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Acupuncture 101.1 – Common TCM Terms Demystified: Yin and Yang

Acupuncture 101.1 – Common TCM Terms Demystified: Yin and Yang

Today Traditional Chinese Medicine and other alternative medicines are steadily gaining momentum and becoming a staple in many people’s wellness routine. More and more people are seeking out these therapies for recovery from an injury, preparing a new mom for birth, relieving stress, anxiety, or depression, or stabilizing a person’s immune system, and everything in-between.

One of my favorite parts of my job is talking about how great my job is and how it can help absolutely everyone. I am at my happiest when a client is asking lots of questions about what I am doing to/for them, and why. This allows me to share my knowledge and hopefully get them excited about what they are experiencing and to tune in to the treatment. This becomes something that they take home with them and reaches much further than the warm and cozy treatment table. Clients start recognizing subtle changes in themselves as they become more aware of their own bodies than they ever have before.

In my discussions with clients, friends, and family on the topics of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture it sometimes escapes me that my core terminology is not that common to my audience. As I am explaining that the reason they haven’t been getting a sound sleep is because their Shen is not rooted in their Heart, and their digestion is off because their Spleen Qi is deficient. The polite smiles and slightly confused looks escape me as I get excited about their treatment and how all of their symptoms are so clearly signs of Rebellious Qi!!!

It occurred to me that in order to have my clients, potential clients, friends, and family follow me and to be able to keep up with my level of excitement about TCM, perhaps a tutorial on some of the most common terms would be beneficial. I have divided this into four bite-size TCM nuggets of knowledge, so as not to be too overwhelming. The terms that I have chosen are used frequently and I have tried to explain as best I can without sounding exactly like an acupuncture text book. Some of them are my interpretation from personal and clinical experiences, so if it doesn’t match exactly what your Google search says, that’s why. And don’t worry; there is no exam at the end!

Yin and Yang, together they form the symbol called taijitu, which has now become very well-known, even here in the West. The different areas in the circle accentuate the importance of their relationship as a whole and articulate the dynamic ebb and flow between opposites. As shown in the symbol, both Yin and Yang are deeply rooted in each other and always contain a piece of the other. There is no light without dark, no up without down, and no man without woman.

Ying and Yang reflect the natural world, as in the flow between high tide and low tide or between day and night. Yin, whose character originally meant the “shady side of the slope”, is associated with cold, interior, moisture, density, stillness, downward movement, and substance. Yang, whose character originally meant the sunny side of the slope”, relates to heat, exterior, dryness, movement, upward motion, and function.

In Chinese Medicine, yin and yang offer one of the most important building blocks for understanding health and disease. Health and a sense of well-being prosper when Yin and Yang are in balance. If there is too much Yin in the body, a person can become ill and feel weak or slow, coldness comes over the body and a feeling of lethargy. If there is too much Yang, a person is susceptible to illness stated with quick, forceful movements, heat, or hyperactivity.

In TCM, too much Yin, or an excess of Yin, is balanced out with more Yang and vice versa. If there is too little Yin, or there is a deficiency, this is adjusted by supplementing Yin. The same is true for cases where Yang is deficient. In Chinese Medicine, the best ways to regulate Yin and Yang is through Acupuncture, Herbs, and Diet.

How to use the terms “Yin” and “Yang” in every day conversation:

“I’m so tired. I am going to bed so I can enter my Yin phase for the day.”

“Pass the cream; I need to Yang up my coffee.”

“I love all your Yang energy tonight! Let’s dance!”


Aside: The branding for my company, Evolve Acupuncture, has the logo of a conceptualized taijitu. In the original symbol, there is the flow of Yin into Yang and vice versa. My logo shows the pieces as black and green, and in one interpretation this could mean the transition from illness to health. The logo also shows that the pieces are not quite together but they are flowing back together, to the place that they were meant to be, they are “evolving” into a healthy state.

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