Monday, 27 July 2009

Yin and Yang

I used to have a lady-boss who was quite knowledgeable in the "heatiness" and "windiness" of various foods. She was afflicted with adult-onset asthma at the age of 50 and had preferred natural remedies over conventional medicine. If memory serves, water-melon is windy, as is tea, ginger heaty, durian very heaty, crab soup for asthma, barley is cooling, cincau too, nangka very angin and phlegm-inducing, and not too forget some fish like ikan tamban and ikan talang are really "itchy" rendering your throat and the roof of your mouth quite sore.

Classifying food as heaty or cooling is a Chinese thing, I would say, that complies with their philosophy of yin and yang. Literally translated, yin and yang mean the dark side and sunny side of a hill and are "energies" believed to be present in everything.

As explained in an article I found on

Opposites comprising of a whole, yin and yang cannot exist without each other and nothing is ever completely one or the other. There are varying degrees of yin and yang within everything and everybody. The well-known yin-yang symbol illustrates how these forces flow into each other with a little yin always within yang, and a little yang always within yin. In the natural world, sun and fire are yang, while earth and water are yin. Life is possible only because of the interplay between these forces.

....Both yin and yang are necessary for sustaining any kind of function. If one force dominates over the other, the imbalance typically leads to or perpetuates illness.

While science has attributed the cause of our various ailments and temperaments to imbalances in our hormonal make-up, it is still fascinating the way the Chinese simplifies it all with yin and yang. Take ageing, for instance:

It is interesting to see that as people age, they naturally start to get low in their gender-related yin or yang energy. For example, as women age and their yin begins to decline, they go though menopause. They may experience hot flashes, night sweats and frequent waking, which are all symptoms of yin deficiency. Their character also tends to become less yin. Some women grow less meek -- going out, doing more and standing up for themselves. If they become pathologically yin-deficient, they may become agitated, demanding and shrill. This is all relative, I suppose, based on your perspective or proximity to the person (e.g., "Your mother's driving me crazy!" Dad may say).

The opposite happens with men -- their yang decreases and they mellow with age, becoming more yin: easygoing, less confrontational and less combative. It's a good thing this happens to men, because their partners may be going in the other direction! This certainly isn't to the point of being pathologically yang deficient; on the contrary, both men and women may feel more centered, balanced and comfortable with themselves and others as they develop more gender-neutral dispositions.

If yang deficiency develops, men may become sexually impotent, thus the multi-million dollar market for Viagra. Getting up at night to go to the bathroom, cold extremities and lower back pain all point to a possible yang deficiency as well. A man's character may become too mellow, to the point of losing his confidence, becoming listless and apathetic. If he tries to "treat" his boredom with a younger woman, how ironic it would be if he couldn't "perform." It would be safer to get a sports car to prove his masculinity (haha), but better still, he could start Asian bodywork treatments!

Please understand that this is a generalization. We can by no means put everyone in these categories. For one thing, men are not all yang, and women are not all yin. There is a balance of yin and yang within both genders in different proportions. But there is a tendency that you may have noticed for men and women to switch polarities slightly as they age.

The tables above indicate that I may be slightly yin-deficient for which the following fortifying tips might indeed help.

"To increase Yin, spend more introspective, relaxing, solitary time. Pursue the spiritual, emotional, and intuitive inner sides of life. Work with ideas and imagination. Yin represents one's innate capacity. Cultivate the inner nature by focusing on feelings of receptivity, humility, flexibility, and development of inner essence. Relationships fall under the yin aspect of life. Use cool colors: blue-greens, blues and purples, muted, diffuse colors as well as dark shades of all colors, dimmed lighting, cooler temperatures, heavenly representations in artwork and photography, artwork depicting valleys, curved lines in designs, either in the built environment, furnishings, or patterns in fabric and artwork."

Alex Tiberi suggests buying a pet to help tonify yin. A dog needs you to nourish and take care of it, more so than fish or other types of pets. There is nothing like the feeling of the unconditional love from a pet when you arrive home. Plus, you get the added benefit of gentle yin-tonifying exercise, by having to take it out for a walk regularly! This is particularly true of older people who don't exercise regularly or have the opportunity to care for anyone anymore.

Since people who are yin deficient are already depleted, they need to avoid stimulants that will cause them to use more energy than they have, such as alcohol, coffee and sugar. Pungent spices also should be avoided, as they will create more heat.

Daverick Leggitt writes in Helping Ourselves: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Food Energetics:

"Yin tonifying foods combine deep subtle nourishment with moistening and often cooling qualities. Yin tonics travel deeply into the body replenishing our core and soothing our overworked system."

Foods that especially tonify yin are: apples, asparagus, cheese and milk (in moderation), chicken and duck eggs, clams and oysters, crab, cuttlefish, duck, honey (in moderation), kidney beans, lemon, malt, mango, peas, pears, pineapple, pomegranate, pork, rabbit, string beans, tofu, tomato, watermelon and yams. Another excellent reference is Leggitt's book, Recipes for Self-Healing.

Chinese herbs are also beneficial, used in conjunction with Asian bodywork therapy for supporting yin.

With such a focus in our culture on the value of yang -- doing rather than being, and going rather than relaxing -- you may find several of your clients suffer from some sort of yin deficiency, to put it mildly. Even if you forget all of the differentiation and treatments mentioned in this article, and just give your clients the space to receive, feel nurtured and renewed, you will be starting to address and treat their yin deficiency! One of the most enduring and valuable yin-supporting "techniques" is to be present and peaceful.

The series of articles on yin and yang deficiency at the MassageToday website:

Yin and Yang Deficiency Part I
Yin and Yang Deficiency Part II
Yin and Yang Deficiency Part III
Yin and Yang Deficiency Part IV
Yin and Yang Deficiency Part V
Yin and Yang Deficiency Part VI


mamasita said...

Hoi Yang..
I mengantuk betul..besok I baca your entry ok..panjang lebar..hehe

Saya... said...

Read Quran je lah :)

Zendra said...

Gurlz, which reminds me:

Surah Yasin ayat 36 - reference to pairs / opposites

(36) Limitless in His glory is He who has created opposites in whatever the earth produces, and in men’s own selves, and in that of which [as yet] they have no knowledge.

[Lit., “who has created all the pairs out of whatever the earth produces, and out of themselves, and out of that of which they have no knowledge”: a reference to the polarity evident in all creation, both animate and inanimate, which expresses itself in the existence of antithetic and yet complementary forces, like the sexuality in human beings, animals and plants, light and darkness, heat and cold, positive and negative magnetism and electricity, the positive and negative charges (protons and electrons) in the structure of the atom, and so forth. (It is to be borne in mind that the noun zawj denotes both “a pair” and “one of a pair”, as explained in note on 13: 3.) The mention of “that of which they have no knowledge” evidently relates to things or phenomena not yet understood by man but potentially within the range of his comprehension: hence my interpolation, between brackets, of the words “as yet”.]

Interpretation from Muhammad Asad - author of The Road to Mecca