I’m lying in a dark room in my underwear, covered only by a mylar blanket and a sprinkling of needles sticking into my skin. I’m clutching an emergency button. Why? I’m at The Yinova Center, one of New York City’s leading acupuncture, bodywork, and Chinese medicine practices. They have opened a new location in Brooklyn Heights and I am trying a consultation and treatment for free (usually $170 for initial visit) for this article. I never need the emergency button because I am so relaxed by the end of the session that I almost fall asleep.
There are many acupuncture spots in New York, but The Yinova Center (whose original location is in Flatiron) is renowned for their expertise in women’s health and the way they work in partnership with medical doctors on fertility treatments and pregnancy. “We noticed that a lot of our patients were coming from Brooklyn,” says Jill Blakeway, DACM, LAC, and founder of Yinova. “Our specialties, particularly the reproductive health specialties, pregnancy and fertility, and pediatrics, were really suited to Brooklyn where a lot of families move.” Chinese medicine has been found to greatly impact IVF, according to this study, this study, and this study. Plus, it turns out acupuncture and Chinese medicine create the perfect conditions for egg development, balancing hormones and enhancing uterine blood flow, among other things. But the center also offers integrative care for general health, for men, women, and children. It’s holistic care that treats the roots of the illness, rather than just the branches. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for anxiety, for instance, or for digestive issues, which is what I’m here for—acupuncture helps with that too.
My practitioner, Elizabeth, spends about 45 minutes with me on a consultation. She takes my pulse, looks at my tongue, but most importantly, listens to me speak. This might seem like a small thing, but the Western doctors I’ve been to in recent years have written off my issues in less than a minute under the umbrella of IBS and left it at that. This is definitely not the doctor’s fault and mostly has to do with how health care is set up and paid for in this country. Elizabeth lets me ramble on about my Google searches, my doctor visits, and my home remedies. Then she told me she thought I was suffering from “cold stomach,” as a result of my C-section years ago. This intuitively makes sense to me, and I feel like Elizabeth is a genius for connecting it to that, which coincidentally was when my issues started.
“Acupuncturists have a minimum standard of education,” Blakeway explains afterward. “They have either a master’s or a doctorate [which] takes them four or five years of tertiary education.” On top of that, she adds, Yinova’s practitioners go through a rigorous hiring process.
Elizabeth puts me on a plan to “warm up” my stomach. It would take at least five weekly sessions to see progress, but Elizabeth is confident. I am told to forego my daily cold salads and smoothies and switch to cooked vegetables, soups and teas. Her plan includes probiotics, heat, and a weekly regimen of needles.
An acupuncturist’s tools are less scary than they sound. “The needles are like hair, you could tie them in a knot,” says Blakeway. It’s true that the needles are thin enough that sometimes you don’t even notice them pricking your skin. At times, though, you do feel a twitch in a different part of your body because under your skin everything is connected through a band of muscle called the fascia.
“I wrote an entire chapter on acupuncture in Energy Medicine because I wanted to explain the science behind it,” says Blakeway about her new book, published by Harper Collins in early April. Part memoir, part scientific study, Energy Medicine takes a critical look at different modes of healing with energy, beyond the one form we are most familiar with, Reiki. As she mentions, just one chapter is devoted to acupuncture; the rest details her travels around the world to document the ways people use therapeutic touch. One example in the book relays the successful animal studies in which a hands-on healing technique cured mammary cancer in mice.
Seemingly written for skeptics, Blakeway details this fascinating energy healing landscape with exhaustive research and granular studies on the subject matter, including an entire chapter on charlatans and placebos. She says that she started the book “in search of tangible evidence that energy healing exists,” and to explain the work she was doing and what she was offering her patients. It fills a hole in the market where science, and not just spirituality, is used to try to understand the compelling field of healing and wellness. After reading the book, it seems like much about energy healing is still cloaked in mystery, but the world of science is slowly coming around to its benefits.
The week following my first treatment, I felt things changing within my body. I went back for a second treatment and am scheduled now for a third. In that time (almost four weeks) my health seems to have improved. I haven’t had a stomach ache since I began, and I would describe my digestion as now being semi-regular, which is a big change. Also, I’ve seen an increase in my energy levels, and I’ve been waking up before my alarm clock.
I’ve also been prescribed a tincture. Each of the practitioners at Yinova is also a licensed herbalist and they blend their own formulas in-house with herbs sourced from trusted growers and manufacturers. Once my body is in “balance,” I’d only need to see my acupuncturist three times a year for well visits, but for now, I’m on a weekly plan.
At each session, Yinova’s practitioners gather a true barometer of my health just as a Western clinician would, recording things like my pulse. The success of the treatments is not just based on my opinion, in other words, but on actual data points.
The Yinova Center, 147 Remsen St., Brooklyn Heights, 718.928.6533
Initial Consultation & First Treatments begin at $170; Follow Up Treatments start at $135; Pediatric Initial Consultation is $100 and Pediatric Follow Up Treatment $75. Multi-treatment packages are also available.