CAN ACUPUNCTURE HEAL YOUR EMOTIONAL BLOCKS?
WHAT IS QI? WHAT ARE MERIDIANS? AND MORE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON ACUPUNCTURE'S HEALING PROPERTIES
Acupuncture, noun (akyo͞oˌpəNG(k)(t)SHər): A Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique in which very thin needles are inserted at specific points in your body to heal and promote optimal health.
Origin: from Latin acu ‘with a needle’ and puncture
The practice of acupuncture is as celebrated by its devotees as it is misunderstood by its skeptics. But few, regardless of their position on the subject, are familiar with the practice's alchemistic interplay between science and spirit—something that always inspires us.
To Sakara co-founder Danielle Duboise, acupuncture is a weekly ritual that allows her the space to heal, shift her energy, and revel in silence. “Neuroscience has proven that we can change our physical selves (and therefore mood, health, and attitude) by thinking differently,” says Duboise. “Sometimes I need help changing my thoughts. Acupuncture offers me a safe space to do that.”
In our quest to dig deeper into the philosophies underpinning this ancient healing practice, we went straight to the source, speaking with Duboise’s own acupuncturist and herbalist Lida Ahmady, whom she describes as “a FORCE and someone that knows how to help her patients heal both through the power of acupuncture, but also the power of holding space.”
Dive into our conversation with Ahmady about the science behind this spiritual art.
What Is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve its functioning. This is done by inserting fine needles at very precise points on the body. These points lie on channels of Qi, defined as energy or the body’s vital life force that sustains and regulates all of its functions. It is only because of Qi energy that we can move, breathe, digest food, think, and even feel. Our mental, emotional, and physical health—as well as our constitutional inheritance —impacts our Qi’s health.
What are Qi blockages?
The quality of our Qi depends on its abundance and flow circulating in energetic pathways called meridians. Qi blockages are a form of stagnation that occur in meridians, hindering the optimum flow of the Qi circulation. Qi blockages cause all kinds of health issues, usually leading to stagnation and an acidic environment in the body—referred to by acupuncturists as “damp heat accumulation”—as well as weakness and deficiency of blood, fluids, and Qi’s essence. Energy blockage can be the result of stress, injury, trauma, or unhealthy living habits—diets, addictions, lack of exercise—and can cause imbalances that are at the root of all health problems.
When we can work on clearing and removing these blockages, the body is able to heal and become healthy. Energy increases, the nervous system is calm, and we can feel the harmony and strength of our Qi.
What are meridians and how do they hold the key to addressing disease and dysfunction? For example, how might a needle in our feet help us sleep better?
Meridians integrate the body, linking different systems and structures. Disease and dysfunction manifest in blockages and disruptions of these meridian pathways.
There are many different diagnostic tools—like examining the tongue and pulse—that can identify where the root of an issue may lie. Trained acupuncturists choose to treat the affected meridian directly, or a corresponding meridian they feel will be more effective. For example, sleep problems are usually related to the heart, spleen, and liver meridians. Depending on the priority for the treatment, they may choose to insert needles in the liver points on top of the feet between the big toe and second toe to regulate the liver energy, along with other acupuncture points on the spleen channel—the lower leg—to strengthen the spleen’s energy. Together these points nourish and calm the spirit, and lead to better sleep.
What is the relationship between the emotional work acupuncture can do and the physical conditions it can alleviate? For example, how might putting needles in the heart chakra affect a range of symptoms?
Emotions have a powerful effect on our mind and body. Under normal circumstances, emotions are not the cause of disease. Emotions are natural physiological processes that help with processing of our feelings and thoughts.
However, excessive, prolonged, and suppressed feelings can cause patterns of disharmony and disease. There are seven main emotions that we look at in Chinese Medicine: joy, anger, sadness, grief, pensiveness, fear, and fright.
Each emotion correlates with a particular organ and channel. Joy with the heart, anger with the liver, sadness with the lungs, pensiveness with the spleen, and fear and fright with the kidneys. When a particular emotion is in excess, suppressed, or unexpressed, it can create imbalance.
With time, these imbalances bring about disharmony in the body that can lead to pain and tension in the body as well as potential illness or disease. For example, someone with unexpressed and unprocessed grief may eventually become very irritated, anxious, and angry. This anger can affect the liver energy and result in menstrual pain, migraine headaches, redness of the face and eyes, and dizziness. This is a form of Qi blockage.
In treatment, I would aim to calm and clear the liver Qi stagnation by needling powerful acupuncture points known to do this. I would also use other points on the lung, heart, and spleen channels to clear the underlying grief that is the root of the problem.
Depending on the presentation and severity of each patient, we can clear and resolve these stuck emotions in one session or a number of sessions. Most patients feel a big relief and shift, and are amazed they have been carrying such deep emotions for so long. This awareness helps them be more proactive in managing and nurturing their emotional health.
Our lifestyle, belief system, and how we process and digest our emotions have an enormous impact on our health and wellbeing.
What should patients do to make the most out of an acupuncture appointment?
A big part of my practice is to help bring awareness to the importance of self-care outside our acupuncture sessions. Acupuncture is a powerful tool to treat, resolve, and restore health and vitality, but when patients begin to incorporate other tools such as exercise, a balanced diet, meditation, and mindfulness, they raise the bar from healing to longevity and prevention of future diseases and conditions. They also begin to enjoy good energy, and have clarity to make better and healthier choices.
Our lifestyle, belief system, and how we process and digest our emotions have an enormous impact on our health and wellbeing. It is easy to become accustomed to pressure, stress, and anxiety and to operate from a chronically scattered, chaotic, and disintegrated state of being.
But this drains our adrenals and kidney essence, a major aspect of our Qi. The more drained we become, the more stagnated and blocked our Qi becomes. In this state, one cannot sleep well, digestion suffers, and our nervous and immune system becomes fragile. Most people begin heavily relying on stimulants such as coffee, sugar, and other unhealthy habits to cope. Of course, this is not helpful and can further damage your Qi.
What is so powerful about acupuncture to you as a healing modality?
Acupuncture is a powerful healing modality because it can simultaneously influence our many dynamic layers as humans, connect and harmonize our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual energies, and help us harmonize with the rhythm of nature and the world around us.
Through my years of working with thousands of people in New York City, stress, anxiety, and depression have been the root causes of the many physical problems people have presented with. I have seen people not only be relieved of physical complaints but also transformed into healthier and happier individuals who are more connected to themselves. They have more clarity about their purpose and feel calmer and confident.
I have seen people told they would have to be on certain drugs for the rest of their lives because of various conditions successfully get off medications and feel great. I have seen hundreds of women over forty who have been told they were too old to have children on your own and needed IVF have healthy pregnancies and babies just with acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments. I’ve had people come in bent over with pain leave with no pain. There are too many stories to recount, and each one makes me more confident of how powerful a tool acupuncture is for health and balance.