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Tonification and/or Draining
stimulating, reducing, sedation, dispersion...
I've been teaching acupuncture this summer (2009) and one of the most interesting, but confusing, frustrating aspects is the question of stimulating, or reducing, energy at an acupuncture point. It's an important question, but chasing it in the literature yields no simple, or consistent, answers. None of the texts, fully, agree.
There are two major approaches to tonifying, or dispersing. One involves "needling techniques", and the other uses the relationships of "elements" or "phases".
There are many needling techniques to strengthen or reduce (see below), but the most popular technique is to rotate the needle clockwise to disperse and counter-clockwise to tonify. So why isn't this a satisfactory answer? If it works empirically, it works! Maybe, but maybe there is more to this.
I want to digress for a moment, and to talk about "energy work". I've met many people who have said that our right side is our creative/masculine side and our left side is our receptive/feminine side, and that you can send energy with your right hand and take energy with the left. But I think there is a more basic, and simpler, rule, which is that "energy follows intention." Its a rule that John Uppledger of CranioSacral Therapy subscribes to. When I was doing his advanced module with him he would have us start by putting both hands on the "patient" and giving, sending energy, and then taking, drawing energy. If you do this frequently, you get so that you can actually feel it, physically. Energy follows intention. Believe that you can only give with your right, and you're right. Set-up a rule that counter-clockise tonifies and clockwise sedates, and they will.
the texts are confusing. For example:
Questions and Answers about Acupuncture and Moxibustion teaches that in
the ascending channels leftward rotation of the needle strengthens and rightward
rotation drains. The opposite is said to occur in the descending channels. The
Ode of the Golden Needle instructed: For men, leftward rotation with
the thumb advancing during exhalation strengthens, rightward rotation during inhalation
drains. The opposite is said to be true
of women, for whom everything is reversed in the aftrenoon. (See below.)
I don't know if I've yet said it well, but it needs to be said: in acupuncture, to a great extent, giving or taking energy depends on intent.
There's another factor! Acupuncture points... needled acupuncture points tend to be homeostatic. If the Qi is low, the Qi flows in. If the Qi is high, it disperses.
And again, a most important consideration:... the nature of the (specific) point, to a large extent, determines what will happen. Talking about this with my student, Monty, he brought up the different nature of Governing Vessel/Du 20 and 26. Du 20, Baihui, calms people down. It is a sedation point. Anton Jayasuriya called it, "the valium point." Du 26, Renzhong, will tend to alert, wake up, the patient (while "calming the spirit"). It is a stimulating point.
So, we can send energy, or take energy, and meanwhile the points tend to be homeostatic, and beyond this the points have their own agendas in tonifying or sedating...
For a discussion of some of the techniques based on elements, phases, google "mother-child" and google "horary points".
technique according to Anton Jayasuriya|
|after O'Connor, Bensky|
division of rotation techniques
into strengthening and draining characteristics is founded as early as the writing
of Dou Hanquin (Jin/Yuan period). In Ode to the Standard of Mystery, it
is written that rotation to the right (clockwise) drains, while rotation to the
left (counter-clockwise) strengthens. The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and
Moxibustion provides: Leftward rotation after midnight [the period of
Yang ascendency] can move all the Yang [Qi] outward; rightward rotation after
noon can move all the Yin [Qi] inward. This passage is clearly an extension
of the idea that right is Yin and left is Yang. Because of this, the relationship
between needle rotation and strengthening or draining became even more confused.
For example, the Ode of the Golden Needle instructed: For men, leftward
rotation with the thumb advancing during exhalation strengthens, rightward rotation
during inhalation drains. The opposite is said to be true of women, for
whom everything is reversed in the aftrenoon. The Introduction to Medicine
gathered a variety of factors when related to strengthening and draining including
distinctions between left and right, arm and leg, Yin and Yang, male and female,
before and after noon, inhalation and exhalation, etc. The Questions and Answers
about Acupuncture and Moxibustion teaches that in the ascending channels (the
3 arm Yang, 3 leg Yin and Conception, leftward rotation of the needle strengthens
and rightward rotation drains. The opposite is said to occur in the descending
channels (3 arm Yin, 3 leg Yang, and Governing channels).
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