Last time, we had a look at the philosophy of Yin and Yang as a representation of the opposing or paradoxical nature of our reality. Yin and Yang are opposites, but each also contains the seed, or an aspect, of the other. The famous Yin-Yang symbol represents this.

The white contains some black, and the black some white, and the shape of the symbol has a moving quality about it; this all indicates that the Yin and Yang are constantly transforming into the other, round and round, just like day turns into night, and night turns into day. Yang qualities include masculinity, sun, spark, fire, movement, back of the body, restlessness, light, upward motion, Heaven, pushing, rational thought, extroversion, hot and dry, and contraction. Yin qualities include femininity, moon, darkness, space, rest, quiet, Earth, intuition, nurturing, introversion, cool and wet, and expansion.

Generally, disease or illness is the result of imbalance that is present over time. One example of how Yin-Yang imbalance shows up is in insomnia. When a person can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep, typically the Yin has become depleted. Since the Yin is cooling, and about rest and introversion, if it is weakened a person will not be able to calm their mind and rest. In this case of weakened Yin, the Yang shows itself as an excess. What is so interesting about this is that Yin can be depleted by a lifestyle that is too Yang. So what does that look like?

As we noted last time, Yin contains Yang and Yang contains Yin, or Yin the basis of Yang, and Yang leads the way for Yin. The Earth (Yin) produces foods when the sun (Yang) shines its light on to it. We do work (Yang) to create space (Yin). Just like in the chemistry of thermodynamics, there’s always an equal and opposite reaction to an event or action. If you work too much, expending energy, the Yin of your body is actually also working to balance that Yang action – thereby depleting the Yin. Anxiety is another example of Yin deficiency. Being overly controlling, feeling frustrated a lot, feeling burnt out but having to keep working, or tired but wired are examples of the Yin being depleted. Strengthening Yin can be done through meditation, reflection and quiet time. Another long-term problem that could arise from being too Yang in your lifestyle could be osteoporosis in which the bones (Yin), containing large amounts of minerals, thin and become brittle.

Insomnia, overwork and hyperactivity are definitely problems in our society. But so are depression, obesity, lethargy and apathy. These are examples of Yin excess. Yin excess is often due to diet – over consumption of Yin foods including potatoes, white bread, sugar, alcohol, dairy and processed foods. Caffeine and many medications are also considered Yin as they cause a temporary expansion followed by lethargy. The more something is cooked or processed, the more Yin it becomes. This means it becomes more solid, and less full of vitality or energy which are Yang qualities. Yang, just like Yin, also has to be exercised to be strong. In order to prevent an excess of Yin, we have to do movement, exercise, critical thinking and consuming foods that are Yang in nature like moderate amounts of grains, fish and meats. We are all on this spectrum, and always shifting into different states of balance or imbalance. Are you more Yin or Yang?  What would be beneficial to balance your mind-body-spirit?

Dr Erin MacKenzie is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor living in Inverness County and practicing in the Town of Inverness. She is a member of the CAND, NSAND and CNDA. You can find her online at