Recently, I gave a talk on acupuncture to a group of schoolkids. In doing so, I had to break down the jargon and go back to basics to explain just how it works. After all, there’s no point being in a room of 50 people who are looking glazed back at you as you reel off statistics…! And actually, breaking it down to the basics highlighted the important stuff. So, in the interests of answering one of the questions I’m most often asked, here’s what I said. Be warned, there is kid’s jargon in here. And dancing.
Acupuncture. By Jeanie Gordon Lic.Ac. MBAcC
Those letters after my name mean I’m a fully qualified Traditional Acupuncturist – having done three years of study at University Level. I did masses of exams: Chinese philosphy, human biology, point location…which means that people can trust I know what I’m talking about. The MBAcC means I’m a member of the British Acupuncture Council, the largest self-regulating body in the UK. (I did leave out the bit about the guaranteed level of teaching & clinical practice, the importance of safe practice and ongoing continued professional development for the sake of running to time)
What is Acupuncture?
It’s one of the oldest systems of medicine in the world, over 2000 years old. Developed in China, it uses needles and moxa to treat people who are ill, or want to improve their health.
(I passed round samples of needles – in their single use, sterilised packaging of course! and moxa – here are some photos)
It’s holistic – which means it treats the whole person. By using needles in certain points in the body, acupuncture reminds the body what it should be doing naturally – having lots of energy during the daybut getting a good night’s sleep, knowing when to jump around and when to be calm and focused. In short, being healthy.
How does it work?
We all have energy – we can feel it in nature, in the seasons: summer feels different from winter. We can feel it in ourselves. Let’s do an experiment to show what energy feels like: (the kids loved this, I’ll leave you to decide whether you want to try it out or not!)
- Sit with both feet on the floor, close your eyes, imagine you are somewhere really quiet and peaceful like a beach or a forest clearing. Breathe deeply and calmly for 10 breaths. What does it feel like? Calm, grounded, but powerful in its own way. This is Yin energy
- Now get up and dance madly to music – as much as you can! (cue a soundclip of the Kaiser Chief’s “I predict a riot”. Which seemed appropriate. The kids jumped around madly. I jumped around madly. Some of the parents and teachers jumped around…slightly less madly.) This is Yang Energy – right out there! Bold, full on.
So… we have yin/quiet energy and yang/exuberant energy – and every level in-between. It’s really important that you can access the right type of energy at the right time: in your lessons, you need to be able to be calm and to concentrate, but in a games lesson or a match, you need to be able to go all out to run as fast as you can. Most of you lot are probably quite good at this. However, as we grow older, and life throws stuff at us, we find it more difficult to manage our energy. It can get blocked, stop working correctly, and if this doesn’t get sorted out, this is the start of disease.
What do I do to help this?
My job is to work out what isn’t working properly for each individual person, and to choose which of the 350 points will help someone’s energy work better. I use moxa to warm the area first, then insert fine needles to remind the person what their energy should be doing. The needles only stay in for a couple of seconds. Out of the adults who have had acupuncture – did it hurt? (A resounding “No” from the adults in the audience. A couple of “yes” – and some laughter. But they came to the conclusion themselves that, generally, it didn’t.)
Now, the interesting thing is that, as a Traditional Acupuncturist, I look at the whole person. Imagine two people, both of whom fall over and hurt their knee the day before Sports Day. For one person, who hates Sports Day, it’s a dream come true: they don’t have to run round, and – even better – their parents decide to cancel the weekend trip to smelly old Auntie Mabel (apologies to anyone called Mabel reading this) – they are soooo relieved! But for the other person, it’s a disaster: they love Sports Day, they were hoping to win the big race, break the school record and be cheered on by everyone. They are devastated. So, as a Traditional Acupuncturist, not only do I choose points to help their knee get better – but I also choose a couple of points to help each person deal with their injury and feel better in themselves. The acupuncture points help to restore balance and encourage the body to heal naturally.
Where are the points?
All over the body! (cue: lots of Ooohs and aaahs)
What (and who) can Acupuncture treat?
I then showed them a couple of acupressure points, and fielded questions. 15 minutes of questions, including:
Have you ever used all 350 points in a treatment? (er… no. Usually 5-6 suffice) and
Is it possible to kill someone using acupuncture? Yes. Which is why you should only ever go to a fully qualified practitioner – look for Lic.Ac after their name, and MBAcC and you’ll know you are in safe hands.
They were interested, questioning, wanting to know more. Yes, it was slightly quirky. You may have raised your eyebrows as you read it. But, then again, it got the point across…..!