The Yin Yang Theory and the Presence of Expansion and Contraction

A few weeks ago I was able to go to Colorado for a combination of work, family and friend events. All really great opportunities and I was so happy that they happened to fall at the same time. It was another example of trusting the timing and flow of things.

While I was there I went to a yoga class with my first teacher ever, John. I started going to his classes in junior high because I struggled with asthma and was determined to find ways to find my breath. I learned this in John's class, and so much more. I loved discovering ways to move energy using my breath, along with getting to know my body in new ways and his wise teachings deepening the mind/body connection.

What made me smile during this recent re-visit class however, was when he mentioned the words 'expansion and contraction'. These two words had been on my mind so much in recent months in regard to everything! There's a whole series of movements that incorporate the ideas of expansion and contraction, and essentially the Yin/Yang theory.

The Yin/Yang theory is based in Chinese philosophy. It is a carefully designed system of opposites, used to describe and somewhat simplify all phenomena, including food and lifestyle.

Yin qualities are expansive: cool, dark, moon/night, intuition, up, female, sensitive. Some Yin FOODS are: raw, fruits, sweets, and alcohol. These can all make you light, happy, spacey, and scattered etc.

Yang qualities are more contractive: hot, light, sun/day, logic, male, strong. Some Yang FOODS are: cooked, chicken, eggs, salt, meat. These foods make you grounded, focused, and can make you aggressive or forceful.

I refer to foods that are BOTH Yin/Yang and expansive/contractive as Balanced Foods. These include brown rice, whole grains, quinoa, oats, squash, carrots, parsnips, broccoli, mushrooms, legumes, and leafy greens (to name just a few).

What makes you feel expansive and what makes you contract? What makes you feel open and receiving and what makes you retreat, pull-back or tighten?? We need both. And often both happen simultaneously and certainly in all of our various relationships.

I've been noticing the expansive/contractive nature of summer. Longer, brighter and hotter days meet cooler nights and playful outdoor activities--the wide open road on a bicycle, playing in the ocean and BBQ parties. To help you take advantage of this energy, I am including a helpful article on how to create delicious raw salads this season.

Raw and Cooling Salads

Why is it that in the summer we naturally crave more fresh and raw foods? These foods have a cooling effect on the body. The lightness and high water, fiber and vitamin content work together to act as our internal air conditioning during these warm months. At this time of year we also need less dense, high-energy food because we get so much energy from being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. 

There is no better season than summer to have fun creating your own fresh, tasty, creative salad combinations. By simply tossing together several of your favorite raw veggies, naked (I said naked!) or with a light dressing, you have a perfect meal for a hot summer's day. Here are some tips for creating refreshing summer salads:   



  • Try your favorite leafy lettuce with various sliced, diced or grated veggies. The possible combinations are endless.  
  • Fresh herbs are a wonderful option to mix in, as they are packed full of flavor (basil cilantro and mint are some of my faves!).  
  • Experiment with adding diverse forms of protein to your salads, such as nuts, seeds, beans, tofu, fish or poultry.  
  • Pick up a light and healthy dressing at the store or farmers market, or mix up something easy, like lemon juice, black pepper and olive oil.  
  • This is a great opportunity to try a new vegetable from your market. What are some creative flavors you've never tried before? Fennel and mint? Daikon radish and arugula? Summer squash with watercress?  
Whatever you choose, have fun with your food and stay cool. Happy summer!