How Is Yin Represented In Our Body?
Yin and yang are opposing yet complementary forces that create balance, sustain life and support vibrant health. One is not better or worse than the other nor can either of them function without one another. Where yang represents activity, heat, and expansion, the yin provides a counterbalance to that via rest, recovery and refueling.
Although our culture praises and encourages activity, it is important to recognize that the source of fuel for that activity must be nourished if we are to promote healthy longevity and prevent burning out early in life.
How Does Our Yin Become Depleted?
When we over-consume our yin due to excessive activity (take the all too common hectic schedule of the average stressed american today), our endurance and energy reserves dwindle. This kind of imbalance cannot be endured for too long without leading to a breakdown of the body. We become over-reactive and hypersensitive, susceptible to exhaustion and illness. Growth is hampered if not altogether stopped (often expressed physically in children and psychologically and spiritually in adults) and that sense of flow begins to fade. This pattern of deficiency can be attributed to several factors:
Poor nutrition: The typical calorie-dense and nutrient-poor american diet does not provide enough building blocks for your body to repair, refuel and grow.
Insufficient rest: Proper rest is essential for healing; this time of stillness allows the body recuperate the lost energy of the day
Overuse of stimulant: Use of stimulant or even willpower to force energy up and out of the body can drain our reserves. Although it may feel amazing at first, as our reserves shrink, we need more and more stimulants just to get out of bed.
Overwork: Physical labor or forced use of intellect, particularly at night, will eventually drain the yin. Combine this with energy drinks or coffee and you really burn your candle from both ends.
Emotions: How we use our mind and emotions has a substantial effect on our store of yin. Habitual feelings of worry, anxiety, resentment and anger have a hot, hyperactive yang nature which can damage the yin.
Signs & Symptoms
The less yin we have, the more agitation, restlessness and emotional disturbance we experience. Minor inconveniences begin to feel overwhelming as we lose our shock absorbers. The result is increased tension, feeling drained and burned out, sensitive and easily offended, irritable, and feeling like your nerves are raw. The nervous system is extremely sensitive to any imbalances in the body, therefore psychological and emotional symptoms represent the early stages of deficiency and continue to worsen as physical signs begin to manifest.
Physically, it becomes difficult to relax and rest, often leading to insomnia. We begin to dry up inside leading to dry skin, hair, eyes, lips, nose, throat and mouth. Aging is accelerated, resulting in gray hair and deterioration of the skin. Vision and hearing become less acute. Low grade fever or flushing of the cheeks, unusually warm hands and feet (or they may switch from warm to freezing and back again), night sweating, fatigue, knee or back pain and weakness, bone deterioration, anxiety, poor memory and restlessness are all indications of serious yin depletion.
Examples of Western Conditions Associated With Yin Deficiency:
-Hypertension (anxious, nervous type A personality)
-Dryness (skin, hair, eyes, etc.)
…to name a few
5 Ways to Replenish Our Yin
Rest and relaxation allow the anabolic processes of the body to build up blood and fluids in order to nourish the organs and replenish the energy that is lost during daily activity. Sleep is the yin-izing part of our day and releases a number of hormones essential to tissue renewal. Make an effort to follow good sleeping habits.
The herbs that are used to build up the yin are generally moist, oily, heavy or substantial. They are basically a concentrated form of nutrition and are taken long term since building the body back up after chronic depletion. Yin tonics regenerate flesh and fluids, plump up the tissues, and moisten and soothe the mucous membranes. They promote healthy blood, bones and brain. Some common formulas include Liu wei di huang wan, Zuo gui wan, Zhi bai di huang wan, Da bu yin wan, and many others depending on which organ system needs to be focused on. Make sure to ask your acupuncturist physician for the most appropriate formula for you, since taking an incorrect formula may make your condition worse or simply be ineffective.
This ancient practice helps regulate the autonomic nervous system, thus balancing out a nervous, frazzled mental state which depletes yin.
4. Meditation and Prayer
Don’t underestimate the power of meditation and prayer. The power of habitual thoughts and visualizations is beyond incredible in its ability to calm the mind and increase the rate of tissue regeneration. Different thoughts result in different body chemistry. Various bodily chemicals, neurotransmitters and hormones are released according to our perception of environmental stimulus. Keep in mind, the subconscious mind does not know the difference between an imagined stimulus and a real stimulus. Making a habit of thinking and visualizing positive things will encourage the body to release a chemistry which induces healing.
5. Nutritional Therapy
Nutrition is one of the most powerful ways to restore the body’s reserves. If you have yin deficiency, then place more focus on including these foods in your diet.
Grains: millet, barley, oatmeal
Vegetables: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, sprouts, asparagus, seaweed, kelp
Fruit: lemon, lime, mulberry, apricots, pears, watermelon, mango, avocado, apples, bananas, various berries, pineapple, pomegranate
Beans: kidney, adzuki, lima, mung, black
Nuts/seeds: sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, walnuts, coconut milk
Fish: fresh water clams, oysters, sardines, octopus
Meat: duck, goose, beef
Dairy: grass fed and organic milk, kefir, yogurt
Herbs/Spices: nettle slippery elm, holy basil, marshmallow, marjoram
Oils & Condiments: cold pressed coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, raw pollinated honey
**Note: Yin fortifying foods tend to congest the digestive system if consumed in excess. Therefore, consume small quantities frequently rather than large quantities irregularly for maximum benefit. Also, adequate hydration is extremely important!
Foods to avoid include: Caffeine, sugar, alcohol, spicy and pungent foods.