Acupuncture as Regular Self-Care

I have been a massage therapist for over twenty years now (how did that happen?!) and much of my work is doing monthly treatments for people who find that regular massage therapy is an excellent stress management tool, and a great way to keep everyday aches and pains from becoming troublesome. People come every few weeks for a bit of a tune up, and leave with messy hair and their shoulders back down where they’re supposed to be. As an acupuncturist, however, I’ve mostly tended to address specific issues, like plantar fasciitis or gnarly periods. Lately a few clients, having tried acupuncture to alleviate specific symptoms, return for the stress relieving effects of the treatments once the initial complaint is resolved. Yep, acupuncture for relaxation – who knew?!

My clients are proving once again to be my greatest teachers. Of course acupuncture is great for regular self-care! A main premise of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that the body is like a garden, that must be tended regularly. Different tools are used for different jobs – shovels, watering cans, and compost in the garden, and for humans, our range of tools may include yoga mats, running shoes, leafy greens, and acupuncture!

Regular appointments let us get on top of whatever body parts or systems are out of balance, and to nip problems in the bud, so I always ask if there’s a pressing concern, but it’s just fine to want to focus on relaxing, breathing and taking a time-out to recharge. I love it when I hear snoring coming from the treatment room!

Chronic stress affects the body and mind in myriad ways. It can cause muscle tension, headaches, digestive upset, worsen pms, intensify pain, and generally make life much less enjoyable. Good self care, including regular acupuncture, improves quality of life and I would recommend it for everyone. Hmm, I’d better book myself an appointment!

Yin and Yang

What are yin and yang? You’ve probably heard the terms, and seen the symbol, but do you know that when you come for acupuncture, yin and yang are fundamental to how I will treat you?

Yin and yang represent balancing opposites: light/dark, rising/sinking, hot/cold, noise/quiet, activity/rest. We need both in our lives to function. When they get out of balance, there are problems. If I see there is excess in one, I can choose points to calm over activity, or other points to nourish a deficiency where it exists.

Heat is a good example. A person can be too hot either from excess yang, which is hot, or too little yin, which is cool. Symptoms caused by excess yang tend to be more pronounced than those caused by insufficient yin – it makes sense that too much of something would show a stronger effect. Think of someone who is hot all the time, and never wears a hat in winter versus someone who gets hot flashes occasionally, then bundles up again when the surge is over. The first person can handle a more aggressive, yang-calming treatment than the second, who needs a boost for the yin.

Our culture tends to be very yang: it’s busy, loud and tending to devalue more contemplative yin aspects. Many people experience burn out from the relentless yang-ness of a hectic life. Coming in for a treatment, doing some gentle yoga, walking in the woods and meditating are all excellent ways to nourish the yin.