Are you more yin or yang?
- Yin and yang is the universal balance of energies. We can see examples of their balance in everything - masculine and feminine, day and night, warm and cool, action and rest.
- The concept of yin and yang is foundational to traditional Chinese medicine; when these energies are out of balance it can lead to disharmony. In the body, this can show up as physical and emotional symptoms and disturbances.
- How can you tell if your energy might be more yin or yang? Take the quiz below and learn more about how to maintain a balance between the two energies to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
An imbalance in your yin and yang energies can block the vital life force known in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as qi (pronounced ‘chee’). So, how does an imbalance of yin and yang in the body impact your everyday life? An imbalance can show up as physical ailments, lack of energy, regular bad moods or outlook on life. Becoming aware of how yin and yang energies apply to your physical and mental health is key to helping you shift them back into a harmonious balance.
The meaning of yin and yang
What are yin and yang? While the dark side of the symbol (yin) represents the winter solstice, the moon and rest, the light side represents the summer solstice, the sun and action. The small dark and light dots in the symbol show that each is interconnected, not opposing - they work together harmoniously to bring the ultimate balance. There is a small amount of yin energy even in the yang, and vice versa - one cannot exist without the other.
What are yin and yang in Chinese medicine?
Yin and yang, along with qi, are fundamental to TCM. In TCM, when the yin and yang of qi are balanced, there is good health and happiness. When imbalanced, there is difficulty and ill-health.
While we humans will go in cycles of action, forward motion, getting work done and achieving goals - we can’t be in that state forever. TCM knows the value of rest after this period, grounding down, contemplating and replenishing the body, mind and spirit - this is the energy of yin.
Unfortunately, in our modern world, there tends to be far more value placed on yang attributes. Therefore, modern living is out of balance - making it more important to develop an awareness of maintaining the balance within through conscious daily practices.
What happens when yin and yang are out of balance?
Qi can become blocked or stagnant and lead to imbalances of yin and yang. At times, we can live too much in one state or another - not just in our heads but in our bodies and environments too.
Physical symptoms of yang deficiency:
- Regularly oversleeping
- Lack of motivation
- Hair thinning
- Premature grey hair
- Sluggish digestion and poor nutrient absorption
- Poor circulation
- Feeling cold all the time
- Low libido
Physical symptoms of yin deficiency:
- Dry hair, skin and nails
- Night sweats
- Excessive thirst
- Feeling overheated, fevers
- Frustration and anger
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying still
Quiz - are you more yin or yang?
Figuring out if you are more yin or yang can help you to make more mindful choices to bring harmony to your yin and yang energies.
1. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
2. Do you drink coffee?
a) Not a fan
3. Do you suffer from headaches?
a) Not really
b) Fairly often
4. How would your loved ones best describe you?
a) Relaxed, stable, quiet
b) Restless, adventurous, ambitious
5. Are you ambitious?
a) Not really, I like my life to be more stable and predictable
b) Yes, I won’t stop until I’ve achieved my goals (and then I’m onto the next thing!)
6. Do you prefer day or night?
a) Total night owl
b) Love the daytime
7. What would be your ideal holiday?
a) Relaxing on the beach in Fiji with a fruity cocktail
b) Skiing in Switzerland or hiking in New Zealand
8. Do you get easily angry or frustrated?
a) Hardly ever
b) So easily!
9. What is your favourite type of movement if you had to choose from the following:
a) An evening yoga session
b) Morning cardio
Mostly A’s: You are more YIN
You are wise and contemplative but may struggle with indecisiveness and inaction. You can work towards goals but enjoy doing so in a slower, more methodical way. Too much yin can result in stagnation both in health and in life, leading to lethargy and even sluggish body systems. Too much yin can also lead to overeating, overthinking, oversleeping, and becoming apathetic.
Mostly B’s: You are more YANG
You are ambitious, courageous and action oriented. You love to get things done but may sometimes overlook the finer details. Too much yang can result in feeling angry and frustrated and can mean you sometimes struggle to relax and unwind. This can result in headaches, insomnia and muscle tension.
Diet and lifestyle tips to balance yin and yang
If you have an excess of yin or yang, the good news is that you can take daily actions - both big and small - to bring the energies back into balance. In fact, there’s no part of life that isn’t touched by yin and yang. From exercise, sleep, activities, food, work, thoughts, and relationships, all can have a part in bringing yin and yang into balance.
Diet and lifestyle tips for too much yin (yang deficiency):
Warming foods and spices such as soups and slow-cooked foods, beef, chicken, eggs, porridge, roasted root vegetables, ginger, garlic and pepper and hot herbal teas such as ginger, chai and jasmine are great for warming up the colder yin types.
Lifestyle and exercise
When it comes to exercise for excess yin, you might think that it makes sense to get out there and do strenuous movements. In fact, just the opposite is true - when you’re lacking motivation and feeling lethargic, the most important thing is to move mindfully and lovingly. The aim is to cultivate the warmth within, so gentle walks and breath-based exercises like Qi gong and Tai chi are perfect. Exercising in the ‘yang’ daylight hours and out in nature also helps to cultivate yang energy.
Work and relationships
Say yes to more social activities, walks with friends or an afternoon at the beach. Be thoughtful about where you have stayed well within your comfort zone and what small ways you can challenge yourself every day. If your tendency is towards overthinking, try mindfulness meditation to detach from your thoughts.
Diet and lifestyle tips for too much yang (yin deficiency):
Since yang is associated with heat, it’s important to look to more cooling foods such as fruits and vegetables, as well as bitter greens and herbs (i.e., dandelion, rocket, radicchio and kale). Lightly cooking foods such as steaming or sautéing instead of frying foods is best. Avoid alcohol and spicy foods that increase heat in the body.
Lifestyle and exercise
Balance more intense workouts with gentle activities such as swimming, leisurely walking and vinyasa or yin yoga, Tai chi and Qi gong. Exercises that focus heavily on breath and balance help to tap into the yin energy and remove excess heat. Avoid overbooking yourself for social activities and find solitary activities that you enjoy in order to rest and recharge.
Work and relationships
Get honest with yourself about where you might be putting too much pressure on yourself or others. Since ambition, impatience, anger and frustration are associated with excess yang, these can easily impact your work and closest relationships (including the one you have with yourself!). Daily mindfulness meditation can help with developing awareness around negative self-talk and behaviour patterns.
Find out more about the meaning of yin and yang and how to maintain the balance between these vital energies here.