"The whole idea is we treat pain differently than we have in the past. Instead of using drugs, we use a variety of methods, including acupuncture, yoga, mindfulness, looking at nutritional aspects of pain. The program has done very well,” said Dr. Mary Faria, Chief Executive Officer and Acting President of the school."
AOMA offers free community classes throughout the year for those wanting to explore the benefits of qigong and yoga. Community Wellness Hour meets weekly, where participants are offered of free NADA treatments followed with mindful meditation led by Julia Aziz, LCSW-S.
In addition to these on-campus programs, AOMA MAcOM students may choose to complete supervised internship hours at People's Community Clinic, Seton McCarthy, Austin Recovery Center and the Austin VA Clinic.
To listen to the full interview check out KXAN's video below!
Interested in community programs? The current calendar is available at https://aoma.edu/calendar/grid. Community Wellness Hour, qigong and yoga are all free and open to the community.
Weather is finally cooling down here in Austin, and it's the perfect time of the year to cozy up at home with your favorite furry friend and library book!
We asked Kimberly Meier, 3rd year MAcOM student and Library Student Worker to pick out some of her favorites and SHE DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Both current students and alumni both have borrowing privileges, so if it's been awhile since you've used the library, go say hello and be the first to check out one of these gems.
Chinese Herbal Formulations: A Student's Notebook
Dongxin Ma, Ph.D. M.D.(China), L.Ac
RM 666 H33 M1 2002
What is it?
Literally the most needed herbal formulas.
Why do you love it?
Let's talk herbs for a bit. There is, in my experience, no easy way to remember and recall all the herb stuff that is presented to us over the 12 week terms. Our very own Dr. Hamilton worked with Dr. Zhou to compile the singles herbs students notebook, which pretty much what everyone here has and makes use of in one form or another. And it's amazing!
The problem I found was when it came to formulas, I was left to my own distract-able devices when it came to studying. I was again trying to figure out the best way to not only collect but organize and highlight the most important parts.
Thankfully I found this gem! Why reinvent the wheel when you can make use of the tools in front of you? It has 88 pages with an Alphabetical index, making it a succinct study guide. My only complaint is that a couple of formulas covered in class that are out of order in this book, but they are easy to look up.
Chinese Medicine for Americans
E. Douglas Kihn DOM
RA 184 K44 2011
Brief summary: A practical Understanding of the Language, Theory as applied to common health problems in 21 century United States
Why do you love it? It's a fun design, with color pops, images and questions to make sure you are paying attention instead of mindlessly reading. Also, if you get asked about the integrative advice for patients in clinic, this book has an amazing section on health counseling that will really resonate with the everyday patient plus quizzes and answers to check your understanding.
Katya Walter, Ph.D. examines the new nonlinear science of Chaos theory and finds there a broad new highway to God. At the deepest level of mathematical structure, there is a union of new physics (Chaos theory), new biology (the genetic code map), and the ancient wisdom of I Ching. Like I Ching, Chaos and the genetic code are both yin and yang - interplay of opposites.
Why do you love it?
UMM it has Tao and Chaos right in the title! but if you are looking for something less meta I've picked out two more clinical gems for you...
What is it? A professional reference text on positional release therapy
Why do you love it? I do a lot of physical work in clinic and have this in my personal collection from courses I took for continuing education I find it and excellent resource in super acute or chronic pain to assist in breaking that musculoskeletal spasm cycle.
A quick reference to understand and apply the basics of muscle testing.
Why do you love it?
It's an in depth guide to understanding pretty much everything about each individual muscle, how to test them appropriately and what physical complaints a client may bring to you. You will be able to test which muscle is having concerns, as well as innervations, solo and combined actions.
Thank you so much for this insider's take on our resources, Kimberly!
It's orientation week for our Fall Cohort and we'd like to introduce a new face on campus! Kate has been an analyst and manager working in the Washington, D.C. area for over fourteen years while also teaching yoga for the past six years. The stressors of her job originally led her to try and find balance (and sanity!) through yoga and meditation practices, and as that path unfolded, it eventually exposed her to Traditional Chinese Medicine and human anatomy, which quietly evolved into her passion over the past few years.
Kate completed her undergraduate degree in English literature, art history, and political science at Boston University, and spent her childhood in New Jersey. She is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to pursue this new adventure in Austin with AOMA, and hopes to integrate her new knowledge with her yoga studies to make this information accessible to the wider community in way that empowers others to live their best lives.
Why did you end up choosing AOMA?
I personally was very interested in finding a program that provided strong background in foundational knowledge, while also preparing students to work effectively alongside Western medical providers, as well as opportunities to make this medicine accessible to the surrounding community. AOMA’s mission, values, curriculum, and community involvement all matched up with my goals, and my visit to the campus late last year further solidified my initial impressions. I am looking forward to everything this curriculum offers, from acupuncture and herbs, to expanding my knowledge of mind-body work and diving into biomedical sciences. I also really enjoyed the city of Austin during my visit and felt like it would be a great place to get to call home.
Have you visited Austin yet? And are you excited about living here?
I visited Austin twice before committing to a cross country adventure driving a 16-foot moving truck to relocate here at the end of August. I am very excited about living here, and already have found it is a much more relaxed and accessible area than my experience in the D.C. area. Despite warnings about traffic, D.C. sets a pretty high bar for traffic nightmares I have yet to see Austin match!
What class are you looking forward to the most when you start next week?
I genuinely am looking forward to all the classes on my schedule since I am especially grateful to have the opportunity to immerse myself full-time in information that has previously been my hobby and “side hustle”. While some of my biggest interests going into this program include delving into the acupuncture points and herbs (which are probably going to be the most challenging!), I think Foundations I is going to be interesting this Fall.
What do you expect to be the most challenging part of transitioning from working full time to being in school full time?
Seeing if my brain still works after 14+ years in the workplace! At this point, it seems like the positives far outweigh the challenges as all my work clothes are packed up in a box, days of monotonous staff meetings under fluorescent lights are behind me, and I do not have to be in charge of anyone but myself! After completing my undergraduate degree, I thought I would never again find myself back in school after the rigor of tests and memorization. Although the predictability and stability of my job provided a level of security, the challenges it brought were not the kind that allowed me to pursue my passions fully.
Any skills or actual things that you'll be metaphorically/literally packing with you to bring with you? Anything you're leaving behind?
My furry partner-in-crime Rustie endured the cross-country relocation to Austin and is along for the journey, fueled by more opportunities to get outside a play ball as his consolation prize. While my knowledge of Bruce Springsteen lyrics might not prove beneficial in class, I hope my exposure to acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in my advanced yoga studies with Yoga Medicine will help provide good baseline familiarity with some of the foundational information. My time spent as a student and teacher of yoga also developed my personal studies of the human body, to include particular interests in anatomy and fascia.
In pursuing this new path, I have definitely taken a leap of faith leaving everything familiar and stable over 1,500 miles away, which is as scary as it is exciting. While the regular paycheck probably is the most notable thing I will be leaving behind, I am going to miss my friends and the yoga community I had the honor of teaching for many years. Moving to Austin also meant bidding farewell to the East Coast, which has been home for my entire life, and giving up the thrill of waking up to snow days in the winter months.
Kate, we're so glad to have you here in Austin and on campus! Welcome to you and the rest of the group who will have their first day of class on Monday.
Lauren Hubele is a leading expert in Gemmotherapy in the United States today. She lives in San Marcos where she swims upstream in the river every morning, year round. She’s also a vegan and passionate cook who believes in giving people the tools they need. Besides doing research, writing and lecturing about Gemmotherapy, she also has aplant-based recipe blog on her website.
Lauren, you’ll have to excuse me, as my background with herbs is primary through the lens of Chinese Medicine - can you tell me about how where Gemmotherapy fits into the world of herbal treatment?
Gemmotherapy is different from TCM herbs or any North American herbal product because it uses the meristem cells of the plant. The plants are processed at their freshest state (within 3 hours of picking). It is because of the presence of meristem cells in the bud or root or shoot of the tree of shrub that is used that makes it unique. The meristem cells are what allow for the incredible rejuvenating process that can be obtained with Gemmotherapy extracts.
Regarding the history and training behind Gemmotherapy - how do you get trained in it? Is it through taking seminars through someone who is involved in this kind of work?
Today there are only a handful of key teachers for Gemmotherapy around the world. Each of us shares Gemmotherapy extracts through our own lens of understanding. There is a brilliant professor in Italy, another in producer and key researcher Belgium, several professors, pharmacists, and physicians who teach in Romania, another in Canada and then there are three of us teaching in the United States. We each have our own unique approach.
The majority of published materials and teachings on Gemmotherapy extracts presents them through in an allopathic view. Extracts are presented by the organs and organ systems affected and the symptoms or diagnosis they were known to address. While this is helpful information it doesn’t provide a path in which to apply the extracts. Because this was all that was available when I began to study Gemmotherapy that is how I learned the extracts. However, when I began to apply them in my practice with real patients, I discovered this method really fell short.
Through a lot of trial and error in my own practice and hundreds of cases, a system started to form itself. I worked with the top research doctors in Romania and Italy, where I would say “I’m really seeing european blueberry acting like this, would you see if what I’m seeing is backed up pharmacologically?” And they would come back with “well not really, maybe what you’re seeing is this [aspect of the herb]”. And so in that I was able to create my own system and that’s what I teach today.
I’m currently exploring micro-dosing extracts now, something brand new. Instead of the pharmacological suggested dose of 25 drops, only one or two is taken that engage with the nervous system. I’m working with Dr. Olah Nelly, a professor of pharmacology and biochemist in Romania. She’s the director of research for the Plant Extrakt Gemmotherapy lab and supervising my first blind study. These are exciting times in the study of Gemmotherapy and taking a class with me is not just going to be about studying the materia medica.
It seems like something that is old, viewed differently now in a modern lens.
I think I would come back to what you just said and I would say it is actually an older medicine which was being looked at a modern allopathic way and I am taking it back to its roots and of looking at the body holistically. Unless we go there and look at how the body heals, we get partial results. I’m looking at bringing harmony back to the body, so that the beautiful immune system we’re born with is activated and can do its work.
Looking at your bio, I learned that you came to this medicine from a patient’s standpoint when you were diagnosed with cancer and were introduced to it by a ND while in Germany. Can you tell me a little about how they use this in Europe and if it’s used more there than here for now?
In Europe Gemmotherapy it can only be used by licensed medical professionals. They could be physicians, osteopaths, midwives, acupuncturists, or other licensed in the medical field.
Gemmotherapy is definitely used more in Europe, but it is limited to certain regional areas. For instance, it’s not really used or known in Germany. In Germany they haven’t really figured out how they want to classify it, so it’s just in the no-man's land right now. It seemed natural to me that it would take off in Germany, but instead there are countries like the Ukraine and Bulgaria excited about Gemmotherapy, with no easy access to the extracts.
How many extracts are currently available?
Right now, there are a good 60 that are standardized and commonly available. You could stretch that number to 75 if you are looking at some of the newer ones being studied. When I teach my foundations program, I teach 26 entry level extracts. That is more than enough to treat a wide variety of acute conditions as well as begin treating chronic care cases.
Who is the person or organization experimenting with these newer plants?
Dr. Fernando Pitera of Italy is considered the grandfather of Gemmotherapy. He is a homeopath, internal medicine doctor and herbalist and author of the only pharmacopeia of Gemmotherapy that exists (Gemmoterapia - published in Italian and French). Dr. Pitera is constantly reviewing other extracts and plants and has dedicated his life to this.
There’s also Philippe Andrianne, who is conducting his own research. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting these gentlemen personally. We have a great deal of mutual respect for one another. Even though our work and approaches are very different.
That’s kind of the nice thing, with a group so small, it’s so easy to stay connected and have some real conversations and support each other.
Yes! I love that. Is it a newer medicine. I love batting around ideas. This only hit the pharmacopeia in the late 1950s. When we look at medicines and therapies that’s very new. It is quite insular because all the writings were in French - that really slowed down the process. My books are the first coming out in English.
Can I ask how you work with clients differently than a homeopath or TCM herbalist might?
When you look at allopathy, it’s the study of symptoms as opposed to the whole. Homeopaths are trained to cure the whole, but my experience as a homeopath is that it doesn’t manage to cure the whole.
When I work with a client, I will enter with a similar approach whether you’re coming to see me for fertility or a ruptured disk. Your body heals in the same order; whatever the problem is, we’ll start in the same place, but what follows will vary. There are no set protocols (like in homeopathy).
In TCM just as with gemmotherapy, you also are not looking at any set of protocols. If you’re looking at high blood pressure, you’re looking to treat the root of that pathology. Gemmotherapy is an absolutely beautiful complement therapy for acupuncturists, because it aligns with TCM way of treating patients with herbs. I use TCM consistently when classifying the extracts and when looking at the organ clock to plan treatment timing. I’ve worked with a lot of acupuncturists, and we’re helped inform each others work.
How are patients finding out about this? How do most patients come to you?
You know what? People are now searching gemmotherapy. It’s actually becoming a thing. Seven years ago, totally not true. Even three years ago, people would find me because a friend referred them but knew nothing about it. But now people are literally searching and I get emails from around the world daily with questions.
What does your practice look like these days?
My practice is actually the smallest part of my work today because I do so much traveling, teaching and writing (generally one book a year). I give talks for health advocacy. What I call my practice now is health coaching. It’s my goal that you become so self sufficient that you only come see me when you can’t figure it out yourself.
I love that!
My goal is very different than when I started as a practitioner where I was the “expert” and people would come to me and if it didn’t work they would come back. Energetically, that felt uncomfortable to me. I later trained in coaching skills and learned how to give that responsibility back to my client. We collaborate on their health decisions. I am the topic expert, but they are their body’s expert. The only way to succeed is to work together. I train practitioners in all different fields to use that approach. The other is simply not serving people who feel powerless over their health and often leaves both practitioners and clients frustrated.
I feel like many patients intuitively know what is at the root of their health concerns, so I am so glad that you collaborate with them to find solutions!
Awareness is step one, the next steps forward require something of great interest to me. Currently I’m researching this field of emotional immunity, and how building up our emotional immunity makes us stronger and more capable of making those lifestyle choices needed for full healing.
When we’re in this victim mode, we’re not going to GIVE UP CHEESE. That might be the one pleasure we have in life! When we build in this space, and have the capacity to have more perspective it gives us the opportunity to make important lifestyle decisions. This is one of the most powerful changes in my practice I’ve made over the years, and a large part of what I will be teaching at AOMA. Teaching how to help our clients this way is almost as powerful as teaching gemmotherapy.
As a practitioner, do you consult with anyone when you’re stuck in treating yourself?
I have a long time acupuncturist, AOMA graduate, who is my acupuncturist in Austin and also a dear friend who studied gemmotherapy with me. My homeopath is in Boston whom I also consult with when I get stuck. She grew up in Kolkata with her father who was a homeopathic physician. In my opinion she has one of the greatest homeopathic minds in the U.S.
Right now, herbs in general are not regulated in the States, what are the differences you see in Europe?
Let’s put it this way: I buy my product from Europe because it’s regulated. There are a few producers in the US who are making small batches. I’m not comfortable with purchasing from them yet, because they are not regulated here. I’m not a big government person by any means. But the EU and its ability to make agencies uphold the pharmacopoeia and how gemmotherapy is meant to be prepared is so important.
Is there anything else you’d like to leave readers to know about you that I haven’t already asked?
It’s important for people to know what my passions are. For anyone taking this class, it’s an opportunity to come out as a better practitioner, not just to gain a new tool. I will challenge the way people look at the human body, even in a TCM perspective by looking at the layers and how they should heal.
My personal passions are empowering mothers all over the world. I’ve started international gemmo-mom groups. These are groups of mothers teaching mothers how to use these extracts acutely so they can treat their children in the middle of the night. This is such a safe, gentle-acting extract that it’s simple. It’s not like learning thousands of herbs or thousands of homeopathic remedies. It’s a real passion of mine as well as my developing research on emotional immunity and gemmotherapy.
Ann Sanders is one of the students we welcomed in our new Summer cohort. At the end of her first term, we gave her some more homework. Here, she shares a little about her background as well as four things she recommends to prospective acupuncture students.
What is your background? I've been an RN for the past 11 years working in a variety of settings-ER, Outpatient Surgery, Pain Management, Endoscopy and home health care. Prior to being a nurse, I worked as a Certified Veterinary Technician in anesthesia at Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine. I also have my B.S. in Paralegal Studies
Where are you from? And what made you interested in starting acupuncture school? I grew up in a military family so calling one place home is hard. I've lived overseas and stateside. Although, I moved here from Mississippi this past July.
Two years ago, I was working at my local hospital when it hit me, "there has got to be another way to help and treat patients." I'd become disenchanted with the approach that I was currently practicing. So shortly after that epiphany, I put in my notice and began researching holistic healthcare. I looked at a multitude of avenues and none of them seemed to fit. By happenstance, a friend suggested that I fill in at a mutual friend's acupuncture clinic. I volunteered for a short time and it quickly evolved into my office manager position at Thrive Health Acupuncture Clinic.
I had an awesome opportunity to see the difference acupuncture made in peoples' lives. They were getting results that I hadn't witnessed in Western medicine. And the outcomes were amazing and done without pharmaceuticals or invasive procedures. The more I learned about acupuncture, it's history and philosophy, the more I fell in love with it. So naturally for me, acupuncture school was the next step.
Why did you choose to come to AOMA? I interviewed at Bastyr and AOMA but I ultimately choose AOMA due to the impressive faculty, the strong herbal competent, tuition costs and the fact it's closer to my family in MS. Everybody here is wonderful so I definitely made the right choice. The staff is amazing!
What class are you most enjoying this term and why? This is my first term here and I love Dr Wu's Foundations class. It's been a little challenging for me at times coming from a western medicine background. There are concepts that I'm having to relearn along with benching some ideas that I practiced as an RN. In addition to his class, I'm enjoying Practice Management and Ethics because they challenge you to address misconceptions you may have had about your worth and value as a practitioner, what owning your own practice may look like and what ethical situations you may find yourself in.
How do you decompress? Through nursing, I definitely had to find ways to prevent compassion fatigue. Prayer/meditation; yoga; movies (huge SciFi and Marvel Nerd); travel; music and concerts/festivals; Zip-lining; camping; reading; gratitude journaling and recently, calls to family and my support group back home. In the near future, I hope to add skydiving to the list.
I feel like new students have this beautiful, fresh outlook. What are four things you would recommend to someone hoping to start acupuncture school soon?
Observe in an acupuncture clinic for a few months and note the patient-centered care and time spent with them along with the business side of the clinic. Also receive treatments and see how your body responds to acupuncture.
Volunteer at a doctor's office or hospital and take note of patient care, the western medicine model with diagnostics with recommended treatment.
Formulate your personal budget and work the kinks out. Knowing how to manage your personal finances will only benefit you in your practice.
Read, read, read on acupuncture and finances! AOMA has an excellent list of recommended books to explore. Sales experience is a plus when you have your own clinic. Work with the public and get comfortable talking with people while in a service role.
Thank you so much for sharing both your advice and your precious finals week time, Ann! It's so nice to have new, fresh faces and perspective on campus.
Randi Savage, Mary Ellen Metke and Kathleen Robinson are each accomplished professors, students and practitioners of the Worsley school of Five Element Acupuncture. They will be on campus together on October 26th and 27th to share the knowledge they've collected over the last decades of practice and study.
Kathleen studied directly under Dr. JR Worsley at his school in Leamington Spa, England from 1988-1990. Kathleen has written curriculum, taught Worsley Five Element Acupuncture, and served as faculty member and clinical supervisor at ITEA since 1992. She brings 30 years of experience to her acupuncture practice and students. With a focus on treating and teaching the underlying cause of illness, per the tenants of pure Five Element Acupuncture, both patients and students develop an awareness and embody an understanding of this powerful medicine's impact on the body, mind and spirit. Five Element Acupuncture saved her life. She believes it can do the same for others. As such, she both teaches and treats from that perspective.
Mary Ellen began her studies in Chinese medicine with Ben Lo in 1980. She began teaching Tai chi and Qi Gong in 1985, then went on to study Five Element Acupuncture at the Traditional Acupuncture Institute (TAI) in Columbia, Maryland. Mary Ellen did an intensive training in England with Dr. JR Worlsey, participated in Teacher Training, and the Master Apprentice Program. She attended/hosted patient consults for 20 years with JR and Judy Worsley as well as Hilary Skellon. Mary Ellen has been a teacher and clinical supervisor at ITEA since 2000. She has built and maintained a thriving Five Element Acupuncture practice in Boulder, CO since 1989 and continues to teach Tai chi and Qigong. She is currently working on her Doctorate in Acupuncture through the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.
Randi has been studying, practicing, and teaching Tai chi and Qi Gong since 1997. She earned her Licentiate and Master’s in Acupuncture in 2006 at the Institute of Taoist Education and Acupuncture (ITEA), followed by her Doctorate of Acupuncture from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and in 2018. She has been teaching and doing clinical supervision at ITEA since 2013 and served as Vice President of the Worsley Institute for 5 years. Randi blends her Western medicine knowledge (Master’s in Nursing) into her Five Element practice and teachings.
How did you meet? What made you want to start teaching CFEA as a group as opposed to individually? What does each of you bring to the table?
Randi: We all met at the Institute of Taoist Education and acupuncture (ITEA) in Louisville, Colorado and over the years we have become good friends and colleagues. I feel we have an amazing synergy when we work together. We each come from different backgrounds and have our own unique talents. Then put us in a room together and things start happening. Ideas, thoughts, observations, and things start to happen and we can make a class exciting, challenging and invigorating so people can walk away with new things they can use in the treatment room and beyond.
Kathleen: I did my first Teacher Training with Dr. JR Worsley in 1992. I began teaching four years later. It has been a singular joy doing so. About five years ago, Randi and I began leading a monthly clinical students meeting and we found the energy of two multiplied the experience tenfold. We began hatching the idea of teaching together. While we each bring our perspective to the table, we realized something was missing. Mary Ellen’s gift of bringing in the physical aspect of training was the next intelligent choice for us.
Speaking of, what are your backgrounds, and do you find that you use things from your “pre-acupuncture” lives in practices today?
Mary Ellen: My acupuncture practice has been heavily influenced by my background in art as well as by studying T’ai Chi Ch’uan with Ben Lo. I still am a painter and photographer. T’ai Chi taught me many things about energy, listening, sensing and where people have tension in their bodies. Acupuncturists are constantly developing listening, looking and feeling skills, and creating art and practicing T’ai Chi contribute to those skills. As acupuncturists we are fine-tuning our skills so we can pick up subtleties with our clients to help us hone our diagnostic skills to assist our patients. The artist’s mind takes note of different subtleties of color, light, wind, weather, sounds and so on. Keeping that artist mindset trains one’s mind to continually look not only at other people but also at nature. Being more in tune with nature helps one be a better acupuncturist; as a teacher, I encourage my students to also embrace nature’s glorious lessons.
Randi: My first profession was as a nurse and my second was as a massage therapist. I specialized in Psychiatric nursing. I worked in-patient psych for many years. I became disheartened by the overuse of psychotropics and psychotherapy. I knew there had to be a better way to help people feel better within themselves despite having a diagnosis of mental illness. I found Five Element Acupuncture when I attended a month-long Qi Gong training at the Omega Institute. While at the retreat, someone gave me a copy of JR Worsley’s book on the Elements and the Officials. I knew in that moment that I wanted to become a Five Element Acupuncturist so I could use the Spirit of the Acupuncture Points to help anyone suffering on any level: especially on an emotional/mental/spirit level. My previous life as a nurse and massage therapist has helped me as an acupuncturist to really be able to assess the whole person on all levels from both Western and Eastern perspectives.
Kathleen: I came to Five Element Acupuncture early in life for the times. I graduated with a B.A. in Religion and became a waitress because what else does one generally do with a liberal arts degree. I knew I had to find something significant to do professionally, and so I left the service industry and made my way to a small town in Maine. By luck, I found a 5 Element practitioner there. I was 25 when I began treatment and by the third treatment knew I had found my calling. TAI in Columbia, Maryland was the only 5 Element school in the US at the time. Within months of deciding to study acupuncture, Dr. JR Worsley opened his British school to Americans and I began WICA. Fortunately, all of my training was directly under JR Worsley, Judy Worsley, and JR’s daughter, Hilary Skellon. It was a remarkable education to say the least.
While being a 5 Element practitioner has been my first profession, my childhood and the years working in the food industry taught me so much about trauma and the basic needs of people. I was and remain intrigued by the interplay of the two and how something as simple as the practice of acupuncture can bring peace and resolution to the troubles which reside, for most people, just below the surface of things.
How is Classical Five-Element Acupuncture different than other styles of acupuncture?
Randi: In Five Element acupuncture there are several differences: using direct moxa, needle technique, some of the points are located differently, treatment planning is very different-we use the acupuncture points for the Spirit of point-what/how it can help a person on the “spirit” level.
Kathleen: One of my first experiences of Five-Elements was the notion of the “spirit of a point”. The poetry and depth of the translation of a Chinese character, applied in the material of a patient through needle insertion and moxibustion was a startling discovery to me. To witness the changes within a patient based on this application is thrilling. To me, this is the most significant difference.
Mary Ellen: In a lot of ways I see similarities as we all want the patients to improve, feel better and experience less pain. We also make note of what we see, hear, and what we experience when we take their pulses. Five-Element requires building a deep rapport with the patients and focused observation of subtleties: the color of the face, the odor, the highly-tuned reading of pulses to assess energy before, during and after treatment, taking note of blocks to be cleared. Treatments are very individualized, based on treating the whole person on the body, mind, and spirit level. We draw upon the classical wisdom of “the spirit of the acupuncture points” to help the patients realize their full potential.
Do you have any advice for current students who will be going out into the world with fresh new acupuncture licenses soon?
Randi: Come from your heart, be present, and get out of your own way!
Kathleen: Believe! Believe! Believe! This medicine does not come from the mind. Embodying the medicine, believing it to be valid and true, and speaking and practicing it from that place is all you need to be the best practitioner possible. This belief enables you to build a practice not based on ideas, but on authenticity of the spirit. And that is one powerful magnet!
Mary Ellen: Stay curious. Never stop learning, listening, feeling, asking and being present. If you become complacent then your skills will diminish and it will affect your practice. Also listen to your gut instinct. It is often very accurate, both in the treatment room and in life. Lastly don’t get too caught on your agenda and how things “should be” a certain way. You never know what is around the corner.
Thank you so much for your time! We really look forward to meeting you in October. For any readers outside of Austin, if you are interested in their CEU course, it will be available on livestream as well.
Dr. Yongxin Fan is an accomplished instructor of traditional Chinese tuina. He practiced and taught as an attending medical doctor and instructor at the Acupuncture Institute at the Chinese National Academy of TCM and at the Beijing International Acupuncture Training Center. A member of AOBTA, Yongxin Fan has lectured and worked as a visiting professor in Holland, Germany, and Japan. He has more than 16 years of clinical experience and his research has been published in the National Journal of TCM.
He specializes in applying an integrated therapy consisting of acupuncture, herbs, and tuina to treat various pain syndromes, including acute and chronic articulation and muscle injury lumbago, recovery from fractures, and headaches. Such integrative treatment is a hallmark of his approach to common ailments such as stress, allergies, insomnia, and gastrointestinal disorders. Fan has been on the faculty at AOMA since 2002.
Tell us a little about your time practicing TCM before you were at AOMA.
In Beijing, I worked at China Academy of TCM's hospital, the top Chinese TCM research academy (now Academy of Chinese Medicine Science). I also worked in the Acupuncture Institute and Beijing International Training Center.
After 1970, the World Health Organization asked China to provide training for outside professionals, as there was more international demand for TCM. The Acupuncture Institute and Beijing International Training Center was one of the first three international training centers in China to train non-national acupuncturists.
In 2001, I met Dr. Wu in Beijing, and I arrived to Austin 17 years ago to teach at AOMA.
How did you first become interested in becoming a TCM practitioner?
In China, Chinese Medicine is really popular and widely used. When I was about 2 years old, I fell off a bike and hurt my arm. Chinese Medicine helped me recover. When I was 6 or 7, I got the mumps and doctors prescribed topical herbs. I remember them being smelly, but they reduced the swelling in 2 days! Even today, I remember the color and texture of the paste. It was so effective, and provided quick relief, and so I knew I wanted to learn more.
In China, we use the traditional ways first to prevent or treat small things like a common cold or sore throat, stomach aches. My kids even ask for me to pinch their throats for sore throats now. I’m open to Western medicine of course and always work collaboratively when it is called for.
How have you seen TCM change in China?
TCM right now in China is completely modernized. They use modern techniques with traditional herbs and acupuncture while using information from modern research. There’s a lot of new research about acupuncture and pain, especially with new knowledge and imaging of anatomy. In class, I try to explain physiologically why the 5 shu points can treat pain and proximal issues. We have a chance to use traditional techniques to treat modern diseases.
What are your specialties?
As TCM practitioners, we are all trained to be general practitioners, even though I treat mostly pain. I also treat many sleep issues, GI issues, and stress related problems. Another common issues I see is infertility due to stress.
What kind of soft tissue problems do you see most in clinic?
Most of the time I treat pain, but you have to do a thorough examination. We learn muscular examinations in tuina class. Here in the seminar we’ll learn how to differentiate 5 tissues pain. Joint pain is very complex.
Low back pain presents with lipomas. Fascia - people have started to understand it, but it’s still a mystery to most people. We know when we work on it it works.
Finger joint pain. Factors that cause the pain are really important to know. Muscular, facia, nerve, bursa, ligaments.
Do you use herbs topically? What are your favorite ones we carry in the herb store?
I use the foot soak herbal combination we sell at White Crane for soft tissue damage and joint pain. It's a classical formula and patients find it to be very effective. We even have an AOMA alumna who has made it as a tincture/spray and has had some great results.
I use jin gu shui, white flower oil, and other tinctures often as well.
You are known as an effective but intense practitioner! What size needles do you usually use for soft tissue injuries?
Most of the time I use 0.18 x 30 or 0.18 x 40. I used to be more aggressive in my treatments but have mellowed out in the 17 years since I arrived.
How do you prepare patients if you know they will be sensitive to the treatment or if it is their first time getting acupuncture?
I try to only use 6-10 needles for people who are nervous. If you have a diversity of tools you can use to treat, you don’t have to use as many needles.
You have to tell patients when they need to come back to feel better. You need to explain how you understand the pain and what your plan is. I try to tell them what I think. People like to know how long recovery will take. Tell patients what your past experience is treating their condition and give them a treatment window instead of a fixed amount of visits (ex: 4-6 visits). They want to know that you are confident that you can treat the pain, and that they will continue to improve.
Do you work with any General Practitioners who refer patients to you regularly?
We receive referrals from western doctors but usually just to the clinic. They come to see us because their GP told them to try. I’m glad to see that there are more and more doctors who are open to TCM. Because it works!
Recently I saw a patient with pain on his feet for 7 years - constant numbness and pain. He saw many doctors and specialists and tried many things. He had to wear a pad under the foot to relieve the pain. Acupuncture helped relieve his pain so he could sleep after the very first visit. It is patients like him that go back to their GP and advocate for acupuncture who help spread the word.
We see a lot of soft tissue pathologies in clinic. The key to treating patients effectively is to diagnose the mechanism and where the pain originates from. It is muscular, nerve damage, or will working on the fascia or ligaments help?
My goal is to use TCM to treat soft tissue injury under the understanding of how anatomy has changed with pain. By introducing this technique to students, they will have more tools to improve their practice and patients’ outcomes.
In the class I will explain the different symptoms of these different tissues so you can diagnose effectively. We’re going to talk about how soft tissue damage affects pain and how we treat different kinds. We try to use traditional techniques and make them better and better to treat pain.
We will also go over the tools and techniques to use for each different indication (filiform needles, cupping, gua sha, bloodletting). Frozen shoulder, heel pain, or tendonitis are hard to treat with needles alone. You might help 80% of people with pain relief immediately, but for the remainder, you might need to incorporate different tools.
Although I do use them, the class won’t focus on topical herbs due to time.
Do you have any mentors in China or teachers you most look up to? How did they influence your career?
In China, most new practitioners, you have older doctor and senior doctors as mentors for several years until they are ready to advance themselves. They lead you and help you to practice and then you have to find your way.
For acupuncture, you always have to study on your own to make your own way. It can be from older teachers, books, lectures. It is important to keep learning.
What is your biggest piece of advice to students at AOMA and acupuncture practitioners who are just starting?
You need to really focus on foundations - they are so important! Most famous practitioners have a better outcome because they really understand their foundations.
When I was in school, my professors always told me that, and eventually I found that it was true. I tried to find magic techniques for a long time, but my biggest takeaway is that there is no magic technique and you can't take any shortcuts. You just have to put in the work.
If you’re in the Austin area, then you definitely know that we are smack in the middle of summer season. Summers in Austin tend to be incredibly hot and humid. This year has brought warm temperatures and abundant rainfall. My tomatoes, mugwort and jalapeños are loving it, while I am left to sweat continuously until October arrives.
Patients often want to know how to best eat along with the season. One of the tenants of TCM philosophy is to live in harmony with your surroundings. What may be appropriate for Austin might not be the best for someone in Arizona. What may be best for a peri-menopausal woman might not be best for a 12 year old boy. While everyone is different, there are some guidelines that apply to most you can follow to make summer a little more bearable!
Eat with the season! Check out your local farmers markets. What is IN season right now and growing in your area, is likely the best thing you could be eating. Nature is so smart and graciously provides what we need. Okra, cucumber, squash, melons and tomatoes are all beautiful right now.
Watermelon - there’s a reason it’s so popular in the summer. It’s an amazing fruit that will keep you hydrated, is incredibly affordable and has an energetically cooling property, especially the fruit right by the rind. With high levels of lycopene, it can even help prevent UV-induced sunburns. Keep one in your fridge, sprinkle tajin on it if you’re in Texas, cut it into cubes, or cut it in half and hand everyone a spoon (my favorite way to share watermelon).
Mung bean is also a great cooling legume. It can be pounded into a juice/soup when boiled, added into recipes you would use lentils for, or even found in grocery stores as a noodle these days.
Bittermelon can help if you tend to be constitutionally damp (think: feeling heavy, thick tongue coat that you brush off, foggy mind). Check with your practitioner - it’s an extremely cold-natured vegetable that may cause loose stools. If it does, discontinue.
Feeling low on energy? Schedule an acupuncture appointment. Summer is the most Yang time of the year, and one of the best times to boost your Yang energy with moxa if appropriate for you. As always, check with your local acupuncturist.
Watermelon Gazpacho (serves 6, total prep time 20 minutes)
This super refreshing watermelon gazpacho really hits the spot on hot days and you don't even need to turn on a stove! This recipe from Love and Lemons makes a big batch, so store the leftovers in the fridge for easy lunches all week long.
4 heaping cups cubed watermelon (seedless, or remove seeds)
1 English cucumber, diced, reserve half
3 medium tomatoes, diced, reserve half
1 small red bell pepper, diced, reserve half
⅓ cup chopped green onions, diced, reserve half
1 garlic clove
1 small handful basil
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ jalapeño pepper (optional)
diced avocado (optional)
micro greens for garnish (optional)
Set aside the reserved half of the chopped cucumber, tomatoes, red pepper and green onions and place the remaining half in a blender. Add the watermelon, garlic, basil, vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and jalapeño pepper, if using. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Pour into a large bowl (or small individual jars, as pictured) and stir in the reserved chopped vegetables.
Chill for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Serve with drizzled olive oil.
Optional: garnish with diced avocado and/or micro greens before serving.
Flora-Joan and Michael Silvester van der Giessen are an inseparable pair of creatives who now have been working together for over fifteen years. Recently the couple introduced themselves to the world of 'the healing arts' through the Nature of the Points project (N.O.T.P).
Flora grew up in a family of acupuncturists and this shaped her art and identity. A professional cultivation of this upbringing became a beautiful addition to her curriculum after she herself graduated from the academy as an acupuncturist where she works as a clinical assistant).
Prepping the students for their exams gave her a good indication how mnemonic devices could help with learning the name, the meaning and function of each point. The couple is reverse-engineering this insight into easy to consume memory aids / aide-mémoires for students.
Flora believes that exemplifying the nature of the points may invigorate a practitioner’s art (and could inspire a patient’s interest in the waiting room as a bonus).
Flora, I’m such a visual learner and therefore obsessed with your instagram page. You must have an art background?
Visual learning makes so much sense, fellow Visualetta, especially when we consider that the biggest part of the brain is designed as a ‘image processor’ rather than ‘word processor’.
Or In the words of Confucius, “I see and I remember.”
Affirmative, I do have an art background. It started as a kid with a knack for creating. I’m hoarding sketchbooks/visual journals full of drawings & artistic plans (started making them in year 10). It led from being a little shutterbug to mastering silver photography techniques, Art and Art History at L'institution des Beaux-Arts de Antwerp.
After that I started to 'see' for a living (for almost 25 years now), working in editorial, commercial imagery and photographic fine art.
Are you a practicing acupuncturist or acupuncture student at the moment?
Currently I'm assisting at the Qing Bai academy (I studied there and they adopted me right after I graduated).
Working with the acupuncture students gives me a good insight how visual triggers can support studying TCM. As soon as the students make visual associations, their recall of information is much better than if they merely read through their notes or try to remember the words that are connected to the points. Empathizing with their study-material on a regular basis, makes that it grows and gets fostered in me too. In addition to this teaching schedule, I work as an acupuncturist in a family practice, and give charity-treatments.
Where are you located? Do you have any specialties? Who are your favorite clients to work with?
I live in Amsterdam, but I practice in the south. I love working on the psychosomatic 'shen-level'. My favorite human beings, in general, are those that take responsibility for their health and life.
How were you first introduced to acupuncture?
My grandma used needles to alter her health, but the real introduction came when my mum, aunt and uncle started studying TCM. Through their enthusiasm I learned the basics between year 10 and 16.
They were the first to study acupuncture in our neck of the woods and had to go to China to graduate because a Lowland masters program did not exist yet. I was a teenager when they moved to Beijing to master it. I went with them, and since a was already studying photography I documented the experiences leading up to their exams. The memories of being part of these events, and the art and photos that came out of that were definitely a formative experience for me. They shaped my identity.
What has been most surprising to you since you started your career as an acupuncturist?
Although I had a good understanding of the basics when I started the study, I still had the idea that acupuncture was something you “could do”. It was a most surprising discovery that it is so much more than that: not only is acupuncture a living phenomenon, IT'S A WAY OF LIFE!
How did you come up with the inspiration to start your instagram project?
The inspiration for this project came directly from my own need for a method by which to learn the names, functions and nature of the points during my study.
I used my creative skills as a learning tool; creating mind maps and photo collages that complement the more linear text-based format most of my books followed, and the verbal input from my tutors. Once qualified, I kept going back to those maps. They proved very useful in practice since the poetic nature of the point names embrace the stratification which relate not only to the physical but also their spiritual aspect.
Checking in with myself to see what stuck long-term, I started to reverse-engineer it, in an attempt to give others the opportunity to use this visual learning style to their advantage. Ideally not only for the students I work with, but also other trainees, fellow practitioners and those who have a fascination for TCM. Hopefully, it even inspires a patient’s interest.
Do you plan on monetizing your work (magnets / publishing a book / prints / etc)?
Making education captivating is the greater purpose. With that said a passive income stream is important if we want to keep freedom to create. The Nature of The Points webpage already offers educational posters (and we have a few other items lined-up).
If this turns out to be lucrative, the dream-scenario is to sponsor acupuncture charity organizations and to help the acupuncture community. Perhaps we can even boost our work to more immersive and interactive levels. Think: talks, workshops and or real-life mind maps and art installations where you can walk through a meridian.
Which other artists inspire you (modern or not)?
Everything around me inspires; nature, the cosmos, other sapiens (especially those who believe in the relationship between spirituality, healing and artistic creation). Besides that, I am inspired by a lot of the -isms: buddhism, taoism, daoism, confucianism, iconism dadaism, primitivism, surrealism, spiritualism, futurism.
I tend to gravitate to old anatomical charts and medical education books and posters. Think patterns, primitive art, symbology, colorimetry, cosmography, sacred geometry, foliage and a pile of vintage tarot cards and you have me at my happiest.
What are your favorite mediums when you are creating something new?
I enjoy using a range of media in my work, but Peter Deadman’s "Nature and Health" talk (at the British Acupuncture Conference 2017) got me thinking about using more photography in my visual language. Deadman tapped into the biophilia principle that even indirect experience of nature (including images of nature) can improve your health.
This made me ponder the balance between the challenge of understanding medicine and a natural mode of learning that could move valuable information on into a new consciousness. My brain started ticking and the whole process unfolded organically and the points practically created their own image.
Currently we are shaping these into decks. And we’re pretty excited about this because we believe that the flexible style of such a tool accommodates a wide range of applications.
What do you do in everyday life if you need a boost of inspiration?
We pull back in nature, this is all about fusing the richness of Chinese knowledge with nature and evincing that relationship. Finding resemblance to the spiritual level of a point has a pilgrimage aspect to it. Enter: motorcycle, sidecar, dog, scrapbook, camera, watercolor, pen and pencil and we are good to go.
How do you choose which point to feature? Do you meditate on them, or is it based off of experiences you’ve had with them in clinic?
This project has been in the making for years, so a lot of points ‘just happened’ to me. I collected those revelations, photos, notes and sketches in my scrapbooks. So now that we really took off time to work on this project, we review that input per meridian. The first decks and mind-maps will feature the Kidney channel, so that is what we focus on now.
Do you use any references when you design them? They each have such unique detail.
So glad you noticed :). The pre-designing part is all about getting information and coupling feedback. Think books (see list below), notes, courses and specializations. We are always trying to be attuned to what is really unique about a particular point, and then will dig in on that. We spend a lot of time researching. Each point could take days.
If you are interested in point names and energetics, check out all books by Josef Viktor Müller, Dr. Jeffrey Yuen, Rochat de la Vallée, Peter Mandel, and Peter Deadman (especially Live Well Live Long).
Speaking of point names, do you read or speak Mandarin? If so, could you speak a little on how you interpret names in a way that seems linguistically and energetically accurate when English terms might not even exist?
Through the study and my time in China I can interpret most characters (my visual person gift) but I am not a Sinologist, nor do I speak Mandarin. I am therefore very grateful to the generations before me that have translated the classical text.
Considering the names are rooted in two millennia of a different culture and language, you have a good point. What helps to interpret each name is that it is made up of picograms. These are, in essence, highly stylized images. This makes that the poetic acupuncture point lends itself to visual descriptions.
You go into the point names in many different languages on your page. How many do you speak? What is your native language? Where did you grow up?
Growing up was an interesting situation, my parents had an exceptional (for the time and the area/southern Holland/swamp/national park) anthropological approach.
No TV, no meat, and no processed or chemically sprayed food. I have two siblings, but my parents fostered children from different countries and cultural backgrounds. So we never spoke solely one language in my household. My mother has a knack for languages and my father could trace a lot back to knowing Latin. I didn't cultivate these languages, but I can still negotiate 'toy related affairs' in French, German, Arabic and English. Adding the point names (and alternate point names) in different languages gives context, and hopefully connects us. In the end, my real linguistic ambition is learning to speak 'Human'.
How do you carve out time for your creative-self?
I rise really early, that's when things get creatively done. Next is a coffee & synchronization break with my husband Michael in front of the boards. I lavishly apply our mood boards and notes to the walls and doors of our workspace. He is creating a parallel deck with the same imagery for those interested in acupuncture but don't “speak TCM”. This alternate version is connecting acupuncture points (especially the psychosomatic level) to eastern philosophy and western quotism.
Michael and I come from very different creative backgrounds, but we have many years of work-experience together and he’s a great collaborator. Not to get too deep, but once you find that person that you want to be around, it’s all very easy. Even though we spend so much time together, we don’t quibble. He is a beacon. He allows my imagination to soar cloud high, but knows how to lure me back to the source before it gets the best of me. Working on this project together has definitely been a labour of love.
Do you feel any pressure to post regularly, or just when inspiration strikes?
By regularly posting this journey we are able to see our work evolve, which is very useful. Instagram acts as a portfolio and helps other enthusiasts to discover our work. We've made acu-friends all over the world and it’s great to be able to follow their journeys and talk about their experiences.
In regards to the pressure, I can say that we do monitor our time on social media. We guard our intention. The purpose of our page is not to be buried in a sea of likes, but to be beneficial for those working in the realm of healing. The pressure does not lie in having a respectable social media presence, but in the belief that it can be the legacy of our generation to make acupuncture a big part of ‘the solution’. We can be the generation that stood up and accentuated how healing and nature is connected. The ones that recalled, that adjusted in the quest for meaning, for love, for community, and the ones that reminded those in need that the real answers are within (not on google or Instagram) and guided them home. So yes, in a way that's pressing but it is so worth putting energy in.
This is a really cheesy question, but if you were a point, which one would you be, and why?
Hahaha, I love this question (and all your other questions). As an 'homage to the fromage' Kid-6 comes to mind because I love & use it so much… but then again, in my case it can't be water or cheese. Based on my constitution it has to be Wood. So that's in favor of GB-24; Sun & Moon.
The brilliant Josef Müller says about this point:
“Das scharfe Tageslicht des Verstandes wird mit dem milden Mondlicht des Gefühls ausgeglichen.”
"The sharp sunlight of the mind is balanced with the mild moonlight of the intuition."
First and foremost the point is called Sun AND Moon, not Sun OR Moon. The sun can't do what the moon does and vice versa. They shine their light at their own time but share the sphere. And in this place of oneness, they need, recognize and appreciate the contribution of one another, since they have a common cause; being a balancing force that illuminates psyche and the path (Dao/meaning). Hence the alternative point name Shen Light.
Possibly, today’s MO (driven by info- and biotech revolution, algorithms and other world-changing developments) leaves a hole to be filled in terms of purpose and meaning, and therefore could use cosmic light to illuminate a common unifying cause and purpose. Brother Sun and Sister Moon help us recognize and appreciate what we can contribute.
Obviously we're more than worldly beings. We have potential and can make a difference. If we believe and cultivate that, we can make the most of your time here on Earth. I'm game!
To learn more about Flora Joan and organizations she is passionate about check out the websites below:
Qi stagnation is a common diagnosis in any modern clinic, with the stressors of daily life making us all a little more stressed, achy from hour-long commutes, and irritable to be around.
An easy way to visually think of qi stagnation, is as the movement of water in a stream. If you think of a stream that stops flowing or of an eddy, the water might start to get cloudy. It might smell a little muddled - that “old water smell.” Algae might grow more abundantly. Sticks and litter may collect there. When you have a stream that is full and moving continuously, there’s no time for the water to get cloudy. Any disturbances from hiking through or an animal digging something up, will be easily be carried downriver.
"Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." (Legally Blonde)
Qi stagnation can manifest both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, people may feel like there are emotions stuck that they are unable or unwilling to express. Ever feel like you are wound up, or bottling emotions up? Then you already know what Liver qi stagnation feels like.
Physically, a common way qi stagnation can show up as pain. A classic Chinese saying is:
“Where there is free flow there is no pain. Where there is pain there is no free flow.”
While it might not be pleasant to start moving your body in ways it’s not used to, it’s often a sign of your body waking up. Pay attention to where things are creaky and achy. That might be ok and get better with more use (think of it as WD-40-ing your joints). Sharp pain? Probably your body telling you to back off (and to consult with a practitioner!).
Ease back into movement with light exercises or stretches. Yoga, qigong, taiji, swimming at the greenbelt, and walks are all ways to invite movement back into your life if you are feeling ready. Hate lifting weights? Then that gym membership is probably not for you. Choose something you love and you will want to do it more often. Start moving that qi and both your mind and body will thank you.