Open Mind Modalities: An Acupuncturist’s View of Movement

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Movement affects more than the physical body. It touches the spirituality of an individual and can provide health benefits beyond those often described in Western Medicine. To get a more holistic understanding as to how movement can be incorporated into ones lifestyle to affect both body and mind we reached out to the Acupuncturists and Eastern Medicine Practitioners of Open Mind Modalities. Ruth McCarty and Lauren Koeller are both avid movers, together practicing a combination of yoga, pilates, tennis, surfing and running. They treat a range of patients from athletes maintaining their range of movement to cancer patients looking to fight nausea, and they consistently turn their patients onto movement and meditation as methods of healing.

What sparked your interest in Eastern Medicine?

Ruth: After a horrible neck injury I found myself disillusioned with Western care available for chronic pain. I went from being a very active athlete, touring the world surfing and practicing Yoga daily, to being bedridden in chronic pain. Western Medicine had very little to offer aside from pain medicine that really offered little relief. I sought treatment as many do out of desperation. After three acupuncture treatments, I could feel my body and my spirit healing. It took a few months but after feeling stuck in my pain for almost a year it was truly life changing. It gave me hope. I enrolled in Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and never looked back.

Lauren: My interest in healthcare was sparked at a young age. I was an athlete and a dancer. I was always very interested in how our bodies created different movements and how we can heal our bodies from acute injuries with different therapies.

Outside of curing specific ailments what general benefits can be found through acupuncture?

Ruth: Restoring balance of body, mind and spirit. I truly believe out of my own experience and what I have seen with my patients, that this medicine has the ability to put us in touch with our most valuable potential as human beings.

Lauren: Acupuncture has many benefits and we have many patients who come in for regular treatment. Acupuncture decreases inflammatory states in the body and increases the release of natural opioid peptides in the body that decrease pain and decrease stress. Since all of the top illnesses in the country involve chronic inflammatory states, it really can benefit everyone. Inflammatory diseases include heart disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic pain. These are affecting a large percentage of the population and can be prevented using regular acupuncture treatments as well as herbal therapies and healthy diet. We approach our practice as a lifestyle medicine.

In what ways can acupuncture improve, heal and/or affect movement?

Ruth: At the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) pain-treating philosophy is the Mandarin phrase, Bu Tong Zi Tong.  Bu Tong Zi Tong literally means, “No movement [there] is pain,” or stagnation of any kind will result in pain. The idea with acupuncture is to remove this stagnation of qi . When the life force is flowing, healing and balance occur. Movement is the basis of harmony and well being in TCM. 

Lauren: Acupuncture improves, heals and affects movement. In Chinese Medicine, pain is described as stagnation in one of your 12 primary channels. These channels represent different points of the body. Providing acupuncture increases range of motion and flexibility by increasing circulation and decreasing overall inflammation along with decreasing muscle soreness and spasms. Also, it helps with state of mind because it decreases stress and improves sleep cycles so your body can heal at night.

Explain the spiritual benefits you derive from breathing exercise and low-impact movement?

Ruth: Breath is the root of all life. It puts us in touch with our most authentic self. It puts us in the space to be aware of that connection to all things. That is true spirituality to me.

Lauren: The biggest thing is clarity of mind. Breathing exercise and low-impact movement broaden your outlook while everyday life tends to narrow it as we stress over the little things.

Explain the artistry of acupuncture and how you think creativity plays into the process.

Ruth: One of the most important aspects of TCM is that each individual has a specific and unique diagnosis individual to them. It is called a pattern of disharmony. Many aspects of the human being are taken into account including body, mind and spirit. There is no separation of these qualities when treating the patient. We do not treat symptoms. We treat the individual pattern of disharmony of each patient.

How do you incorporate movement into your own life?

Ruth: I depend on activity for mental, physical and spiritual health. I am an avid surfer. I do Pilates 3-4 times a week. I play tennis and swim. I have practiced Ashtanga Yoga for decades.

Lauren: I practice yoga 3-4 times per week. I also surf, practice pilates, run and play tennis. Yoga provides a spiritual release for me and movement in general helps give me balance and relieves me from stress and depression.

How does the intake of herbs play into your practice?

Ruth: Herbs are prescribed with the same intent as acupuncture or any healing modality that is practiced in TCM. Herbal formulas are aimed at restoring harmony and balance.

Lauren: Herbal medicine plays a vital role in Eastern Medicine treatment process. I most commonly use herbal medicine in internal medical disorders. I also use it in prevention of disease, management of side effects of medication, and to treat underlying deficiencies that are complicating a patients disease.

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