What do Acupuncture and the Great Outdoors Have in Common?

Posted by Genevieve Boyer



I signed up in May for the David Suzuki Foundation’s 30 x 30 Challenge, which involved making the commitment to spend at least 30 minutes in nature for 30 consecutive days in May.

The purpose of the challenge was to encourage people to get outside on a regular basis. I tend to get outside a lot anyway, but I thought it would be fun to commit to getting outside daily in May. So I have been getting out in a lot lately, which got me to thinking about the relationship between acupuncture and the natural world we live in.

When people find out that I did a degree in zoology before taking my acupuncture training, a common comment that I get is “Wow, that was quite the change of direction, from Zoology to acupuncture,” and my answer is always, “Not as much as you might think.”

Traditional Chinese Medicine originated from Daoism, which is essentially a study of the principles that govern the natural world (and how to live in harmony with these laws to enhance health and longevity). The concept that the internal environment of the body is a reflection of the external environment (the natural world around us) and that both follow the same natural laws is inherent to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In fact, a famous Daoist painting called the Nei Jing Tu looks like a landscape painting but is actually a symbolic depiction of the human body. Considering that my zoology coursework was split pretty evenly between physiology (the study of the internal environment of the body) and ecology (the study of the natural world all around us), my Bachelor of Science actually set me up very well for the study of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.

So acupuncture is rooted in the study of the natural world around us. But I just recently discovered another wonderful relationship between acupuncture and the great outdoors, and it has to do with brain waves! When we get outside or do deep breathing, it brings us into an alert but relaxed, light meditative state associated with alpha brain waves1. This wave frequency tends to increase growth hormone and dopamine production, increase immunity and increase blood flow to the kidneys, while also reducing cholesterol, hypertension and cortisol levels1. Interestingly, a recent Chinese study studied the effect that acupuncture points traditionally chosen for their calming properties had on brain waves, and found that these points significantly increased the production of alpha waves after acupuncture treatment2.

So get outside in nature this spring and summer! And notice how you feel afterward. Do you feel more calm? More centered? More in tune with the world around you?

References
1. Lewis, Randine. Reproductive Treatment Training Seminar.
2. Zhou, XF, Li Y, Zhu H and Chen LL. 2013. Impacts of acupuncture at twelve meridian points on brainwaves of patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu 33(5): 395-8.

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