Lockdown, Yin and Yang Covid Rules

Stay Home
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Key Learning Points

  • Use lockdown to reduce yin
  • So – increase yang! But how?
  • Check how yang re-balances you
  • And, tell the other one – Laughter!

What can yin and yang offer us during lockdown?

Trapped in Lockdown, yin and yang to the rescue! Learn how to loosen yin and reinforce yang to recover Life!

What are the yin and yang Covid rules?

Lockdown is an enforced yin state. Many countries are re-entering it with lockdown 2.0.

It’s cost us billions of pounds in lost sales and profits, it’s slowed everything down, it’s made us avoid one another, it’s made us stay at home, and there are many new rules governing our lives.

Not surprisingly, many people are frustrated, many are depressed and some are frightened.

What’s going on? How does the ancient philosophy behind Chinese medicine help? What are the lockdown yin and yang Covid rules?

(Do bear in mind that the underlying theory of yin and yang exists whether or not I’m right about it! All this is my viewpoint, not ‘official’! Also, I freely admit that this is written with some hindsight and much of it is common sense – but that doesn’t negate the underlying theory or how we learn to apply it.)

Covid 19 is yang

We can look at the coronavirus as a yang vector. It surprised us, moved faster than we thought possible, wrecked many lives, was very small and quickly self-replicating. Also, it can kill. For all we know, it also mutates fast. All this makes it comparatively yang.

Governments reacted in many ways, but mostly took time. They then imposed boundaries and limitations on movement, slowing everything down if not stopping it altogether. We got stuck in our homes with very few ‘rights’. We entered a comparatively yin state. The hope is that by slowing us and removing opportunities for its transmission the disease would fail to replicate so fast.

A longer-term aim was the hope that either because we habituated ourselves to it, or because we developed a vaccine or because, like every other former coronavirus it would eventually ‘realise’ that killing its hosts was counterproductive, the symptoms would diminish in severity.

These strategies are yin-like. Yin things take time, they act slowly, they lack much obvious movement or change. They build organically.

Yang, on the other hand …

That compares with yang, which may act instantaneously or at least fast.

So we used yin to contain or outlast yang.

But, as we discovered, too much yin stifles life and growth, and lowers spirits, the yang part of ourselves.

We desire less yin or more yang: either might help us cope and bring balance between them.

In practice, what might less yin or more yang look like, and what does the theory suggest we do?

Well, firstly, quite possibly, lockdown is overdone as a way to save us all. You could argue that having a job, and in effect, keeping the economy going, also saves lives! Indeed, as you’ll see, below, by closing many of our theatres, restaurants, pubs, and holidays, not to mention – for what seemed good reasons – cutting back on education, we are stifling yang. That restrains yang’s potential for exploration, innovation, destruction, creation and hope, and – ultimately – greater prosperity.

We need a way to let yang function in our lives if we are to stay healthy and functional. If yin isn’t challenged or ameliorated, everything closes down and yang is repressed.

white paper on brown wooden table - frustration!
Photo by Steve Johnson

Repressing yang leads to huge amounts of qi stagnation.

So, in Lockdown, our options are to lessen yin, and/or to increase yang.

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How can we lessen yin?

In fact we’ve seen how this is done. You allow a certain amount of mixing, you don’t tighten the noose too much – you let people out to exercise for example – you let them have some autonomy to decide how they use their freedom.

Allowing people to move around, within their lockdown facility, is beneficial – it allows at least some expression of Yang.

Another way to lessen the severity is to allow air (yang) to flow through.

Alleviate lockdown by opening the windows!
Photo by Lona

Opening windows for a while, every day, would help people who are completely confined, unless the incoming air is so hot, cold or dirty that it damages frail bodies – of course!

Yin manifests in many ways. One expression of it is that which we face in lockdown. If people in lockdown were able to experience it in other ways they would ease their discomfort. Under yin come, as examples, the ground, water, existing surroundings, the past, one’s possessions and one’s body.

Taking these in turn:

  • The ground is what we live on but also what we live off. Gardening, or keeping plants in pots, or vegetable patches, allotments, exercise routes, shoes: all are aspects. Activities rotating between these will help lessen the feeling of being shut in and allow for some stimulation. (Shoes – you say? Yes! Change your shoes several times a day. Don’t wear the same ones all the time. Every shoe affects how you stand in a slightly different way. Standing is less yin than sitting or lying. So use different shoes to challenge your body to adapt slightly to how you stand and walk. And do it regularly! By the way, I do not suggest you wear non-matching shoes unless you really want to challenge yourself.)
  • Water: bathing, cleaning, washing, spring-cleaning, playing, splashing,

  • … and by association, painting and decorating. Also, when allowed, swimming. Don’t forget hot showers and the benefits of cold showers, when you know how to take them!
  • The past is what we carry with us, it has made us what we are, and we make more of it every moment of our lives. Journals, diaries, family photos, old stuff we inherited, the boxes and cases full of our forefathers’ belongings. These may be areas we can benefit from re-examining or remembering. Or clearing out. Or – in the case of photos – annotating, so future generations will discover exactly what we did and saw.
  • Few of us keep all this tidy. Perhaps there are domestic jobs we have put off until the rainy day! Lockdown is that rainy day!
  • Our body is where we live or endure. Most of us can do something to improve it, whether by feeding it better, exercising it better or helping it sleep better. All it needs is a little yang, in this case, this would be called a ‘plan’! And then, the excitement of following the plan!
Lockdown is like living, cut-off, in a monastery
Photo by Snowscat

Lockdown is, symbolically, the same as being in prison, or living in a monastery, or the closed-in, dark season of winter.

Another strategy which uses part of yang theory to lessen the misery of those in lockdown is as follows. (One thinks of the Chinese living in apartment blocks the street-entry/exit doors of which were apparently sealed shut by the authorities to prevent any egress.) If the apartment has safety or emergency stairs that connect all floors, encourage inhabitants regularly to tramp down and up them between different floors, so taking as much exercise a s possible. (Physically-distanced, of course!) This eases qi stagnation.

Other ways to move yin in lockdown:

  • Singing (a great way to move qi)
  • Dancing
  • Reciting poetry, even reading books or plays to one another
  • Making music


So do board-games, and for many, computer games. Playing any game, even just throwing a ball back and forth, helps move qi and circulate It between yin and yang.

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Laughter, lockdown, yin and yang – and qi

Laughter releases qi, which would otherwise build up and stagnate, causing further illness.

woman in white and black striped shirt standing on yellow sunflower field during daytime
Photo by Antonino Visalli

Books, films and anything else that makes us laugh is good (– except for malicious or vicious humour).

If possible, allow access to the roofs so people can go out, breathe air (yang), see the Heavens (yang) and feel at least some sense of freedom.

In communist China this next suggestion might not be possible. But in other non-communist or non-atheist countries, one could encourage or enable religious services to be held for the inhabitants. Religion helps people relate to their bigger selves and to their universe. Nebulous? Yes, perhaps, but that is the nature of yang, which takes or makes its form in yin.

Another yin approach would be to enable a listening service. This would not be the same as counselling, but more like a sympathetic ear for the desperate or grieving. In Britain there is a saying ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. (There is some evidence for this, especially if shared with someone in similar circumstances, see https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2548917/A-problem-shared-really-IS-problem-halved-Study-finds-discussing-problems-people-situation-reduces-stress-levels.html).

In lockdown, Yang and the Future

Another, yang, way to help, is to open up the future. (You could argue that being unknown, but full of plans and ideas not yet come to reality, the future is Yang. The past is yin, unchangeable because we know what happened.)

For example, allowing people to learn new skills or hobbies or crafts, means that they will have more options in future. So, it is important to make education possible for the trapped.

Another way to dilute the barrier is by allowing the post to come and go. Encourage people to write and communicate with the outside. Even better if they hand-write correspondence, because that requires more arm and hand movement, planning, paper, envelopes and stamps, all of which require us to move, including walking to the shop and postbox.

Lastly, with qi stagnation, a little alcohol or equivalent drug can help. Unfortunately, it’s not much! As we all know, a little more of it clouds our judgement as to what is enough! But the British Royal Navy learned how to do it:  they allowed sailors who were, after all, in a somewhat similar to lockdown situation for long  periods on their ships, to have a daily portion of rum, carefully measured. Symbolically, we use a less yin form (liquid) to dilute a more yin form (the nailed-up door or the law).

How can we use Yang to make the Yin more liveable?

Understanding how the benefits of Yang work to lessen an excess yin state is much easier. Yang opposes Yin, but for health, over time, they must balance one another. However, so powerful is yang that you don’t necessarily need a lot of it. A little can go a long way.

If you skipped the last few paragraphs under yin, here’s a recap. Yin tends to be slow to move, or needing to be moved, it has taken form and over time becomes still, unchanging. It acts to descend energy and relates to the earth we live on and to practical, day-to-day life.

Yang, on the other hand, is changing and warming, and tends to ascend energy, and relate to the sky and to ideas. Most people are attracted to yang. For example, we like colour, movement, fireworks, celebrations and drama. (Too much yang occurs in wartime when there are too many fireworks: dangerous!)

Keep those symbols in mind as we explore …

How yang can ease life in yin lockdown

People differ, fortunately. At least in the West where, unlike in China, we are not yet trying to make everyone conform to a common or universal perfect standard of living.

Few of the following examples of yang activities will suit everyone! Some have already been mentioned. Once you get the idea that for health yin and yang must intermingle and Qi must move, change, transform and adapt, you’ll add your own suggestions.

Yang suggestions for coping with lockdown

  • Seek out the spiritual in life. This may mean reading inspiring, life-enhancing texts that our forbears wrote when faced by similar situations. Think of people who voluntarily lead a monastic, contemplative life. They were looking for meaning and trying to approach a greater sense of being. They did this through what we might call prayer or meditation. Meditation, with practice, need not be done just sitting still. It can also be done when moving, walking and doing. With this, the movement becomes the meditation.
  • Mindfulness of our selves and of the needs of others: another way to attune ourselves, to help develop an inner yang, enriched life, that compensates for physical imprisonment.
  • Learn to do this and wisdom may follow. This is close to what used to be called ‘counting one’s blessings’.
  • Write a diary or, more grandly, keep a journal. Even if nobody else ever reads it, it may help order your mind.
  • Interest yourself in the forces that made people what they are. Biographies, for example, of people you admire or who changed the world for the better.
  • If so minded, start to consider theology and why people need a god. Rebirth of the day starts just after midnight. Christmas occurs just after the winter solstice. Many great ceremonies happen when all seems at its darkest as yang starts to reassert itself.
  • So you’re an atheist? Are you practical? Get on with those jobs and reflect how others could no doubt do them but YOU were chosen, or chose yourself, to do them!
  • Teaching and learning. Affect our minds, our most yang part.
  • Sow some oats!

  • No, this doesn’t just mean sex, though it could! Why not start painting pictures, or writing stories, or designing gardens. It could mean doing courses on subjects you like, discovering something, but also making or creating something. These are yang activities that raise spirits.
Use nutrition to balance the yin of lockdown
Photo by Edgar Castrejon
  • Talking of oats, eat less foods that are yin-like, cooling or cold. For a list of what Chinese medicine means by ‘cold’ foods, click here. 
  • Instead, eat more warming, yang-like foods. For a list of foods Chinese medicine judges to be, for most of us, warming, click on ‘hot’ foods.
  • If not restricted, join or form a neighbourhood help group, and check up on vulnerable or needy people regularly, not just by telephone but if possible visiting their houses and talking to them, even if from the street or through a window.
  • Exercise. Very yang. Moves and warms. Helps to clear stagnant qi and to dissipate heat. Walk for yourself, or for the dog, or to meet and converse convivially. Make sure you get out of breath.
  • Change your routines. If you share your home with others, swap duties periodically. If you never cook, now’s the time to learn. So you look after the finances? – well, open up handling them to someone else, or preferably several people, to provide mutual security. Get up early and enjoy the dawn, the moment when life returns and begins. Buy a telescope and look at the moon. Start a herb garden or, if you already grow nothing but herbs, plant a rose.
  • In other words, move yin around with yang, let qi flow, and change!


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