Winter In CaliforniaWhat is sickness and what allows for healing? Students at the Academy for Five Element Acupuncture may find themselves asking these questions again and again. The clinical residency inspires students to challenge their assumptions about health as they begin to explore the power of the medicine they have been studying.

At the Academy, students learn to see the mind and body in a new way. Western medicine certainly recognizes some degree of mind-body connection, especially when it comes to stress. Chronic stress is known to negatively impact health and contribute to many major diseases. The Five Element system takes this idea many steps further, with a nuanced spectrum of emotions and experiences that might show up in the body or the spirit.

If health and vitality are based on natural movement and change in the flow of life, then emotions and experiences that halt that movement can contribute to illness, pain and other manifestations of poor health.

Each of the five elements—Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water—moves in a different way. Simply put, Wood is the forceful forward burst of spring. Fire is the upward rise of a flame. Earth is the centering and stability of the ground beneath our feet. Metal descends. Water spreads and moves through the spaces that contain it.

These types of movement show up in the qualities of the seasons, times of day, and different aspects of nature. The five elements also move within each of us, through speech, thoughts and actions. If one or more of the elements are not moving in the way they should, we feel it in our minds or our bodies.

When discomfort or illness strikes, where do we look? Instead of lab tests and MRI’s, Five Element Acupuncture might ask where we have gotten stuck in our lives. Is our vital energy not moving in the way it should? Are we holding something in? What beliefs are keeping us from living our full potential? These types of questions can lead to deep healing in the acupuncture clinic.

One interesting example of stuck-ness transforming to movement happens when patients speak about their lives during treatment. Maybe a conversation happens when they first come in, seeking help with a physical or emotional issue. Or within a treatment, a certain acupuncture point might move the patient to speak about an experience they have kept inside. Through speaking their experiences out loud, patients can sometimes restart the movement of their body and spirit. This is an opportunity for healing.

Under the guidance of clinical supervisors, students get to witness the healing process in action. They become an instrument of change for their patients. Symptoms that might have had no apparent cause or easy solution can dissipate, sometimes fairly quickly, through acupuncture treatment. The process is often awe-inspiring, and challenges students to rethink their ideas and open to new viewpoints on healing.