What's it like to get community acupuncture?

Lots of people who want to know what we do at Inland Island Community Wellness Centre are most curious about community acupuncture, in part because it's not something they're familiar with. I wanted to share with you my first experience of receiving community acupuncture as a patient, years before I became a practitioner and opened Inland Island. Hopefully it will give you a good picture of what to expect and how good it can feel! 

One of the practitioners at Six Degrees working their magic

One of the practitioners at Six Degrees working their magic

Back in 2012 I was dealing with a heck of a lot of stress. I was in school 40+ hours/week, working a part-time job, living with my partner and trying to maintain a relationship with him, and commuting for at least 3 hours of my day every day. Things weren't bad - almost everything that was stressing me out I had taken on by choice in one way or another - but I was having trouble coping with all I had committed to. And then I lost a really good friend in an accident and any semblance of balance I had been maintaining flew out the window. I started to feel anxious, tight chested, have poor digestion, insomnia, incredible PMS, etc. You get the picture. 

A friend  was offering a PWYC gentle yoga class at Six Degrees in Toronto on an evening I actually had free so I went to check it out. The class was wonderful, but the community acupuncture space next to the studio kind of bowled me over. Soft and peaceful music was playing as five resting people lay back in recliners, staring at the art on the walls or napping. It looked blissful. I wanted to badly to sit in one of those chairs too. What a difference from the impersonal and clinical rooms I was used to receiving acupuncture in.

I went back a week later for an appointment with one of the acupuncturists (known as "acupunks" in community acupuncture parlance). I checked in at the front desk, paid anonymously in advance, took some bed sheets from the shelf at the entrance to the acupuncture room, and chose a recliner that was calling my name. The acupuncturist came over with the intake form I had filled out and crouched by my chair. "Hey," she said, "how ya doing?" I, of course, burst into the quietest tears I could muster and unloaded all that I had been carrying around. She listened, she nodded, she agreed that it was a lot, and then asked to look at my tongue and take my pulse.  A few minutes later, the needles were in and I lay back and finally, I relaxed.

There were other people having treatments too, but I didn't pay attention to them. I didn't feel called to at all, I felt utterly and completely in my own body. I think that's one of acupuncture's gifts; it can be a tool for practicing mindfulness, something that often happens during a treatment to the receiver even without the intention to do so. For some reason, I feel like that part of the modality works even better in a community setting vs. being in a private room. In a space filled with others who are totally relaxed, it somehow makes it easier to get there yourself. Those of us who play the role of acupunk will tell you there is 100% a certain kind of energy that you can feel in the room when multiple people are getting poked (by acupuncture needles, obviously) at the same time. It's special. 

I have been going to community acupuncture for years since, and I am just so so excited to be able to offer community acupuncture to the lovely people of Hamilton. You gotta try it!