Yin Yang

yin yang explained

Yin yang describes how we can be connected to our universe. For example, the experience of climbing a mountain in the sun could be described as yang compared to the feelings we experience while lying in the shade.

We can use yin yang to describe our relationships with anything, including food, exercise, chi and the weather. Where it becomes interesting is that we can also describe our current state in terms of yin yang. So I could say, “I feel really yin today.” If I was not happy in that state, I could simply connect more deeply with those things I have identified with as helping me feel more yang, and change my current condition to being less yin.

Ultimately, yin yang is a wonderful way to generate greater self- awareness and make interesting connections between our own conditions and all our possible interactions with the world we live in. Yin yang allows us to connect ourselves to everything around us so that we can quickly decide what we need to do to bring ourselves back to a more balanced state when feeling any discomfort.

A very primitive use of the Chinese characters for yin yang is claimed to date back to the fourteenth century BC. It is thought that initially the character for yin described the night and yang the day. It seems that Chinese philosophers recognised that humans where influenced by three powerful cycles, those of the day, moon and year. It also is apparent that our response to these cycles has certain similarities. So we might notice similarities with the night, new moon and winter whilst sensing a similar response to the day, full moon and summer. Yin then represents the night, new moon, winter part of the cycle and yang the day, full moon and summer.

The yin yang symbol to the left reflects this cycle. If we think of the top being the summer soltice in 21/22 June and the bottom the winter soltice 21/22 December then we can see the white yang energy slowly rising as we come into spring. Even at its peak the yang energy still has a dot of yin reminding us that there are no absolutes. As we move into the autumn the black yin energy increases again.

The I Ching explains a method of divination for receiving advice and insights from the divine, or our own sub-consciouses, depending on your view, and in this book the broken lines that make up the hexagrams are considered yin and the solid lines yang. The I Ching is thought to have originated around 2800 BC, although it was also added to and developed later. A much more evolved interpretation of yin yang appears throughout the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which was written anywhere between 2600 BC and 200 BC.

Yin yang can be interpreted in different ways. For much of its history yin would describe the way we feel during the night and in winter compared to the yang feelings we might experience in the summer and during the day. In Chinese medicine, the word “cooling” is associated with yin and “warming” with yang. So a food that feels warming would be more yang than a food that feels cooling.

The basic idea is using two words to describe the effect of outside influences on us, and to cultivate the awareness of how we can help change our health through a change of those influences. Yin yang is used in feng shui, macrobiotics, Chinese astrology, the I Ching, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, shiatsu, tai chi, qi gong, and Chinese philosophy.

One traditional Chinese interpretation is that yang is experienced on the sunny side of the mountain and yin on the shady side. Other ways we can experience natural environmental yin yang is to see how we feel during a hot, dry, day in the summer, when there is a greater presence of yang energy compared to a cold, damp, frosty night in the winter. We could also compare the way we feel during the full moon to the new moon. During the full moon some of us become slightly more yang, and this corresponds with a three to five percent increase in car accidents, crime, and admissions to emergency rooms.

Using this definition of yin yang, I would feel more energetic, expres- sive, outgoing, social, alert, warm, active, and motivated when I sense I am more yang. When I describe myself as more yin, I feel more withdrawn, introspective, meditative, cool, relaxed, calm, peaceful, objective, clear-minded, and insightful. I would suggest you make your own list of what feels like yin or yang to you, drawing on your experience of night and day, winter and summer, and shade and sun.

We are always more yin or yang and most of the time, and this is healthy; however, sometimes we may find we experience problems from being too yin or yang. Once we have identified whether we are too yang or yin, we can simply expose ourselves to more of the opposite energy and reduce the influences we have too much of. For example, if I felt too hot and active and this was contributing to a headache, as though the sun and heat was too strong for me, I could eat all the foods I know cool me down. For me, this would be raw cucumber, grated daikon, fresh fruits, lemon water, apple cider vinegar, plain yogurt, and salads. As a result, I would feel more yin; in the past, this has resulted in my headache receding.

To read more about using yin yang for healing and food go to yin yang foods.

practical applications

Yin yang can literally be applied to anything and that is one of its greatest benefits.

Practically it is most often used in the practice of subjects including macrobiotics, feng shui, shiatsu, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, oriental philosophy and tai chi.


In macrobiotics different foods and cooking styles are used to create meals that once eaten could make our energy more yin or yang. Generally raw or lightly cooked watery vegetables will help us feel more yin and well cooked dryer foods like grains, beans, fish or meat would help us feel more yang.

feng shui

In feng shui yin yang can be used to create different environments to make it easier for us to feel more yin or yang. Generally we can say that hard, shiny, smooth, open surfaces create an environment in which we feel more yang and soft, textured, mat, irregular surfaces more yin. Colours can be a powerful influence on our emotions. Pale blues and greens can help us feel more yin whilst bright reds, yellows, purples or orange more yang.

yin and yang presentation

Click on this text for a download of yin yang plus five element cycles.

Have a macrobiotic consultation with Simon Brown in London or on-line to use yin and yang to help make the changes you want to your health and life. Call 07543 663 227 or email.