Acupuncture Basics – Yin and Yang

The concept of yin and yang is extremely important in acupuncture and Chinese medicine. This simple idea is thousands of years old, and is rooted in observations of the natural world as well as the human body.

Most people have heard of yin and yang, but don’t realise the impact that they can have on their daily lives, health and well-being. In this article, we will take a closer look at yin and yang, and how you can use them to your benefit.

Yin and Yang

Yin and yang are the two complementary, but opposing forces of nature. Yin represents night-time, winter, coldness, stillness, water, and the feminine. Yang represents daytime, summer, warmth, activity, fire and the masculine.

However, yin and yang are not two separate entities, but two halves of one whole. To fully understand this, we need to look at their Chinese characters. Yin is written 阴 and shows the radicals for a hill and the moon. Yang is written 阳 and it shows the same hill radical, but this time with the sun. Therefore yin and yang can be considered as the shady side and the sunny side of a mountain. Neither is completely yin or completely yang, one cannot exist without the other, and they transform into one another as the sun moves across the sky throughout the day.

This relationship is also well illustrated by the yin-yang symbol that most people recognise. A circle is split into two halves which are black (yin) and white (yang). The two halves appear to be flowing into one another, and each contains a dot of the other colour, showing that there is always yang within yin and also yin within yang.

Yin and Yang in the Human Body

Everything in the human body can be classified as more yin or more yang in nature. Yin applies to the bottom half, the front and the interior of the body. The yin organs are dense and solid and they include the Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys and Liver. Yang applies to the top half, the back and the exterior of the body. The yang organs are hollow and include the Stomach, the Intestines, the Bladder and the Gallbladder.

The yang within our bodies provides warmth for all of our physiological functions to take place, and the yin prevents it from overheating. Therefore, the most important condition of yin and yang within the body is that they should always be in balance with one another. If yin and yang become imbalanced for any reason, this is when illness can occur.

Yin, Yang and Your Health

As you now know, your health depends on a constant state of harmony between yin and yang. For example, if your yin energy is weakened, this can leave your yang energy unbalanced and lead to symptoms such as fever, restlessness, irritability and insomnia. If your yang energy is weakened, there will be nothing to warm and power your yin organs and you may suffer from symptoms such as chills, exhaustion and poor digestion.

Most people tend to naturally have a more yin (cold) or a more yang (hot) body type. Whether you have a yin or yang body type influences your health and the type of diseases that you will be prone to. More yin people tend to suffer from conditions such as fatigue, cold hands and feet, fluid retention and so on. More yang people are prone to conditions such as high blood pressure, insomnia and headaches.

Once you know your body type, you can start making appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes. This will help you to keep your yin and yang more balanced and improve your general health and well-being.

Balancing Your Yin and Yang

The basic idea behind yin and yang is very simple, and luckily this means that it is easy to keep them in balance too!

One of the most effective ways of keeping yin and yang running smoothly is to maintain a good balance between activity and rest (this applies to both physical and mental activities). Exercise regularly, but ensure that you get enough downtime and go to bed early to ensure that you get enough sleep.

Eat a wide variety of foods with different colours, flavours and textures every day. If you eat more yin foods such as green vegetables, use yang cooking methods such as roasting or stir-frying. If you eat more yang foods such as warming spices or meat, use yin cooking methods such as stewing. Eat more cooling foods such as cucumber, citrus fruits and watermelon in summer, and more warming foods such as root vegetables, garlic and onions in winter. If you have a very yin body type, avoid cold or raw food altogether, and if you have a very yang body type, avoid stimulants such as caffeine, chilli and alcohol.

Pay attention to the seasons and act appropriately. Wrap up warm in winter and stay cool in summer. However, you should remember not to overdo either of these things. If you are so hot that you start to sweat, then your body is being cooled rather than warmed. And if you cool yourself too much with iced drinks and cold food, you could hinder your digestion.

Another great way to keep your yin and yang in balance is to go for regular acupuncture treatments. Your acupuncturist will be able to detect minor imbalances before you develop symptoms and may even be able to stop an illness in its tracks. Prevention is always better than cure, and according to Chinese medicine, keeping yin and yang in harmony is one of the best ways to do this.

To find more about yin and yang, identify your body type, and learn how you can adapt your lifestyle to suit this, just contact us for a chat or book an appointment today. We will be more than happy to answer any questions.

Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain

What is Osteoarthritis?

The term “arthritis” is very broad and simply means inflammation of the joints. There are many different types of arthritis; rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout, lupus and fibromyalgia are just a few examples. One of the most common types of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on a particular joint over time.

All joints are protected by a substance called cartilage. This helps the bones to slide over one another smoothly and without friction. When this cartilage wears away, the bones can begin to grind together, causing inflammation, stiffness, swelling and pain.

Osteoarthritis mainly affects the weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. It is more common in older people and people who are overweight.

Treatments for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain

Some of the most common conventional treatments for osteoarthritis knee pain include anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers and steroid injections. These treatments help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, but they do nothing to address the underlying cause of the disease. They also carry the risk of side-effects, especially when used over a long period of time.

In severe cases of knee osteoarthritis, surgery may be an option, but this carries its own set of risks, and does not always offer good relief.

Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis Knee Pain

Acupuncture may help to relieve knee osteoarthritis in a number of different ways:

  • Acupuncture influences the central nervous system to relieve pain
  • Acupuncture stimulates endorphin activity (endorphins are your body’s natural painkillers and also give a sense of general well-being)
  • Acupuncture reduces inflammation to relieve stiffness, swelling and pain
  • Acupuncture increases local circulation to promote healing

While acupuncture may not be able to repair cartilage that has already been damaged, it can offer relief from the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. It is safe for people of all ages, and can be used alongside your regular medication. Your acupuncturist will also be able to offer you dietary and lifestyle advice to help you to manage your condition better.

Managing Knee Osteoarthritis Naturally

If you have been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis, there are many ways to manage your condition naturally. Some of these tips may also help to prevent you from developing osteoarthritis in the future.

Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Anti-inflammatory diets are rich in whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy fats. Base you meals on whole grains such as brown rice or wholemeal pasta. Ensure that you are getting enough fruit and veg, especially leafy greens which are full of vitamins and minerals. Eat more healthy fats which can be found in oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon etc.), nuts and seeds, avocados and olive oil. Some spices, especially turmeric, are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, so use these to flavour your meals or consider taking a supplement.

Avoid eating too much meat, and if you do, choose organic produce which will have fewer toxins. Processed foods, fried foods and refined sugars can all contribute to inflammation and should be kept to a minimum.

The Mediterranean diet and DASH diet are both good examples of anti-inflammatory diets.

Control Your Weight

Being overweight is known to contribute to osteoarthritis, as carrying around extra body mass can increase the pressure on your joints. Keeping your weight under control will not only help to prevent or improve osteoarthritis symptoms, but will protect you against a wide range of other health conditions too.

Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly can help you to manage your weight and relieve joint pain. It can also help to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve flexibility, mobility and balance.

Choose low-impact exercises which will not put too much strain on your joints. Swimming, yoga and tai chi are all good choices, but even short, gentle walks will help.

Listen to Your Body

Many people find that their osteoarthritis pain is worse in cold or damp weather. If this is the case, make sure that you keep your knees warm throughout the autumn and winter. Applying heat packs or massaging in some warming cream or gel may also help  to relieve stiffness and pain.

If your joint pain is worse in hot weather, or your joints feel very hot and swollen to touch, ice packs and cooling creams or gels may give you some relief. Listen to your body, and it will usually tell you what it needs.

If you are suffering from osteoarthritis knee pain, or joint pain of any kind, why not contact us to find out more about how acupuncture could help you?