Before we get into the symptoms of “yin deficiency,” or what “yin deficiency” is and how to address it, we must first define what is the “yin,” which is appropriately challenging with words, as few things are more subjective than yin or yang, or anything to do with physiology, appropriately I suppose.
For those that prefer to keep things scientific, the yin most closely corresponds with the parasympathetic nervous system – that which allows the body to cool off, to rest and sleep through the night, though this only tells a small part of Yin's story.
Yin is the feminine. It is the nighttime, as opposed to day, the water element that opposes (or balances) the fire; it is the cooling mechanism of the body and the spaces between activity. Yin is that beat between our inhales and exhales, it is all of meditation, sleep and rest, even a siesta during the day. It is the breaks we take mid-meal to actually chew and digest and converse with present loved ones. Yin is love, the “watery” side of love, holding and cuddling, communicating with vulnerability and putting aside our egos to be open to change.
Yin is “un-American” – as un-American as holistic medicine, non-GMO food products and racial equality, – which might suggest how wonderfully important it is. Few Americans’ bodies are not “yin deficient,” and even fewer New Yorkers, as one could imagine.
Conversely, the yang is our fire element, the fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system that engenders activity, motivation and the energy to react (to life). Neither the yin nor yang are bad, nor could one possibly be “better” than the other, as such an allegation would contradict the entire science of universal law. Instead, what is “bad,” or at least dangerous, is when the two are imbalanced, either in the body or in society, the latter of which evidently illustrated in the western world that obviously overvalues masculinity (yang).
We all enter the world prone to a weakness in one or the other, our genetic constitution that is usually shared by most, if not all members of our nuclear fam, and our ongoing intention should be to balance it/us as best our resources and discipline permit. Personally, I’ve always tended more yin deficient, same as my parents, and frankly my condition is much worse than theirs’. My belief is that the quality of egg and sperm get passed down in a state of perpetual deterioration from generation to generation, which might explain why more and more young kids are being diagnosed with serious physiological conditions, in spite of growing up in a more bio-medically advanced climate. I got Gout disease when I was 25, whereas Dad didn’t have it until his 40’s. I’ve also intermittently suffered from insomnia, which is arguably the most signature of yin deficient symptoms. Still, I see no sense in blaming our parents, as they knew not what they done, and blame has never resolved any physiological illness.
SYMPTOMS OF YIN DEFICIENCY INCLUDE, but are not limited to:
dark urine and/or usually a small amount or dribbling
feeling tired, yet wired at the same time
red, flushed cheeks – especially that occur in the afternoon – evening
lower back pain
hot sensation on the palms of hands, chest, or soles of feet
thin body in spite of ravenous appetite
FOODS TO HELP OFFSET YIN DEFICIENCY:
black or beans
dark leafy greens
fatty foods, such as duck or pork, preferably organic
cold water fish, such as salmon or sardines
Foods to avoid (or at least please minimize) for a yin deficient climate are generally stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods, but the truly best remedy is abiding by the circadian rhythm of the day: Going to sleep as early as possible, winding down as the day turns to evening.
Just as “high noon” is the height of yang and thus accommodates the most “yang” activities, such as work and exercise, midnight is the height of yin; and the most “yin” activity is inactivity (or “yinactivity”): being asleep in a dark, quiet room. Consistently going to bed later than 10pm will over time create yin deficiency, which creates adrenal burnout, which causes us to get that pathological second wind of energy in the evening, which causes more yin deficiency, and so on. Another good practice a teacher of mine used to recommend is soaking your feet (halfway up to the knees) in hot water for 15-20 minutes every night. As water is the most yin of the five elements, the local circulation created by the warmth serves to draw our energy down to the most yin part of the body, its bottom. Try it for a month!
Balancing one’s constitution with diet and lifestyle can work wonders towards better health, but only over time and with consistency. Eating black beans, swiss chard and eggs a few times next month will obviously not rebuild your yin; much like with exercise or even western pharmaceuticals, we must be continuous. My opinion is it is no coincidence that our fast-paced, overworked, male-dominated society undervalues the body’s feminine energy, and only when we reverse this perspective and state will we realize a much healthier planet inhabited by healthier people.