How the Yin and Yang Principles Apply to Your Health

by | Oct 22, 2021 | Blog Posts, Chinese Medicine, Yin and yang

The Taiji (or Tai Chi) Symbol represents four principles in one image.

The Yin Yang theory is a law in Chinese medicine and a way of seeing and understanding the world we live in. It’s a significant foundation of how the Chinese medical model works and forms the fundamental language by which we can understand it. We can’t even begin to explain acupuncture, herbs, or other methods without first understanding everything about Yin Yang.

Yin Yang theory is based on four principles: Opposition, Interdependence, Mutual Consumption, and Intertransformation.

In Chinese medicine, all parts contribute to a whole (holistic view.)  Yin and Yang is all about understanding one thing in relation to another. All things have some amount of Yin and Yang within them. Instead of absolutes (seeing the world in black and white), there’s a continuum or spectrum of what’s being compared relative to the other.

Yin Yang theory analyzes the general nature of something while taking into account the constant tendency to change.

Let’s take a look at these four principles in terms of health.


There are two sides of the same condition, and they are inseparable. The opposition is relative, not absolute. For example, instead of having a disease, you are in a state of imbalance between one condition of health and one opposite condition of disease.

There are traditional attributes of Yin and Yang that you need to know in order to learn how in and yang are classified. Neither is better, and neither is absolute in nature. Below are a few examples:

Light Dark
Air Blood
Activity Rest
Strong Weak
Fast Slow
South North
Rising Descending
Above Below
Fire Water
Transport Nourish
Masculine Feminine


There is an inseparable relationship between two parts of a whole. One cannot exist without the other. Certain anatomical areas are dependent on each other. A practitioner of Chinese medicine would try to identify the acupuncture channels or anatomical areas that are interdependent. One part of our body cannot be well unless the other part is thriving. This is why we have to understand the big picture, and not just our illnesses as separate conditions on a list.


The two sides are in a constant state of dynamic balance. There are four states of imbalance: too much Yin, too much Yang, too little Yin, too little Yang.

Why four? If we look at our bodies as little ecosystems, the first two tell us that we have an excess of something in the system and the latter two describe a deficiency within our system. And they each cause different health problems over time. This concept helps a practitioner locate areas of focus for treatment of a deficiency or excess in order to restore the balance. We can also do this on our own for several conditions with the knowledge of foods, emotional balance, breathing, and movement.



This principle requires internal factors of Yin becoming Yang or Yang becoming Yin, plus the factor of time. For example, a fertilized chicken egg becomes a chick or when we are on the road to recovery from a condition. This is where a practitioner, or we (from our own self-care,) can develop an understanding of the nature of a condition, the duration of treatment, and the response to therapy. 

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

Yin and Yang is so much more than a phrase used to describe opposites. Yin and Yang is an elegant theory in Chinese medicine that explains the nature of things and how each part fits into the bigger picture that defines you, your health and the world around you.


Further Reading/References:

Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. First Edition. Churchill Livingstone. New York, 1989.

Ju-Yi, Wang and Robertson, Jason D. Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine. East land Press. Seattle, 2008.

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