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About yinyang from Live Well Live Long: Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition

By Peter Deadman

"Yinyang is a binary theory which posits two complementary forces (yin and yang) manifesting throughout existence. They oppose yet restrain each other, control yet give birth to and support each other.

Yang is associated with qualities such as fire, heat, brightness, light, the sun and sky, movement and action, ascending, the upright position, hardness and masculinity. In the body, it describes function (e.g. the beating of the heart, the peristalsis of the intestines, metabolic activity, vitality etc.) and in the natural world, dawn and daytime, spring and summer.

Yin is associated with water, coolness, darkness, receptiveness, the moon and the earth, night-time, rest and nourishment, descending, the lying down position, softness and femininity. In the body, it describes structure and materiality (flesh, muscle, blood, fluids etc.), and in the natural world, evening and night, autumn and winter.

Yinyang theory observes that:

• When either yin or yang reaches an extreme, it transforms into its opposite in an ever-flowing cycle. As dawn breaks, yang (light, warmth and activity) grows and reaches its peak at midday. Then it must inevitably decline as yin (darkness, cold and quietness) starts to grow, at first imperceptibly but soon into the extremity of yin in the middle of the night. We see the same process in the slow turning of the year – spring, summer, autumn, winter – and in the cycle of human life – birth, maturity, ageing and death. This awareness of extremes inevitably turning into their opposite also guided early Daoist philosophy. As the 4th centure BCE Daodejing says, “Better stop short than fill to the brim. Oversharpen the blade and the edge will soon blunt,” and in a passage that also serves to illustrate the power of the soft martial arts, “Yield and overcome; Bend and be straight; Empty and be full.[ii]

• Yin and yang are opposite yet complementary and each contains the seed of the other. This is expressed most clearly in the famous yinyang symbol (known as the taijitu – supreme ultimate diagram). A circle is divided into two flowing parts, one black one white, each containing a dot of its opposite colour. One example of the way this understanding is used is in the practice of meditative qigong standing. The body is completely still (yin), yet through the practice of softening and relaxing, internally everything (qi and blood) flows more freely. By contrast, in the practice of moving qigong or tai chi, there must be internal stillness – a calm, unmoving centre.

Written by Peter Deadman. More wonderful blogs and details of Peter's Qigong classes at

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