Cindy is a patient who likes to send us notes before she comes to see us. On days that she does not have an appointment, we can usually expect to find on our desk a sweet, quirky, handwritten fax from her. These notes are usually updates on the ups and downs of her struggles with her stomach and her anxieties. But recently we received a note that surprised us -- instead of describing some of her usual concerns, it told of delightful news. She told us that her 95-year-old mother-in-law, who is a "member in good standing of the plastic surgery club," came on a rare visit to see her and was suspiciously surprised at how great Cindy looked. Her mother-in-law had had three facelifts, and thought that Cindy had gotten one too.
But Cindy hadn't had any surgery. She had been getting acupuncture treatments for her health concerns. She had come to the Tao Institute for her muscle spasms and abdominal tightness stemming from anxiety and fear. She was seeking acupuncture and help from Traditional Chinese Medicine and other mind-body techniques I used. Improving the way she felt was a higher priority to her than changing the way she looked.
The next week she ran into a friend who she sees only once a year. The friend kept asking what she did to her face, also suspecting that it was a facelift. Until she received these comments, first from her mother-in-law, and then from her friend, Cindy didn't really appreciate how her face had changed through her acupuncture and mind-body treatments.
Because of our reputation for doing cosmetic acupuncture, as part of our practice we also apply needles to targeted points on the face even if beauty is not the patient's primary concern. As a result, patients often see a subtle but noticeable change in the texture and quality of their skin over time -- or, as is often the case, the people around them notice first. We call this the facelift that comes with a health lift.
Fashion designer Norma Kamali, like Cindy, came to us with a personal concern. But instead of needing to address a particular health problem, she chiefly wanted to have a beauty boost. She also had a desire to learn about wellness. Since Sept. 11, she has been promoting natural wellbeing, which she feels is desperately needed in our society. She started a wellness cafe in her store and made healthy eating a big part of her mission. When we first saw her, she was on a quest for more answers about natural healing, and was investigating how Chinese medicine can improve beauty and health.
Her search lead her to our South Jersey office two hours away every Thursday afternoon. There, she received facial acupuncture, and after every treatment, she saw and felt a difference in her face and body. After she returned to her office after the first session of acupuncture, her colleagues commented with surprise on how well she looked. She received compliments from people who don't even know what she had been doing with her face.
As Norma saw more evidence of facial acupuncture's effects, she began asking me how acupuncture could cause such visible change. Her initial questions led to more questions, and her glowing complexion became a billboard for facial acupuncture, driving more and more women to us for the treatment.
The more people became interested, the more I found myself explaining Traditional Chinese Medicine, the face-body connection, and how acupuncture works. Facial acupuncture requires special skills and knowledge, which have been largely lost over the years with the increasing use of Western medicine in the East and the suppression of traditional teachings under communist rule. I have made it a point to refer to the most original texts and sources as the basis of my acupuncture practice. In order to understand why facial acupuncture works, one must first grasp the basic concepts behind Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In TCM theory, each part of the face is connected with an internal organ system. Each plane of the face corresponds to an organ system, and physical structures or features of the face -- such as hair, color, ligaments and connective tissue, bones -- also connect with an organ system.
For instance, color on the face is connected with blood circulation, which is a function of the heart system. The skin's texture is connected with the lungs-large intestines energetic system. The concept of an organ-based energy system is unique to Traditional Chinese Medicine, and refers to more than the organs the systems are named after.
Because of that face-body connection, the points on the face where we apply needles directly influence the corresponding energetic systems. We stimulate them to create balance in the whole body. And because of this connection, there are points on the body that correspond with points on the face. So it goes both ways -- we use points on the body to stimulate the face and points on the face to stimulate the body's energy systems.
Because acupuncture does not act on a superficial level like Botox, fillers, or plastic surgery do, it really improves the health and wellness of your face and body. It energizes you physically, mentally, and spiritually. It brings true health and true beauty to a person.
Of course, since it's not a quick fix, it's a process and a project that requires time and commitment. I recommend a minimum of 30 sessions of treatment, preferably one to three times a week, and frequent reevaluation and adjustment in addition to consultation in regards to nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle. And because a person's beauty is more than structural beauty, but also a reflection of one's spirit, I include counseling and light psychotherapy in my treatment as part of an integrative approach to wellness.
After 30 sessions, you're not only getting a fresher-looking face -- you feel better too. From the Chinese medicine perspective, bringing beauty to the face is not a superficial thing; it is bringing true health to your life.
Dr. JIngduan Yang is the medical director of the Tao Institute of Mind & Body Medicine.
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