“Health is a state of complete physical, mental & social-well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” - World Health Organization, 1948
Over the years, I have created my own personal wellness toolbox. It is a place where I can go for resources to help me navigate through emotional, spiritual, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational and social aspects of my life. Full of resources, contacts, and essential information, these tools are on constant rotation.
Whether they are recipes from my notes when I was studying to become a Certified Health Coach from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition; charts and readings from my annual call with astrologer Maryellen; notes from years of life coaching with Ash Cebulka (re-read my interview with her here), my toolbox helps me to get my hands back on the wheel. It’s a place where I can go to find the tools to work through things when I feel “stuck”, to navigate through a difficult situation, or to simply recharge and refresh when the unexpected happens, and I become unbalanced.
There are two tools, however, that I do not have on a constant rotation that have profoundly impacted my life - a monthly visit with my acupuncturist and my therapist (more on that later).
Before we dive into talking about the practice of acupuncture, let me tell you about Cythera. Cythera is someone that puts her heart and soul into her work, guiding her patients through their journey. She helps people overcome and embrace emotional challenges, as well as physical health, by accessing the power of infinite within.
See below for my interview with Cythera Wilkerson, Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.), Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M.).
“Health is a complete state of harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.” B.K.S. Iyengar
SS: When I tell people I see an acupuncturist monthly, one of the first questions I am asked is “what do you go for”? My answer is always, EVERYTHING! Why is acupuncture such an effective therapy?
Cythera: I feel that acupuncture is such an effective therapy because it pays attention to the whole. When someone comes in with pain, it is important to listen to the information that is physically presented through this pain and it is equally important to explore the other parts of the system and how they are impacting this pain. We are complex, intricate individuals and all areas of our life are multi-faceted, even something as seemingly simple as back pain. We experience trauma and judgement in our lives and we try to store it away. Acupuncture is a modality that allows these held areas to awaken and evolve.
SS: In addition to Acupuncture, can you speak to the benefits of Gua Sha, Cupping, and Chinese Herbs? How would you define the difference between Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine?
Cythera: Gua sha, cupping, and Chinese herbs are three of the tools we use to help support the treatment principles which have been defined for each individual getting a treatment. A common treatment principle for athletes is blood stagnation (blood not moving in an area which causes pain) from the extensive use of certain muscle groups. I might supplement the points I have needled with some gua sha in the area of pain because it is helpful in blood movement (Gua sha is a small tool used in a scraping motion on the skin). I might also prescribe a formula with blood moving herbs to help support the work done in the treatment.
Western medicine is often focused on treating the presenting symptoms of a patient with less of an emphasis on the underlying factors, lifestyle components, and emotional health. Chinese medicine has strengths in examining the situation slowly, paying close attention to elements of the whole system. Western medicine has strengths in treating symptoms that need immediate care, particularly to those that are life-threatening. These are generalizations of experiences and stories I have heard from both. Many Western Doctors practice with a holistic approach and many Doctors of Oriental medicine practice with expediency and are adept in working in situations that require urgent care.
SS: What advice would you give to someone that is seeking out treatment for the first time?
Cythera: There are a lot of different acupuncturists that practice in a lot of different ways. Some really resonate with patients who are dealing with physical pain, others specialize in neurological disorders or autoimmune conditions while others enjoy work with psycho-emotional imbalances. It’s important to know what you want to explore with a practitioner and find one that fits your mold (which is becoming increasingly available as the field grows!). Other than that, try to enter into the experience with openness to the possibility for change. One of the biggest barriers to our health is the patterns we get into with our pain. Working to help shift some of those patterns can provide relief for many people.
SS: Can you speak to the importance of building a long-term relationship with a practitioner as they provide treatment?
Cythera: One of the main benefits of working with a practitioner long-term is that it provides the body and mind a space and commitment to healing in a safe environment. We all have some resistance to newness and the practices and shifts acupuncture may ask of your system take time to “settle in”. Learning to trust someone who provides resources that are supportive to your health is a valuable relationship to have and that can take some time to establish.
SS: What does wellness mean to you?
Cythera: Wellness is about understanding what your body is asking of you with the symptoms it’s showing you. It’s about taking time to hear the body with an open, non-judgmental heart. It’s about trusting the moment and whatever that moment has to bring you, even when it involves pain. It’s about reaching out for a community to support you and an ear to listen when that pain feels like it’s too much to handle on your own.
“Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” ~ Pema Chodron
Interested in making an appointment with Cythera, check out the Blue Heron Acupuncture & Apothecary website for availability and to learn more about the different services they offer.
As with anything that I share, feel free to reach out with questions or comments!