routines. Where are the absolutes that need softening, the hard black-or-white lines that disrupt your serenity and keep you from being content? These are opportunities to adjust your Yin-Yang balance—and make amazing, life-changing strides toward a healthier, happier, more abundant YOU.

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