In feng shui, we investigate and manipulate the flow of qi, or life force energy, in an environment. The goal of feng shui practitioners is to enhance and shift the flow of qi in a home or other space to make it as supportive and nourishing as possible—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
One way we can understand energy is through the concept of yin and yang. This is one of the underlying principles of feng shui. Yin and yang are the opposite yet complementary principles seen as the building blocks for all manifestations of energy that we know of in the universe. Everything else comes out of these two types of energy, including the five elements, which you may be familiar with if you have done some research on feng shui or worked with a feng shui consultant.
What Is Qi?
Qi, sometimes spelled chi, is usually translated literally as "vital life force." In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), qi is seen as the force that makes up and binds together all things in the universe. It is paradoxically, both everything and nothing. In feng shui, the term qi is used to describe invisible energy sources that can affect us physically, mentally, or spiritually. In various schools of traditional Chinese medicine, philosophy, and religion, chi is comprised of yin and yang, energies that are opposite yet integrally dependent on one another.
What Are Yin and Yang?
The concepts of yin and yang are foundational to many Asian modalities, from Chinese Medicine to ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement) to martial arts. The list goes on and on. Based on ancient Taoist cosmology, yin and yang describe the paradoxical unity found within duality. One cannot exist without the other.
Yin and yang are often represented graphically with the tai qi symbol, which depicts a circle that holds within it two teardrop shapes, one black (yin) and the other white (yang). Within those two shapes, there is a dot of the opposite force: a dot of yin (black) in the larger yang (white teardrop) and a dot of yang (white) in the larger yin (black teardrop).
In a sense, the pairing of yin and yang is the ultimate example of a non-binary system. While they are in some ways opposites, yin and yang can only exist in the presence of each other. Within yin, there is always yang, and vice versa. These two types of energy are interconnected and interdependent, and there is really no separation between the two. Even within the yin-yang (tai qi) symbol, there is always a little dot of black in the white section, and a dot of white in the black section. Neither side is fully yin or fully yang.
In feng shui, yin energy is considered to be slow, cool, wet, and dark. It is related to curves, inactivity, and softness. The energy of the moon is more yin. Other descriptive qualities include invisible and relaxed.
An example of how yin and yang work together is a relaxing beachside setting. The sand is soft and receptive and the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing—classically yin. However, you can also imagine the heat and the brightness of the sun beating down—this energy is very yang. You can start to see that yin cannot exist without yang.
Yang energy can be described as fast-moving, loud, active, and brightly lit. Yang is represented by angles and straight lines. The sun is considered very yang. Other descriptive qualities include visible and energetic.
A good example of a space that’s very yang is a trading floor on Wall Street. It has high ceilings, fast movement, and loud sounds. However, imagine this same space on a Wednesday at noon versus on a Sunday at noon. It would most likely be more active, and more yang, on a Wednesday. You can also picture a trading room in New York City and a trading room in a quieter, less busy location. While a trading room may be primarily yang, it is not only yang.
Balancing Yin and Yang
In feng shui, the language of yin and yang can be used to observe and identify the qualities of energy (qi) in our spaces and see where we may need more balance.
In general, look to have restful places like bedrooms and meditation areas exhibit more yin qualities. This may mean adding blackout shades, keeping the blue-lit electronic devices to a minimum, and having it quiet and relaxing. Soothing and softer colors can promote more yin activities.
Yang spaces may include the kitchen, exercise rooms, or workspaces. These areas tend to work best when you bring in more yang elements, such as abundant amounts of lighting (especially sunlight). Invite a flow of good energy into the space with the proper amount of activity and cheerfulness. You can play fun music, even dance and sing along!
Yin (Invisible) and Yang (Visible)
Another (more advanced) way that feng shui practitioners work with yin and yang is by working with the seen and the unseen. Some of the adjustments that we make in a home are obvious to our five senses, like adding a plant or changing the position of a bed. These are considered visible and therefore more yang. Other energetic adjustments work with unseen energy that is not as obvious. These invisible adjustments, like space clearing, are considered more yin.