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What is Acupuncture?

Looking through the lens of Chinese Medicine there is no difference between inside and outside. The elemental forces of nature that create the dynamic energies of the seasons move and shape the exterior landscape as well as the interior terrain of body, mind, and spirit. The explosive energy of Spring; the radiant, joyous, energy of summer; the mellow ripening of late summer; the essential sadness of Fall's energy when trees let go of their leaves; the deep, primordial, embryonic energy of winter: all are distinctive manifestations of the vital energy or animating life force that is basic to the universe and every human being. This energy is known as Ch'i (pronounced "Chee").

Acupuncture theory has its own logic and grows from a world-view that is quite different than the western bio-mechanical view of how the body functions. Ch'i energy flows through the body along defined pathways, or meridians.This is a discrete system, seperate from, yet influencing, our other bodily systems. When this flow of Ch'i is unrestricted, good health and vitality are maintained. Illness in body, mind, or spirit is associated with a disruption in the flow of this vital energy.

Look at what happens in nature. A stream moves unimpeded through the landscape, flowing as nature intended. This is a perfect metaphor for health and balance. When there is an obstruction in the natural flow, such as when the beavers move in and obstruct the stream, the whole landscape changes. There is an imbalance; a stagnant excess upstream causes the trees to become waterlogged and die, and a retricted flow downstream alters the streambed because water is not flowing as it once did. Several thousand years ago, East Asian practitioners discovered that the body forms disharmonies as a result of the various physical and mental stresses of life, "beaver dams" if you will. 

Another image comes from a great city like New York. Bridges and tunnels can be thought of as pathways and channels that provide for the passage of energetic nourishment to the city. When these "pathways" are obstructed the whole landscape changes and life is quickly altered.

An acupuncturist, through various diagnostic means, assesses the state of Ch'i and through the insertion of extremely fine needles at specific points on the body, can influence its flow. In this way, the practitioner removes the "beaver dam" in the stream. This restores balance and allows the Ch'i to flow smoothly throughout the body, mind, and spirit, facilitating the innate ability to heal oneself.

The symptoms that manifest from the lack of free flow are often the motivating factors that compel people to seek treatment. These symptoms often have medical labels such as "arthritis," "tennis elbow," "chronic fatique syndrome," "migraine," but often patients will speak of the "beaver dam" in their own words: "I don't feel like myself";  "something is off";  "Where is my spark?"; " I feel stuck";  "the stress is getting to me."














                Graham Marks, M.Ac, L.Ac
                928 Broadway Suite 801
                New York, New York 10010