Acupuncture Basics: Part 1 - Yin and Yang

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If you've seen the TV show Breaking Bad, then you're familiar with the transformation the main character Walter White goes through in the span of the series. He starts out a meek, nerdy scientist who can't stand up to his co-workers or wife. He stumbles over his words. He's introverted and stuck in his head. By the end of the series, Walter has become an explosive, unpredictable criminal that his family and friends are afraid of.

Yin and Yang

What does this have to do with acupuncture? The fundamental concept of acupuncture is based in Yin Yang theory. Yin is soft, yielding, feminine, dark, introspective, quiet. It is known traditionally as the shady side of the mountain. On the sunny side of the mountain we have yang (pronounced like song, not sang). Yang is light, active, hard, immovable, and dominant.

And just like Walter White, these two concepts aren't separate, but they both exist in everything, transforming into one another. Nothing can be completely yin or totally yang, but has aspects of both. When one decreases, the other increases.

In the first few scenes of Breaking Bad, we see Walter with his family. He doesn't talk much, or argue with his wife, Skylar or son, Walt Jr. Even when they argue with each other over the veggie bacon, or Walt Jr. curses at the breakfast table, our early Walter sits passive and lets it happen. Yet, even this mostly yin character has his yang moments. When Walt Jr. is being picked on while shopping, we see that explosive, active side of Walter attacking his sons' bully. Throughout the entire series, we see a soft-spoken main character slowly transforming into one that is spontaneous, outgoing and dominant.

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Yin Yang Theory in Acupuncture

When developing a treatment plan for a patient, I always keep in mind whether they are more yin or more yang. A typical yin patient is one who is tired a lot, may not have much of an appetite, runs cold, carries a few extra pounds, or moves and thinks slowly. But if a patient talks and moves a lot, has a hard time sleeping, runs hot and is often thirsty, or tends to have headaches, he or she is more yang. I'm sure you can see parts of yourself in both categories, but usually one is more dominant than the other at any given time.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding acupuncture. That's why I'm starting a blog series explaining each fundamental concept in a way that's easy to grasp. If there's anything specific you'd like to see me cover, please mention it below. And look for Part 2 next month: What is Qi?