Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Yin Yang Body Changes


Some parts of you are always changing. You may not notice it if your condition is generally stable and these changes are subtle. But in extreme cases, for example when you are unwell, some of these changes can be pretty drastic.

Once, I had a friend who had leukemia and I was shocked to see how his eyeballs could change so much. On days when he was feeling okay, his eyeballs looked quite normal. Actually, they were slightly swollen, but only slightly. On days when he was feeling unwell, however, his eye balls would swell until they bulge out like goldfish eyes!

Who would have thought that the eyeballs can literally expand and contract? And to such a large extent?

In my own case, I had ever woken up with huge, swollen lower lips that were about three times the normal size. If not for my understanding of macrobiotics and yin and yang, I would have rushed to the doctor thinking that something was seriously wrong. Instead, I figured I had probably taken something with strong expanding energy – perhaps some chemical additives in my food. I know it is nothing serious. Sometimes I let it be and wait for the swelling to subside, usually in less than an hour. Sometimes, I would take umeboshi – a pickled sour plum – to speed up the process, since umeboshi has strong contracting energy.

Daily Changes

To check your daily condition, observe your:

  • eyes
  • lips
  • skin colour
  • palms


Your eyes may not swell and shrink like those of my friend who had leukemia. However, there are still a few tell-tale signs about whether your condition is more yin / expanded or yang / contracted.

Bloodshot eyes, for example, mean that the blood vessels have expanded and so they become more visible. This often happens when a person drinks alcohol, since alcohol has strong expanding energy.

If your eyes turn red after just one or two drinks, it means that your overall condition is already leading towards yin / expanding and so the effect shows quickly. You are the type who would get high or drunk quite easily.

If you need to drink a lot more before your eyes turn red, it means that your overall condition is more towards yang / contracting. You are able to tolerate alcohol better and can drink a fair amount before you start to feel high or get drunk.

The position of your iris is another indicator. A healthy, “balanced” person would have iris positioned right in the middle, so that the whites can be seen only on either side.

Some people, however, have “floating” iris so that the whites can be seen on the sides as well as below the iris. In macrobiotics, this condition is called sanpaku meaning “three whites”.

This shows a yin / expanded condition. It is a sign of poor health.


Below the eyes is a piece of bone, and the eyeballs rests on this bone. So when the eyeballs expand, they expand upwards, causing the iris to move up.

Many people nowadays have a very mild version of this condition, because the modern diet tends to be very yin / expanded. In a mild case, you may not see “three whites”. But you can see that the bottom part of the iris is just at the level of the lower eye-lid. The condition is so common that George Ohsawa once remarked when he saw a crowd of people, “You are all sanpaku”.

More serious cases, where the iris floats to the extent that “three whites” are clearly visible, indicates very poor health. You might be able to see this in cancer patients are others who are seriously ill, as well as drug addicts and alcoholics, or even among young children who take excessive amounts of sweets, soft drinks and chemicalised foods.

The opposite condition is where the iris “sinks” and you see three whites on both sides as well as above the iris. This indicates a yang / contracted condition.

While floating iris indicates poor health, sinking iris does not mean good health. Good health is a balanced condition, not one extreme or the other.


The lips are at the start of your digestive tract. The condition of your lips indicates the condition of your digestive system. Generally, the upper lips tell the condition of your stomach and small intestines, while the lower lips tell the condition of your large intestines.

Swollen lower lips are very common these days, especially among younger people. If you look around you, you will notice that probably eight or nine out of 10 – yourself probably included – have this condition. This is because the modern diet is lacking in fibre and, as a result, the large intestines are not in good condition. Also, because refined foods are more yin / expanded, they cause the large intestines – and the lower lips – to expand.

In a healthy condition, both the lower and upper lips are about the same size and they should not appear swollen.

Shrivelled lips indicate a yang / contracted condition. This is more common among old people, especially Westerners who have been eating large amounts of meat, salt, cheese and baked foods – all yang / contracted foods – for a lifetime.

Skin colour

The colour, texture and overall conditon of your skin reveals a great deal about your health. For the now, we will just consider one aspect:

Red skin, like red eyes, means that the blood vessels beneath have become expanded / yin. Recently, there was an article in the newspapers featuring a man in the wine trade. A photo of him showed he had a strikingly red nose, as well as the parts of the cheeks beside the nose. Clearly, that man has been drinking lots of wine, which has strong yin / expanding energy.

Many people consider pink cheeks to be a sign of good health. Not so.

In medical circles, it is well known that if a tuberculosis (TB) patient develops pink cheeks, the person’s condition has worsened. This is in line with Chinese medical and macrobiotic theory, which says that the cheeks indicate the condition of the lungs.

Green colour indicates an even more serious health condition. Green is the colour of plants, of chlorophyll rather than blood. It is even more yin / expanded than red. People with cancer often have a green shade on parts of the palm, face and elsewhere on the body.

One place where a slight green colour often appears is the side of the hand, below the little finger. A light green shade here indicates poor health and is quite common. But if the green is more prominent, it could indicate cancer or some other degenerative disease, or a tendency towards such diseases.

Don’t worry if you see green. You can change – and improve – your condition by adopting a more healthy diet and lifestyle.


Skin colour is also very evident in the palms. Some people have evenly red palms, some have red blotches, some have red fingertips.

Again, these all indicate a yin / expanded condition due to excessive consumption of yin / expanded foods such as alcohol, coffe and tea, sugar, fruits, medication, etc.

Another indicator of your overall condition is the texture of your palms. People who are very weak from illness, such as cancer patients, will have palms that are very soft and perhaps also watery.

“Health conscious” people who follow a raw foods diet – eating mainly fruits and raw salads and drinking lots of fruit and vegetable juices – will also have this condition. Even though they may not fall ill, they are not as healthy as they believe themselves to be. They are overly yin / expanded.

In contrast, those who eat lots of meat, salt and other yang / contracted foods tend to have palms that are more hard and dry. However, the condition of such people may be tricky because they often take plenty of alcohol, fruits, coffee or tea and other yin / expanded foods as well.

Often, what you will find is softness on the surface, but hardness beneath. In the case of people with illness or raw food vegetarians, however, the texture of the palm is soft all the way.

Talking about the palm, pay attention the next time you shake hands with somebody. There’s lots to discover from just that simple handshake!

May Ling
Macrobiotics & natural health practitioner of Chinese decent. May Ling provides a Yin-Yang perspective to holistic health and natural healing. Contact:

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