Chapter 17: Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang. You have probably heard these words before, but what do they mean? The Yin and Yang Theory is an Asian philosophy that describes the interaction of the universe. Different objects and energies have a positive or negative nature. Yang represents a more energetic and positive force, such as fire, the sun, or daytime. Yin is more passive and correlates with water, the moon, and nighttime. This theory states that there are three categories of existence: God, the universe, and human. What humans cannot see or comprehend is in the domain of God. As for the universe, there must always be a balance between the yin and yang forces.

As the earth orbits the sun, there is always a change in the balance between day and night. Furthermore, there are four stages in a year: Spring Divide, Utmost Summer, Fall Divide, and Utmost Winter. Spring represents a preparation for growth. Day and night are in balance. As the hemisphere moves into summer, the days grow longer, and life is abundant. Then, the balance is struck once again as fall arrives. Yin energy (night energy) grows stronger during the winter. The point of this cycle is to maintain a balance. Even though the energies vary during a year, the net yin and yang forces must be equal. If winter outlives summer, crops will not grow. If summer is too strong, drought may follow.

When the universe interacts, all we can do is respond. During the winter, yin is greater than yang energy, and sicknesses become more prevalent. Summer brings about stronger yang energy, which causes its own problems. The best way people can survive this natural phenomenon is by achieving their own, individual balance. By having a strong and healthy body, we can handle changes such as the weather. We must also limit our impact on the universe. Part of the yin and yang theory is that the universe has already struck its own balance. If humans disrupt this too much (via deforestation, pollution, over harvesting), then it will be thrown out of balance.

Yin and yang is also present in individual objects and humans. One example of yin and yang in our own bodies is the relationship between our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system allows us to consciously move our muscles. Because it is an active and aggressive force, it has yang energy. On the other hand, the parasympathetic system has yin energy. It controls the involuntary muscles that surround our intestines, stomach, and heart. In order to maintain homeostasis, there must be a balance between the two. When one gets too strong, the other must balance it out. For example, if someone is stressed or excited, he may drink or eat in order to calm down. This is because the sympathetic system has too much energy in proportion to the parasympathetic system. Eating stimulates the stomach and intestines, which strengthens the parasympathetic system. Overall, the yin and yang energies will be balanced.

For another example of yin and yang theory in our bodies, let us examine the digestive track. As you may know, our intestines host over 100 trillion bacteria.1 In a healthy person’s track, 5-10% of these cells are “bad”, 30% are “good,” and 60-65% are neutral. If this ratio is in place, the immune system is strong; otherwise, the body is susceptible to disease. It is especially important that no more than 10% of these cells be harmful because the neutral bacteria will “help” the stronger side. If there are more “good” bacteria, the neutral ones tend to help the digestive track. But if there are more “bad” bacteria, the neutral ones will also decrease the immune system. Balance is very important and can be easily disrupted.

Grandmaster Jang, Flying side kick, 1989
Grandmaster Jang, Flying side kick, 1989
Grandmaster Jang, Sidekick – notice the position of the hands and feet. The toes and heel specifically are remarkable. The bottom foot is in a toe stand, while the heel of the kicking leg is positioned upward. The legs are in alignment at a 180-degree angle. Clarksville, IN 1989
Grandmaster Jang, Sidekick – notice the position of the hands and feet. The toes and heel specifically are remarkable. The bottom foot is in a toe stand, while the heel of the kicking leg is positioned upward. The legs are in alignment at a 180-degree angle. Clarksville, IN 1989
Grandmaster Jang, Back-kick – notice the bottom foot is turned toward the opponent, while the kicking leg is near the opponent’s head. His eyes are targeting the opponent and the back is straight, but twisted. Clarksville, IN 1989
Grandmaster Jang, Back-kick – notice the bottom foot is turned toward the opponent, while the kicking leg is near the opponent’s head. His eyes are targeting the opponent and the back is straight, but twisted. Clarksville, IN 1989
Grandmaster Darim Jang, Middle School, Daejeon, Korea, winter of 1976
Grandmaster Darim Jang, Middle School, Daejeon, Korea, winter of 1976

  1. See Feed Your Gut Microbes Well, Lest They Feed on You for more information about the bacteria living in our guts. Eating too much sugar or fructose will “feed” the bad bacteria. Natural fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh, act as probiotics and will promote the activity of “good” bacteria.

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