Acupuncture needles are so small they’re almost microscopic, but the relief and relaxation they can give are beyond measure.
Most people are terrified of needles, right? We dread having to go to the doctor to get our flu shot or having blood drawn. We associate needles with pain. Yet I voluntarily decided to explore the medicinal power of acupuncture, which involves… needles. But these needles are placed in certain points in your body, and are a most amazing experience, with the fine technique of ancient Chinese practice.
Acupuncture is a powerful medicine that aims to strengthen the immune system based on the body’s natural energy. Dating back over 3,000 years as a primary source of health care in China, where it originated, the function of acupuncture encompasses a wide array of preventive health care, such as symptom relief, curbing an addiction, and aiding in sleeping better, just to name a few. Acupuncture focuses on not only healing the body but also the mind, by creating a flowing stream of energy, known as chi (pronounced “chee”, like “tea”), that harmonizes the natural balance of the body and mind.
Acupuncture opens or closes “gates” or points along the lines of energy flow called meridians, which reach deep into the body. Acupuncturists treat your body according to your symptoms and many other factors by reducing or stimulating the flow of vital energy or chi through points along your meridians.
So you must be wondering, “Why is Élan doing this?” I was wondering myself when I arrived there, a little reserved despite my willingness to volunteer myself to have needles poked all over my body.
I had first spoken with licensed acupuncturist Marilyn Sjaastad about the procedure and asked her a few questions about the practice. She sent me a short questionnaire that asked everything from my history of family health to my favorite color and season of the year. It was a great way for me to delve into the history of my family health, as well as to shine light on why I favor a particular climate and color.
Yet, these were not just fun questions about favorite food and sorts, rather each of these questions holds a specific function. So, a certain color that you fancy is due to your mood and the state of your body’s balance. If a certain organ is deficient or in excess, you will naturally sway towards a color, that clues the acupuncturist in to your diagnosis and treatment.
I arrived at Marilyn’s office, a large room set in a big brown house which is shared between other downtown businesses. The room welcomed me as I walked in. All around were peaceful pictures of Chinese art, a large unlit fireplace to the right of me that still created a warmth as soft chanting music filled the air. I sat down in a rocking chair, and Marilyn and I went over the questionnaire that she had sent me a week earlier. She asked some questions to clarify certain responses, and we talked about acupuncture as a whole.
Her calm voice and expertise set me at ease; above her desk hung the certificates for her licensed practice. “Why do people generally go to an acupuncturist?” I asked Marilyn.
“Many people come for a tune-up of the body to relieve stress in their lives, or many people come to treat chronic illnesses or to quite smoking,” she said.
Stress is a major cause of many problems, and it can be released through the relaxation that acupuncture provides. Specific points in the body hold on to stress, which blocks the chi in the meridian circuitry. Therefore, needles when placed on the specific point in the meridian will release this tension from the body.
In “cupping”, fire cups create a vacuum that stimulates skin, tissue and chi.
In Chinese medicine all of the body has intelligence. Every organ has a personality or function, which may also be the cause of illnesses. For example, the liver is characterized as free and happy. Stress blocks this flow of energy, creating an imbalance within the body, which also in turn affects the mind.
At this point I am beginning to wonder if I have any intelligence, as she led me over to the pillowed massage table where the many tiny needles were laid out. A smaller table set up beside me held individually wrapped needles, herbs such as mugwart, medicinal oils, rubbing alcohol and a candle.
I rested on my back with a blanket over my body. My feet dangled at the end as my arms waited untucked for the pins that would soon be mapped all over my body. The needles were tiny, nearly microscopically thin. She gently started on my left foot and placed the first needle in-between my big toe and second toe. I felt a little prick, but it was almost completely undetectable. She asked me to tell her when I started to either feel a tingling or heat sensation.
Almost instantly I felt a tingling sensation that circulated through my left leg. She proceeded to place pins at other points on my feet and legs as I lay there, my eyes closed, embracing the rush of endorphins that traveled through my body. She stuck three needles in both feet and one or two on certain points in my legs. Then she slowly placed three more in each hand. I was both relieved and relaxed while she was sticking needles all over my body, amazed by the calming sensation. It was as though I was a map of the world, and Marilyn was the traveler that was placing pins in all the places she’d explored or would like to go, the pins as marks of the journeys traveled and ones that still awaited exploration and discovery.
There are 1,000 points that are recognized in acupuncture, but only about 365 points are regularly used. Your body is really doing the work by balancing out chi. The needles are opening up and promoting this kinetic energy to stream freely throughout the body.
She smoothed her finger over the center of my forehead between my brows, or “the third eye” in Buddhism, and painlessly she slipped a pin in. Okay, I thought to myself, I am lying here with needles tweaking out everywhere on my body. But that thought disappeared quicker than it had arrived as I began to melt into the euphoric sensation flowing throughout my whole body.
Marilyn left the room, but she checked on me from time to time. I seeped into the surroundings and the relaxation of the experience. The soft chanting music and a feeling of nirvana swept over me. I was overtaken by the stillness and calmness of the moment. My mind was empty, yet my body was so full of energy, of chi.
Marilyn prepares a fire cup for Élan.
Marilyn returned and gently picked the needles from my body. She instructed me to lie on my stomach, so she could work on the muscle tension in my shoulders through a technique called “cupping”. She lit two alcohol-soaked cotton bundles on fire, then placed them inside two small glass cups that had an opening on each end. “Fire cups,” as she called them, pull toxins from the muscles and move stagnation in the tense area. She placed the fire cups on my shoulders. The cups suctioned to my shoulders almost like a vacuum to skin, but not as forceful.
She moved the suctioned cups on my upper shoulders, stimulating the muscles and pulling the blood to surface. Next came the “Moxa treatment,” which consists of using an oriental herb called mugwort . Mugwort when lit, penetrates into the skin through the smoke, nourishing chi and restoring balance. The smoke seeps into the skin and relaxes the muscles.
She lit the crayon-shaped moxa stone instrument, waited for a few seconds as it cooled, then placed it on certain points on my back. It didn’t have a strong odor but rather a pleasant incense smell.
The flow of euphoric energy rushed through my body after the acupuncture, fire cup treatment, and moxa herb treatment. I lay there in pure bliss. I rested there for a few moments, amazed at how relaxed and restored my body felt. I raised my eyes to the busy street outside, the fast world moving all around. My Zen-like calm state sheltered me from the outside world.
I thanked Marilyn for her gifting me with this powerful medicine and her great expertise. I left in a state of utter and complete bliss. The rest of my day was filled with places to go and things to do, yet my body rejected everything but pure relaxation. I was in an immense daze of relaxation, and nothing could break that trance. My body felt light as a feather, yet my mind was tuned to all that surrounded me.
That night I slept as though I was sleeping on a bed of fluffy clouds warmed by rays of sunshine. My body is restored with internal energy, and my mind is clear. I am harmonious and relaxed, balanced by harmony of mind and body.
See, Needles Ain’t So Bad
If you have any questions or are interested in acupuncture, check out an acupuncturist in your town. Look under the yellow pages or in your local newspaper.
I had a wonderful experience with my acupuncturist, Marilyn, and would recommend acupuncture to anyone. Go on-line and do some research as to what you think works best for you and your body. You want to be comfortable with whatever you choose. So explore the alternative medicines that reside in your town, you will be surprised and overwhelmed by the results!
For more information on Marilyn Sjaastad’s practice located in Eugene, Oregon, you can call her at +1 (541) 344 8088, at the Jade Screen Clinic on 1210 Pearl Street.
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