Tyra Burgess, Dipl. ABT (NCCAOM)


Perhaps, the most simple word to speak, and the most complex topic of study.  Half of the foundation of thought behind all Eastern theory. The concept of balance, and the two opposites that create a whole. To explain just half of the whole, to understand Yin, is to understand much more than just a concept. The definition of Yin, is explained by examples, characteristics in nature, and actions that achieve Yin, thus making the comprehension of the meaning inherent in the word, difficult to define. Contained within Yin, is even its definition–in.

“For as long as man must interact with his environment, he must strive for balance with it.” (Sohn)

Growing up in the Western hemisphere of the planet, the concept of balance, the idea of Yin is so foreign, our culture says “ying”…the wrong word completely. The United States was founded and grown on totally Yang principles, and as we pour into our hospitals, and doctors offices for adrenal fatigue, auto-immune disorders, chronic inflammation, digestive failure, cancer and mental illness, the demand for understanding the idea of Yin, and our lack of it, has never been more needed. As a culture, we could all use more of the silence Yin that passively beckons us to nourish the depths of our bodies and being.

Yin is: INtrospection, INtroverstion, going deep withIN. Yin is characterized as earth, moon, dark, solid, deep, sinking and material.  Yin is the expression of the receptive or passive polarity. Yin has the qualities of cold, damp, immobility and substance. The element of water, the colors of dark blue and black. Stillness and cold.  Yet without defining Yin in relation to its opposite, Yang, the concept is only half understood.

The complimentary powers of Yin and Yang are used to explain ideas as large as the Universe and as common as light/dark.

The foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine is rooted around Yin and its partner Yang.  Rather than limiting diagnosis to specifically named disease, the symptoms and signs of imbalance in terms of the various Yin-Yang diagnostic parameters are truly holistic, facilitating the use of herbs, foods as medicine, movement and lifestyle to restore balance and returning health. Following the paradigm of Yin and Yang, “All herbs and foods as well as physiological symptoms,” (Tierra, Tierra) are classified by Yin and Yang, as well as all the energetic channels and organ systems in the body. Yin energies refer to the vital energies and substances of the body such as Qi, Blood and Fluids and Yang energies are the activities or functions of the Organs.

Stillness is the epitome of Yin; but when it does move, it travels down and inside. This concept is used in Chinese medicine when diagnosing ailments for treatment. The front portion of the body is Yin for its softness and the Yin actions of the body move down. Water is a yin element, even though water is a powerful mover and does not hold still. This is because water is subtle and moves things through passive force, such as the act of erosion.”

Read more on Yin here.  Yin is cold, and winter is a Yin time of year with more darkness than light, and frozen still Earth beckoning us indoors. Being in balance with this inherently Yin time of year, offers us a time for introspeciton, nourishing and building of our mental, emotional, and physical whole.  We get dried up, imagine a house plant, that hasn’t been watered. The dirt will dry out, the leaves will dry up and fall off. Water doesn’t even penetrate the surface. Much like the plant, too much, too long, not enough, for too long leaves us dry, under nourished, and falling apart. When we find ourselves in this position, we need a good soak. We get dried out by too much thinking, too much production, stimulants when we are exhausted, and pushing our bodies to keep performing all these tasks, when it is screaming it needs rest.

We can literally burn up our Yin. And many of us have.  There is often a level of Yin deficiency. Hot flashes, indigestion, hot palms or flushed cheeks. Thirsty all the time or more at night. Insomnia, anxiety, and an inability to be still. We can all identify with some level of this. It is time to nourish our Yin! When we identify a problem, we usually take action to “fix” it. When deficient in Yin, this approach can make it worse. We need to take a step back, slow way down and gently begin to add more Yin builiding foods and activities into our lives.  Here are some ideas you contemplate and add to your routine:

  • Get quality sleep. What better fits the above analogy better then a good soak in 8 hrs or more of sleep, resting your mind and body? Soak it up! Our sleep cycle is intimately linked to hormone production in the body.
  • Eat Yin nourishing and Yin building foods. The path to a lack of Yin starts with the stomach. Treating a Yin deficiency is easiest done through food.  Nourishing the Yin through food is about feeding the deep nutritional reserves of the body. Since the element associated with Yin is water, getting a good soak in of that is also good. Variety is the key to getting enough vitamins, minerals and amino acids.  Salty foods like kimchee and sauerkraut. Foods shaped like Kidneys nourish the Yin. Kidney beans, black  beans, well most beans. Blue and black foods: blueberries, blackberries, the colors blue and black corresponde to the water element. Seaweed and seafood all build the water element. Seeds like flax, pumpkin, chia, and black seseame. Bone broth and soups to nourish our blood and fluids in the body. Asparagas, deep dark leafy greens, cucumbers and celery, along with melons. Tonics of Spirulina, chlorella, wheat grass, nettles and oatstraw build the Yin and the blood.  In Chinese medicine there is a formula called six gentlemen teapills used to treat and build Yin.
  • Practice movement that build Yin.  Movement like Tai Qi, Qi Qong, and yoga move the body while helping build the Yin. These modalities have specific movement just for the building of Yin.  These practices build more energy than they expend. (With the exception of hot yoga).
  • Meditate. This is one of the most powerful ways to build Yin and access the part of you that is already complete and whole. It fosters a deep surrender and puts oneself in a position of receiving, new different and inspired ways of being.
  • Acupressure/Acupuncture: There are many points on the body that when accessed build Yin in the body. Receiving body work to manually provide balance via the energetic channels on the body is a great way to prevent disharmony, treat acute imbalance and care for oneself. Chinese medicine practitioners can also prescribe the appropriate herbs and food needed to return to balance.

Are you sick and tired and being tired? The in in Yin asks us to go deep within. To practice silence, to feed ourselves stillness, and nourish our reserves.  It is the natural time to seek refuge, to repair what was shed with fall, and prepare for what is to be built in the spring. Understanding Yin, is known by living its principles. The Water element reminds us it is our nature to go with the flow. To understand Yin, you must become and practice her cultivation. One must be soaked in the formless dark that is water, and nourish the depths of your physical, mental and emotional needs.