gmhTODAY Winter 2023 - Page 28

New Year , New Approaches to Health

by Crystal Han
The New Year is a great time to get back to our healthy routines , or perhaps develop new ones . Typically we turn to diet and exercise to achieve our health goals , which can seem daunting after a holiday season full of drinks , desserts , and travel . While healthy eating and exercise are great , exploring practices like acupuncture and yoga can also boost your health in ways you might not realize .
Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a 4000-year-old system of Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted into strategic points on the body . Today it ’ s used to treat a variety of problems , including chronic pain , anxiety , allergies , and even infertility .
Many in Western society tend to regard acupuncture with some skepticism . How can needles help with something like chronic pain ? Winson Chen , who runs the Winson Chen Acupuncture clinic in Morgan Hill , explains that acupuncture has positive effects that can be observed . “ Chronically contracted muscles get really tight , which can cause neck pain and lower back pain . When you place the needles in , your body doesn ’ t know what to do with them , so it sends all of the blood flow to those points and the muscle is forced to relax , which resolves some of the pain symptoms ,” he explained . Chen said the needles also cause the body to release endorphins , which puts the body into a parasympathetic “ calm ” state , so that the patient is more relaxed and less stressed .
When you have less pain and muscle tightness , you ’ re more motivated to go for a morning run or do things that you enjoy . Additionally , acupuncture has the potential to reduce the amount of medications some people need . Some of Chen ’ s patients have been able to reduce their anxiety and pain medications after regular acupuncture treatments . In a case study for one of Chen ’ s allergy patients , the patient was able to achieve a 70 % reduction in allergy medications after two months of acupuncture treatment . All of this allows for a better quality of life . “ If you reduce your medication , the side effects like drowsiness go away , and you ’ re able to drive again and go outside again ,” he explained .
The concept of having needles stuck in you might sound stressful or scary , but Ahnna Goosen , an acupuncturist from the Heart Space Studio in Gilroy , reassures that what you ’ re coming in for usually hurts far worse . She likens the feeling to having a hair plucked . “ It ’ s very common to be scared — it ’ s something new , it ’ s something different , it seems weird — but the deep relaxation you receive far outweighs that small discomfort ,” she said .
Goosen has taken acupuncture ’ s relaxing properties to the next level by offering sound healing sessions a few Fridays a month . She applies the acupuncture needles to her patients and then plays crystal singing bowls while they ’ re resting . The singing bowls can offer a meditative effect , which neuroscientific research has shown improves mood and cognitive function , as well as reduces stress hormones .
Since stress can cause or compound all types of health problems , Goosen feels that the combination of acupuncture and sound healing are a gentle non-invasive way to relax and reset your body so that you can achieve your health goals .
Yoga
Yoga focuses on creating harmony between the mind and the body by practicing slow , controlled movements , and deep breathing , which increase blood flow and warm up the muscles .
Among the uninitiated , Yoga is often believed to be “ just stretching ” and is dismissed as not a real workout , which always makes Jen Carrubba , a yoga instructor and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Yoga Collective studio , smile . “ All they need to do is come to a class to realize it ’ s not just ‘ om-ing ’ and breathing ,” she said , “ Sometimes you don ’ t feel like you ’ re getting a workout , but you are . A lot of it is what you ’ re willing to put into the postures and transitions . It takes focus , discipline , and control .”
Yoga not only helps build strength , balance , and flexibility , but it also improves bone density , a fact that the Yoga Collective ’ s other co-founder , Paula Rasmussen , believes is changing views on yoga . “ When medical practitioners started realizing that using your physical body weight against itself on the mat does build bone , I think that ’ s when they started paying attention that yoga was an option to tell people to build bone strength . You don ’ t just have to go lift weights ,” she said . Considering greater bone density helps prevent breaks later in life , practicing yoga can be a great approach for long-term health .
28 WINTER 2023 gmhTODAY Magazine gmhtoday . com