Welcome to I Tried It Month, where we’ll be publishing a new fashion, beauty, or wellness article every day in January that features a first-person account of shaking up an old habit, pushing beyond a comfort zone, or simply trying something new. Follow along for 31 days of storytelling, including everything from going without a cellphone for 40 days to trying the polarizing low-rise pants trend.
There are some people who are game to try anything once. I am not one of them. As a picky eater with a fear of heights and persistent low-grade anxiety, trying new things isn’t exactly inside my comfort zone. In years past, I’ve struggled to come up with a challenge to undertake for Who What Wear's annual I Tried It Month, but in 2021, after cleaning out our NYC office, moving apartments, and continuing to adapt to life in the COVID-19 era, I decided it was time to try something different in order to help manage my stress.
Enter Wthn—or rather, I entered Wthn—the Manhattan-based acupuncture and holistic healing center co-founded by Shari Auth, doctor of Chinese medicine and chief healer. Other than having tiny needles inserted into various points on my body, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from acupuncture. But thanks to friends and family members who shared their positive experiences using acupuncture to treat digestion issues, insomnia, and PMS, I knew to approach this process with an open mind. At the very least, I would be forced to lay still and focus on my breathing for 45 minutes each week—a guaranteed benefit for anyone who struggles with turning “off” when the default is to always be online and available.
After a month of consistent acupuncture sessions, I have learned so much more about the connection between my physical and mental wellbeing. Each week, Auth asked me to evaluate my mood, energy levels, and identify areas on which to focus the session’s treatment. I went from being hyper-aware of the 20 plus needles in my body at the first session to completely relaxed and rejuvenated after just a few sessions. Not only did my stress levels become more manageable (Auth could see this was from my mood by looking at my tongue), but I was also able to get more restful sleep. As an added bonus, my skin has never looked better—something I attribute to acupuncture, Wthn's propriety blend of herbs, and, of course, a good skincare routine.
In a twist that will surprise absolutely no one, I tried something new, and I actually enjoyed it. In fact, I plan on making acupuncture part of my regular routine in 2022 and beyond. Fortunately, Wthn makes this easy to do by accepting FSA dollars, and acupuncture is covered under some insurance plans. If you’re curious about how acupuncture might help address your wellness goals, keep reading to learn more about acupuncture and my experience working with Auth.
What are the most common reasons people turn to acupuncture for healing?
While acupuncture is recognized to treat hundreds of conditions, at Wthn, most commonly we see clients for pain, stress/anxiety, digestive health, women’s health, and general wellness.
Since COVID has created a new urgency around taking care of yourself more proactively, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of clients coming in for preventative care and general wellness. There is a broader awareness about the long-term effects of chronic ailments and the need to treat symptoms early on before they become. In particular, addressing chronic stress before it manifests into digestive disorders or anxiety/panic attacks and loosening up sore muscles or addressing areas of pain before they become deeper injuries.
In ancient China, you saw your acupuncturist when you were well and if you got sick your doctor was considered to have failed you and you would go for free until you felt better. We are taking acupuncture back to its roots by offering preventative care that helps clients optimize their immunity, energy, digestion, sleep, and mood. Wthn is the first modern acupuncture studio offering a membership, which makes regular care affordable.
What should people expect at their first acupuncture session?
Wthn is an immersive experience designed for deep relaxation. To enhance the experience, we offer heated tables, guided sound therapy, aromatherapy, and a wellness lounge with our signature healing tea.
All of our treatments at Wthn are personalized to an individual’s health goals and needs. At the first visit, there will be an in-depth discussion to identify the best plan. At Wthn, we use traditional Chinese Medicine methods to understand a client’s health holistically before determining the best treatment plan. The Healer may ask a variety of questions beyond just the main reason a client has come to Wthn to develop a holistic view of the client’s health. For example, they may ask about bowel movements or menstrual cycles. In addition, a Healer may also look at your tongue and feel your pulse, which in TCM can provide our Healers with more detailed health insights.
Are the needles painful?
People often ask if the needles are painful, but the answer is no! Acupuncture needles are the size of a single human hair, and we use a painless style of treatment at Wthn. Acupuncture is actually deeply relaxing and it’s common for people to fall asleep on the table during a session (we call this an acu-nap!). Clients typically leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after a session.
How should people prepare?
Not much is needed to prepare for a session—clients can come as is—no need to wear anything special for us! There is privacy to remove clothes as needed, Turkish towels to cover up and heated tables to keep clients warm. We do advise all clients to eat a little something beforehand. Doesn’t need to be a full meal, but it’s best not to come on an empty stomach so as to avoid feeling lightheaded.
How often do you recommend people do acupuncture, and why does frequency make a difference?
Acupuncture has a cumulative effect because it is building up your body’s natural systems over time (i.e., regulating hormone levels, reducing inflammation, and increasing circulation). Therefore, in order to experience the best results, consistency in treatments is important.
While recommended frequency varies depending on the individual’s personal health goals and needs, weekly acupuncture is ideal for wellness and preventative care. At the beginning of an acupuncture journey, we typically start with weekly treatments for the first 4–6 weeks and then the acupuncturist may adjust the plan as needed for maintenance. The main reason why Wthn designed a membership model is to make regular acupuncture more accessible.
My Acupuncture Journey
How did you choose the first treatment plan for me?
All acupuncture treatments at Wthn are customized to meet a client’s needs. Your chief complaints were stress and fatigue, so I picked acupuncture points that would give you energy and lift your spirits. I also prescribed the Wthn herb blend Fully Charged, a proprietary blend of Chinese herbs that scientific studies show increase endurance, lift depression and help with focus.
Which points did you target, and why?
There are many points that help with energy and anxiety, and we used about 15 points in your treatment. Included in your treatment were Kidney 3 and Stomach 36, two excellent points to increase energy.
Why do some points hurt more than others?
While acupuncture is usually painless, you may experience more sensation when some points are needled over others. Points located towards the extremities (hands and feet) are more sensitive because there are more nerve endings in that area. Points can also be sensitive if the muscle under the acupoint is really tight, but this can also be a “hurts so good” sensation as well.
Upon my second (third, fourth, etc.) visit, how did you know the treatment was working?
After a month of weekly acupuncture sessions and taking Fully Charged daily, you reported having more energy. Your presence was more upbeat and your health complaints shifted to feeling anxious and excited about future plans. In response to your anxiety and sleep issues I shifted the treatments to be very relaxing and calming, Using points like Pericardium 6 and Spleen 6 to calm the mind and prescribing Wthn’s adaptogenic stress blend, Run The World and Wthn’s sedative sleep blend, Dream On.
How could you tell we were making progress?
Your tongue also confirmed that your fatigue had been healed. In Chinese medicine, the tongue is full of diagnostic information. When someone has fatigue they usually have teeth marks on the sides of their tongue, we referred to this as a scalloped tongue in Chinese medicine (see image below). You originally had this but after taking Fully Charged and getting weekly acupuncture for a month the teeth marks on your tongue disappeared.
Healing is a journey. As a practitioner, how do you and your client determine when to change paths, or conclude?
Every treatment is customized based on the client’s health complaints and goals as well as what the acupuncturists observe. A client’s health can change suddenly so it’s important to modify a treatment plan as needed to stay current with a client’s needs. For example, one week you may feel a cold coming on and we could address that as a primary complaint, and the next week there are PMS symptoms. As treatment goals shift, it is good for the acupuncturist to mirror back to the client what they see and hear to ensure the acupuncturist and the client are on the same page.
Acupuncture can be used preventatively to manage stress, optimize digestion, sleep, immunity, and energy. Many clients find acupuncture because of a health complaint and when their health improves they continue to come for preventative care and general wellness to stay healthy.
How are herbs used in conjunction with acupuncture to promote healing or target specific needs?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a multimodal approach to healing that includes acupuncture, cupping, herbal medicine, and other modalities in order to address the root symptoms and get the best health results.
At Wthn, we like to think of acupuncture as weekly treatments with herbs as a daily at-home treatment that enhances the results and supports our clients in between in-person visits. Sometimes, acupuncture is slightly better for a condition and sometimes herbs are slightly better. Ultimately, when used together, they work synergistically for the best results.
What herbal supplements do you recommend most often? What do they do?
Working in New York City, my most commonly prescribed supplement is Wthn’s adaptogenic herb blend Run The World, which contains hero organic herbs including Ashwagandha, Tulsi, and Mimosa Tree. It’s incredible for mental health, treating the gambit of unsavory emotions such as anxiety, nervousness, overwhelm, irritability, frustration, and stress.
Run The World helps people feel calm, cool, and collected yet energized to tackle their day. It’s every New Yorker’s dream blend. I recommend taking three tablets first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and taking an optional second dose in the afternoon.
What products do you recommend for at-home maintenance and self-treatments?
I recommend taking herbs every day. Herbs are like superfoods; they are part of a healthy diet and can help bring you into better health and keep you healthy.
Likewise, ear seeds are an easy DIY treatment to do in between acupuncture sessions. In TCM, the ear has dozens of pressure points that have therapeutic benefits such as calming the mind, balancing hormones, and reducing pain.
Ear seeds are tiny beads on a clear plastic sticker that you apply a gentle, constant pressure point to activate. Ear seeds are on the skin and not in the skin, so it’s super safe and works great. We also offer ear seeds as an add-on to our acupuncture treatments to extend the results.
More Products to Use at Home
Sandra Lanshin Chiu, a licensed acupuncturist, TCM practitioner, and Chinese herbalist, designed this simple yet effective massage tool for use at home. “I love to use the massager after needling because you’ve just opened up all these channel meridians, relaxed and stimulated the muscles through acupuncture,” she explains. “Going in with the Lanshin Massager after just further works the body and tissue—it’s soothing and a great way to conclude treatment.”
Notably, the massager is used the same way independently or after a professional acupuncture treatment. Just make sure to test the temperature of the base beforehand, since it’s filled with hot water.
One of the most unexpectedly enjoyable elements of my acupuncture treatment was the sound therapy and guided meditations. Fortunately, Wthn makes it easy to replicate this experience at home with the full set of their meditative soundtracks (Chill, Escape, Focus, Balance, and Manifest) available via audio download.