Growing up, I didn’t know what was “Macrobiotics”, I just lived it. Now as I try to bring these principles into my own life and explain it to others, I realise that it is good to be aware of some of the principles that come from this old knowledge. One way to approaching the problem of balancing our lives is understanding Yin and Yang.
The concept of Yin and Yang is very old, and is pervasive throughout Eastern cultures. Because it is so subtle and deep it is almost an unconscious ‘sense’, so I would like to shed some light on the subject. In general Yin energy can be called an expanding and dissipating energy, and Yang is a contracting and concentrating energy.
The energy of all things is relative. Too extreme Yin or Yang energy will lead to physical and mental dysfunction. In the daytime the Yang energy of the sun drives us to Yin tendencies of activity and movement. During the Yin energy of the night, our body responds with Yang energy to slow down and stay warm.
This daily process is helped by the foods we choose. Coffee has Yin properties and lead us to greater alertness and activity, so it’s better in the morning. Cooked foods at night have a Yang quality and help us to harmonise with the Yin energy of the night. Even within the same meal, a large quantity of Yang foods (such as meat, heavily cooked or salty foods) will lead us to naturally crave Yin foods (such as sweets or alcohol).
Also within the seasons of the year, summer has a Yang energy and winter has a Yin energy. Naturally our body craves the food that helps us harmonise with these seasons’ energies. A great example is the animals that hibernate (become Yang) during the winter (Yin). In summer we tend to eat food less cooked, and the opposite in winter. Naturally, the foods that are locally available change with the seasons. Before the advent of agricultural technology people used to eat seasonal foods, and these foods are the ones which help us to harmonise with the seasons the best.
To give you an idea of the qualities of Yin and Yang in food, check the diagram below. I hope that it might help you in taking balance with your food choices. See that grains are right in the middle, they are the most neutral food!