Acupuncture in Berlin

A photo posted by ARTGESCHOSS (@artgeschoss) on

Image from an art installation at the Braunschweig Welfenakademie, a 3 year business school.  The artist, Ingolf Keiner creates works based on extreme states of the physical body.  Apparently, the acupuncture model inspired him.   

Last month I had the wonderful opportunity to take a quick 5 day trip to Berlin. While I was expecting a fast-paced urban center, what I found was a slow moving, gentle town filled with flowering trees, songbirds and surprisingly, acupuncture centers every few blocks or so.  

I stayed in a sweet part of town, Prenzlauer Berg, an area of Berlin previously in East German territory.  In the 1990's it was an freewheeling low income area, where artists took over vacant buildings for living and working, with small hole-in-the wall restaurants, drinking spots and not much else.  In the past decade, Prenzlauer Berg has been subjected to the same gentrification phenomenon that a lot of american cities are going through.  But this gentrification has been a much more laid back, european style gentrification.  Buildings have been renovated but not turned into luxury condos, small hand decorated gourmet restaurants opened, but not with outlandish prices, small markets and health food stores on every other block.   And, exciting for me to see,  the  "Akupunktur" sign showed up on every third or fourth block!  

In Germany, there is one general licensing exam for all alternative medicine, including massage, physiotherapy, reiki, herbalism, homeopathy, acupuncture etc.   The exam is heavy on the western sciences, ensuring that everyone hanging a shingle to practice some form of healthcare is familiar with in-depth anatomy and physiology.  After passing this demanding exam, practitioners are free to design their own modality of healing.  My partner's long term friend frequented an acupuncture center which combined acupuncture with a postural therapy called "The Dorn Method".   Another friend received both acupuncture and massage from a single practitioner.   Another friend saw the acupuncturist a block away from her house for a variety of physical and stress complaints and received homeopathic formulations from them.  In short, maybe I was in a very particular circle of people, but most people I spoke in Berlin to had received acupuncture regularly at some point in the recent past.   This is a far cry from the New York public, where 10 people will have 10 different responses to "what is acupuncture" ranging from  - 'yes, I love it and I love my acupuncturist' to 'what is it, that thing with needles/pins' to 'does it hurt' or the vehement 'I don't believe in stuff like that'.   This was eye opening to me, an implicit acceptance and creativity of healthcare and wellness exploration in a culture that we associate with precision, rigidity and historical conservatism.  

Farewell for Berlin,  'till next time! Until then I'll miss your peaceful, nature filled streets, and your love of healing. 


Water, Swimming and Cold Weather

One of my favorite things to is spend time in the water.   The ocean, a lake or even an indoor pool is a great way to come in contact with water, one of the five elements of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.  Spending time around or immersed in water is relaxing, focusing and brings us back to our center and our "destiny path" according to Chinese Five Element theory. Swimming is an excellent exercise to decompress the back, especially the low back,  and strengthen mid and lower back muscles which are strained and atrophied by our typical 8 hour + desk workday.   It also builds arm and chest strength, which our pedestrian focused city is often ignored. 

In Chinese Medicine, the back is dominated by Water element.  It's only fitting that swimming and exercising in the water would be one of the most therapeutic forms of exercise for the entire back creating length and stretch as well as building strength with every swimming stroke.  The Water element is governed by the Kidney and Bladder organs, whose meridians flow alongside the spine, from the inner corner of the eye, in two parallel lines down the back of the head and neck, along the spine, down the middle of the hamstrings, the calves and ending on the little toe. 

Today, I was visiting family in Long Island and a group of us took a walk on the beach in 50 degree weather.  The ocean spray with its mineral rich saline mist, and negative ions generated by the breaking waves are therapeutic for everyone.  It's especially curative for upper respiratory conditions, even in the colder weather.  As long as you are wearing appropriate clothing and keeping the head and neck warm, a walk along the ocean can be beneficial for migraines, sinus congestion, allergies, and the common cold.    In Chinese Medicine, the Kidney organ is the root of our immune system or the body's defensive energy.  Strengthening the Kidney and Water element will energetically contribute to a stronger immune system.  

For those who are young and fearless or with great Kidney Yang energy, even a dip in the ocean in 50 degree weather can be beneficial... as with my teenage friend: