The breath is the most important aspect in Neijing acupuncture. The breath in acupuncture corresponds to the yin and yang cycles found in nature. There are two aspects to this cycle. The yang aspect of the breath occurs in the spring and summer when everything is expanding. The earth during these periods is inhaling and energy is moving upward and outward. The exhale occurs during the yin season which is the fall and winter. During this time, the energy is descending towards the ground where it is storing and contracting during the winter months. If we move with this breath cycle we are healthy, if we move against it, we become ill.
I am a New York City acupuncturist practicing on the Upper East side and have noticed that moving with this cycle is very difficult here because of the stimulation in NYC. The simplest way to move with this cycle is to have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep and to balance our work cycle and resting cycle in equal amounts. In NYC, the scale is often tipped in favor of working and staying up late.
The breath in both Western medicine and Chinese medicine is regulated by the lungs. The lung is the beginning of the channel system according to Ling Shu chapter 10. In the Neijing, the first thing listed signifies how important it is. In this case, the lung system is the foundation by which all circulation moves in the channel system. Su Wen chapter 8 states that the Lung governs the channel system and energy of the entire body. If the breathing mechanism is not working properly, the entire channel system fails to work.
Respiratory illnesses such as asthma directly affect the breathing mechanism. When we treat a person, we are checking the respiratory system, but more importantly, we are seeing how all the systems are interacting and observing how they are functioning. Each system will directly impact the breathing mechanism because the body is an intelligent integrated organism. When examining every patient in my Upper East Side acupuncture clinic, I ask myself the following questions :
How is the person's system breathing?
How is the person eating and digesting?
How is the person sleeping?
Does the person have enough resources for acupuncture treatments as determined by the pulse?
Are there any structural impairments that may prevent a person from healing?
Is there any cold circulation impairments within the system?
Has the person been exposed to environmental toxins? If so how much and what is the safest way to treat them?
In regards to the last questions about environmental toxin exposure, if acupuncture is performed correctly on a person who has been exposed to heavy amounts of toxins, acupuncture will facilitate the body's releasing of these toxins, through the skin. The ability to release these toxins depends on the ability of the lungs, liver, kidney, and large intestine to eliminate them from the body. These systems include our respiratory system, digestive, and urinary. If these systems are not strong enough, we will work to strengthen them prior to doing treatments to release environmental toxins from the body with our priority first involving the respiratory and digestive systems.
When treating chronic illnesses, no matter which illness they are experience, it is important to address all of these issues if present to set them on a solid foundation for healing. How a person is breathing goes beyond our conventional notion of breath. Yes acupuncture can help illnesses involving the lung, but acupuncture can help us beyond eliminating signs and symptoms. Understanding this, we can do our best to prevent illnesses from occurring in the first place. We have discussed how this breathing cycle is viewed in the macrocosm and how we can begin to breath with it. Essentially acupuncture is a medicine of movement. Movement implies directional qualities of motion. We mentioned that energy ascends and expands in the spring and summer and descend/contracts in the fall and winter. Our energy should be moving accordingly during those seasons. This is how we ensure the body stays healthy for many years to come.