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Complementary Corner

How Does the Yin and Yang Symbol Relate to Us?

Renee Lehman

You may have noticed the symbol in the upper corner of my column and have probably seen this symbol before. However, do you know what it is and what it stands for? This is the Yin - Yang symbol, also known as the Tai Chi (pronounced Tie Chee) symbol. It is an important symbol in ancient Chinese Taoist (pronounced Dowist) philosophy. The Yin - Yang symbol consists of a circle divided into two teardrop-shaped halves - one white and the other black. Within each half is contained a smaller circle of the opposite color.

What's great about the Yin - Yang symbol is that the smaller circles nested within each half of the symbol serve as a constant reminder of the interdependent nature of the black/white "opposites." One could not exist without the other, for each contains the essence of the other. If you sit back and look at everything in the natural and man-made world, you can see how everything is connected (sharing each other's essences).

For example, the proper amount of rain, sun, and warm weather is important for oranges to grow. Someone picks them, transports them to the store where you pay a certain price to be able to eat them. If there is not enough rain, or too much cold weather, the orange crop will not be as plentiful. You will have to pay more to buy an orange to eat. Will you still buy the orange? Everything along this food supply chain is connected and can affect everything. We are in a state of "Oneness" with the universe.

As we observe the universe, we notice the patterns of change that exist, and that is where the

Yin - Yang symbol comes in. The Yin - Yang symbol represents the patterns of change and the balance of the opposites in the universe. Change between Yin and Yang can be seen as night becomes day and day becomes night; birth becomes death and death becomes birth (think of what happens with composting); friends become enemies and enemies become friends.

When opposites are equally present, all is calm (healthy). When one is outweighed by the other, there is confusion and disarray (illness/dis-ease). Remember that the Yin - Yang symbol is NOT black OR white, it is black AND white. Therefore, the opposites are in relative terms to each other [for example, Alaska's climate is more Yin (cooler) than Arizona's (hotter), and Houston's climate is more Yang (hotter) than Boston's (cooler)]. In other words, Alaska is not always cold, and Arizona is not always hot. Nor is Houston always hot and Boston always cold, the temperature is constantly changing!

So how does the Yin - Yang symbol relate to us?

Many of us lead lives which are out of balance. Some are far too Yang and overactive, while others have lifestyles which are too Yin and inactive/static.

Do you recognize yourself in any of the following scenarios?

  1. Do you often work through your lunch hour or eat meals on the run?
  2. Do you over-ride feelings of tiredness and continue to work?
  3. Do you often feel obliged to work late?
  4. If you are ill do you go back to work before you have fully recovered?
  5. Do you find yourself continually juggling so many things that you never stop to rest?
  6. Do you exercise even when you have not been sleeping well because your body couldn't slow down?
  7. Do you stay up late doing things, and then wake early for work?

If you answered Yes to three or more of these questions then STOP! You are probably in the habit of too much activity and work (therefore, too Yang). If your lifestyle is overactive, think about the following things:

  • Schedule some time to look at your daily routine.
  • Check that you are getting enough breaks at work; you are resting during the day; and you are incorporating some stillness in your day to nourish yourself.
  • Schedule a small amount of rest time into your day if you have not in the past.
  • Do some restorative activity, such as, yoga, qigong, tai chi, meditation, or anything that reconnects you to the natural world around you.
  • Scheduling some space for pleasurable activities (like getting a massage, taking a relaxing bath, or listening to music); even if it is only for a short time period, can rejuvenate you.

Do you recognize yourself in any of the following scenarios?

  1. Do you spend a large proportion of the day sitting?
  2. Do you feel tired even though you have been inactive?
  3. Do you drive to work or activities when it would be easy to walk or bicycle?
  4. Do you exercise less than once a week?
  5. Do you feel sluggish and depressed much of the time?

If you answered Yes to three or more of these questions then you probably have too little daily activity (therefore, too Yin). If your lifestyle is static, think about the following things:

  • Schedule some time to look at your daily schedule.
  • See how you could bring exercise and activity into your day. For example, walk to go shopping or out for lunch; take the stairs rather than the elevator; park away from your office; go dancing with friends; or even do some gardening.
  • Join a gym with a friend.
  • If you don't like doing exercise, try stretching, or qigong and tai chi (internal forms of exercise that activate our energy).

Good Luck with balancing your Yin and Yang!

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist with
over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located
 at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.

She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman