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Theory of Yin and Yang (Pronounced "een yong")

This is an ancient oriental concept, used to explain everything in the universe. The basic concept is that all things are relative to other things. In the universe there are opposites such as dark and light, hard and soft, warm and cool. Yin is dark, cool, moist, soft and receiving. Yang is light, hot, dry, hard and active. These two forces must stay in balance in the universe.

This is not a concept of absolutes. Rather, it is a relationship of one thing to another.

All aspects of Chinese culture were influenced by the theory of Yin and Yang. The Chinese illustration at the left, which hangs on the wall at the Pinewood Dojo and Natural Healing Center, is a perfect example of this influence.

Interestingly, the mountains and the water possess both the qualities of Yin and Yang. The mountains represent Yang in the sense that they are hard, strong, and unforgiving, when compared to the water, which represents Yin as a moist and receiving entity. However, the mountains also represent Yin because they are not active, whereas the flowing water is constantly moving. As you can see, the qualities of Yin and Yang are omnipresent in everything - there is no object that is solely Yin or Yang.

The Theory of Five Elements

According to ancient teachings, chi and life itself is represented in the five elements. These five elements represent how chi functions in the universe.

The five elements are Earth, Wood, Fire, Metal and Water. Chi is represented in different ways in all five elements.

Each element has it's own characteristics and qualities. Fire, for example is hot and is represented by the summer season. It's color is red and it's sound is laughter. Fire has a burned smell and a bitter taste.

The elements are not static but are always changing and evolving into the next element. This is represented in a circle with five stages. Each stage on the circle represents on of the five elements. Wood becomes fire and fire becomes earth. Earth becomes metal and metal becomes water. In this scheme the elements are able to pass chi to the next element.

Elements across from each other on a diagram of the cycle tend to hold the stage in balance. Thus, there is a "creative cycle" and a "control cycle". There are forces that cause the element to evolve into the next stage and there are forces to control this change an attempt to slow down the cycle. In other words, within the Theory of the Five Elements there is a sense of Yin and Yang. There is a balance of two opposing forces.

Humans are said to have some of each of the elements. Thus these forces can affect our health. Each organ within the body is associated with on of the Five Elements. The liver and gallbladder, for example, are associated with Wood.

Chinese physicians continue to believe in the various associations between the Five Elements. These practitioners study the Five Elements and their tendency to change and affect the senses, emotions and health of internal organs. These observations allow doctors of Chinese Medicine to diagnose and treat their patients according to the ancient teachings of Chinese medicine.

The Four Causes of Disease

Ancient peoples of Asia tried to explain the causes of disease. They observed that some illnesses were associated with certain times of the year and with weather changes. These observations were summed up as six environmental influences on health.

These factors could be external to the body, internal or neither external nor internal.

The external environmental influences are "wind" and "cold" which can be thought of as external influences as well as internal disorders. Ancient Chinese medical textbooks state that "wind" is the most common cause of disease.

Summer "heat" and "dampness" were two other factors that caused problems such as fever, headache and rheumatism.

"Dryness" and "fire" are two environmental factors that are felt to cause dry skin, restlessness and thirst. Also described are purely internal influences that can cause disease in the absence of pathological external factors.

The Four Methods of Diagnosis

The diagnosis is often obtained from the history. This is known as interrogation.

The methods of physical diagnosis used by the Chinese physician are similar to those used by the western-trained physicians. These methods include: inspection, auscultation, palpation and percussion.

Two very important methods of physical diagnosis for the traditional Chinese physician are the inspection of the tongue and the palpation of the pulses. The color of the skin is also a very important clue to the state of the patient's health and to any imbalances that may be present.

The Eight Methods of Treatment

The eight methods of treatment in Chinese medicine are the following:

The "diaphoretic method" (drugs and other methods to induce sweating),

The "emetic method" (using methods to cause vomiting).

The "purgation method" (techniques to cause one to move his bowels),

The "mediation" method (methods to clear up conditions that are between the exterior and the interior usually marked by bitter taste in the mouth, a feeling of fullness in the chest, nausea with vomiting and alternating fever and chills),

The "febrifugal" method (treating febrile conditions with methods to increase the body temperature), "warming" method (treating cold conditions with warming techniques).

The "elimination" methods (removing stagnation through use of laxatives).

The "tonifying" method (using tonics to increase energy).

The Eight Principal Syndromes

In traditional Chinese medicine, the physician makes the diagnosis by evaluating the eight principal syndromes.

The first step is usually the evaluation, by the physician, of the "yin and yang".

The other syndrome complexes are the "exterior and the interior", the presence of "cold and heat" and the syndrome of "deficiency and excessiveness".

Traditional Chinese Medical Treatments and Therapy

Once a pattern of imbalance is determined, the physician begins to formulate a treatment plan. This treatment plan is designed to correct the disorder by re-establishing harmony. The patient, who is ill, is out of balance. One of the goals of therapy is to balance the patient's chi. This may be done in a variety of ways. The treatment plan may involve herbs, acupuncture, massage, cupping, scrapping (the skin) or use of moxibustion.

The above article was granted for use here from the Napa Valley School of Massage.

Designed by Jason K. Johnson 2007

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