“In our busy, fast-paced Western world, we tend to work too much, rest too little and live in a way that rewards achievement, so that we are driven to do too much. We’ve forgotten how to be; how to live a more peaceful, calm and contented life. In Chinese Medical terms, we are living too much from the Yang energy and we are seriously depleting our Yin. Yet Yin is the extremely important energy that needs to be nourished and enhanced in order to be healthy and to succeed”. –Lillian Pearl Bridges
For optimum health and wellbeing our bodies require the harmonious balance of our Yin & Yang* energies. We embody these two aspects and they govern our daily rhythms (night/day, sleep/ activity), our lifetime cycles (e.g. hormonal shifts, growth, development ageing) encompassing all aspects of our physical, psychological and mental-emotional functioning.
Not only do our bodies reflect these complementary forces but so does the natural world of which we are part of. For example, the seasons are aspects of Yin and Yang, Summer (hot) is Yang and Winter (cold) Yin. We respond to these shifts. We feel the warmth of the sun on our bodies in summer and are actively outdoors. We feel the coldness penetrate our bones during winter and instinctively like to be snug and warm at home.
In functioning of the human body Yang is the field of activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal medulla (makes adrenaline), mobilises our resources for action, responds to stimuli, gets us moving. Yin is the complementary field of activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and adrenal cortex (amongst other things produces steroid hormones) which governs nourishment, maintenance, repair and storage of our cells. Yin/Yang equilibrium can be seen as the relative balance within these two branches of the central nervous system, and of the endocrine system; a dynamic relationship.
Yin provides a still point for the body to refresh, restore and regenerate its energies. It is easily depleted by overstimulation. Physically this appears as exhaustion, nutrient depletion and restlessness. It is nourished through adequate rest, quietness and turning our attention inward. Yang gives us our motivating force that propels us into action. It is orientated towards doing rather than its Yin counterpart of being. It is nourished through movement and activity. Yang warms the body. It governs metabolic processes. It gives strength to muscles and bones.
Deficient Yin energy is characterised by the loss of the ability to calm and soothe the system. Exhaustion is deep rooted and the nervous system is ‘wired’.
Yang becomes deficient through inactivity, repeated exposure to cold weather or cold environments, through eating too many cold foods. Yang deficiency can lead to fatigue, lethargy and depression.
Our Yin is being severely depleted by our overly aggressive Yang in every field of life. Expansion, speed, rapid growth, competition, fast communication technologies, over consumption, war/destruction. In our current times not only is the earth being stripped and worked to exhaustion but this is mirrored in the health of people with non-stop activity. This permeates not only our working lives but also our leisure time. So many of us have become adrenaline junkies. The truth is that ultimately this renders us unproductive and ineffective.
If we look at the natural world we see that living things come into being following periods of cultivation, concentrated nourishment and stillness.
We sow seeds in winter and see the plant emerge in Spring, blossom in summer and shed itself late summer and autumn. We need to follow these cycles within ourselves and engender what our bodies need at the right time and season.
We need to nourish ourselves in every way so that our Yin is strengthened. Not only will this then allow effective and sustained periods of activity when needed but this will profoundly benefit our energy and mental – emotional balance. Connecting with our life giving and life protecting Yin qualities will engender calm and stillness in our inner and outer worlds. We will then be able to extend this to others around us.
There are various strategies for nourishing our Yin: –
☯ Cultivating our Yin energies means being reflective and quiet. On a psychological level this is an acceptance of oneself, an inner calm and the ability to simply be. From this place within ourselves we can go with the flow of our lives.
☯ Meditate, practice mindfulness, rest up/power nap; breathe deeply. All of these things will calm the central nervous system. They soothe the mind. Breath work will oxygenate the blood. Rejuvenated we can gain an inner peace and different perspective on our life.
☯ Practice Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, qi-gong. Walk in nature and get clear oxygen into your lungs. Eastern exercise cultivates our Qi meaning it restores our vital energy. Pushing the body beyond its limits actually depletes it. Be mindful that health and fitness do not necessarily go hand in hand. Go to the gym, run by all means if that’s what you enjoy but counter-balance this with restorative activities.
☯ Turn off TV, PC, phone – all these things have their place in our work life and leisure time however their electromagnetic field (EMF) can disrupt our bodies electro-magnetic field. Take time to tap into your creativity instead – draw/paint, make things, cook, write a poem, keep a journal. All of these things deepen and enrich our experience of our self and the gifts / talents that we have to contribute in a beautiful and uplifting way.
☯ Actively listen, that includes listening to ourselves through self-reflection. Being receptive to others & our environment will allow us to heighten our awareness and take right action. What is our hearts deepest desire? how do we feel when the chatter of our mind stops, what intuitively are we drawn to? We can gain wisdom from our own deep experience of life but also from listening and learning from others, taking time for people.
☯ In terms of foods a Yin nourishing diet is mineral and vitamin rich. Such foods penetrate deeply into the body. Incorporate a small amount of high quality protein with wide range of fruit and vegetables. A little meat (especially duck), fish, eggs, seafood. Wheat and oats are very nutritious. Seeds and beans are full of concentrated nourishment. Yin deficiency in the body can lead to dryness (e.g. dry eyes, skin, itchy throat, dry cough, constipation). Foods with a high water and mucilage content such as marrow, pears, chia seeds are recommended.
☯ Stimulants, especially the more drying ones such as coffee, alcohol, very hot spices can exhaust the Yin and dehydrate fluids. Rosehip and hibiscus tea is moistening, also juices with cucumber, celery, melon. Supplements of Royal Jelly and aloe vera are helpful.
It is important not to overdo it with Yin foods.
Remember that it is maintaining a balance between Yin and Yang which is needed. The sage Lao Tzu expresses this beautifully in the Tao Te Ching.
‘….All beings support yin and embrace yang
and the interplay of these two forces
fills the universe
Yet only at the still point,
between the breathing in and the breathing out
can one capture the two in perfect harmony ….’
* Yin/Yang – a concept through which the ancient Chinese perceived everything in and around us as comprising of these two interdependent qualities. This model is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a way to understand ill health and disease on a physical, mental emotional and psychological level and in order to restore the body’s equilibrium to good health.
Teresa Syed MBAcC