By Patricia Wersinger
The Classical Wellness Center offers classical acupuncture consultations with Ann Cecil Sterman, its director, as well as with twenty other classically trained acupuncturists. Acupuncture is part of Chinese Medicine and stands as the oldest medical model in the world. Chinese Medicine is founded upon the principle of Qi (basic energy) and the observation of its flow, cycles and rhythms. Illness is considered to be the consequence of an unbalanced or lacking Qi and the task of the acupuncturist is to determine how best to enhance that person’s energetic system.
The acupuncturist treats someone’s Qi by inserting needles at points in the body by which the energy of the body can be stimulated. The pathways of Qi running throughout the body are known as meridians. Each meridian is linked with a particular organ and is responsible for many functions in our bodies, minds and spirits.
All this being said, very few people in the United States know that what passes for acupuncture in this country is in fact a simplified, standardized, westernized version of acupuncture that was put together after the Cultural Revolution in China by Mao Tse Tung. In 1911, the leader of the Republican Revolution toppled the last Emperor of China, ending the dynastic system. Chinese medicine was dismissed as being feudal and out of tune with the supposedly scientific principles of Marxism. A highly structured and more predictable paradigm that became associated with the western scientific view of quantifiable research as the highest truth was set in its place.
In the 1950s, acupuncture was reincorporated into the Chinese health care system but Communist ideals decreed that the new medicine should be free of the concept of spirituality and standardized for uniform study. The 68 meridians were reduced to 14. Speedy, direct diagnosis and treatment replaced the traditional task of acupuncture to make an individual diagnosis, unique to each patient. Those ideals created a type of Chinese medicine that is both accessible to western students and distant from the old roots that have come to be referred to as Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM).
Modern Acupuncture is therefore a Communist version of acupuncture explains Ann Cecile Sterman, not the complex field that it was before Communism impoverished and standardized it. The term of “traditional Chinese medicine” was tagged to this new version to simply distinguish that brand of medicine from western medicine. It is this version that is overwhelmingly taught and practiced as Chinese medicine across the world.
What is unusual about the Classical Wellness Center is that its trained acupuncturists practice pre-Mao acupuncture, a rarity in the acupuncture world today. As fitting ancient models, Ann Cecil Sterman’s task is always to create a unique healing procedure fitted to the patient’s needs. The sensitivity, intuition, intention of the practitioner and her or his ability to establish rapport with a person’s spirit are crucial factors in determining the success of the treatment of a patient. Finding what exactly works for you according to your body, mind and spirit is the challenge of Classical Acupuncture.
Ann Cecile Sterman emphasizes that acupuncture is not merely a supplement to Western medicine for the treatment of disease. People often come to acupuncture as a last resort when in fact in its classical, rich 4000 year-old history, acupuncture stands in its own right as a complete medical model that can prevent diseases and create and restore health. Its originality is that it is not a model of suppressive medicine. It does not attack the symptoms to destroy them but it creates a state in the body so that disease cannot come or can recede. “There are not any incurable diseases, only incurable people”, says Ann. The Wellness Center specializes in the treatment of chronic degenerative conditions and emergency medicine. Many of Ann’s patients are terminally ill cancer patients. By using the eight “extraordinary meridians”you can address the deep constitutional level of the body where cancer lies and can shift the level of Qi so that disease can resolve. She is also very successful at treating asthma. Asthma is the consequence of the inability of the kidneys to grasp the Qi of lungs. By picking the meridian of kidney she helps the air down to the navel. Ann also sees a lot of patients with arthritis and she explains that arthritis can be the consequence of a virus, fungus or bacteria that the body has been unable to control. The treatment of psychological and emotional problems is also available at the Center: from restoring emotional balance by affecting the spiritual meridians with needles to control the emotions through the blood. This treatment is so effective that people will often shift their sessions of talk therapy to sessions of Classical Acupuncture instead to restore emotional balance. If you come down with a cold, Ann Cecile urges you to come to the Wellness Center right away to restore your Qi and resist the onslaught of the sickness.
The Classical Wellness center is in a beautiful and serene environment. The calming fragrance of moxa fills up the air inducing you to relax and let go of your mad New Yorker persona. I came in to address an issue I had about digestive problems. Ann can tell a lot about you simply by looking at your face, your tongue, holding your wrist, feeling some points of your pulse. She tells me right away that I should stay away from bread and pasta as the gluten in them causes mucus. I must also cut down my dairy intake for the same reasons. She thinks that changing my diet would reduce my common ear infections and colds caused by too much mucus in my body. Coffee is also banned from my future as she feels it upsets the balance of Qi in my body.
Classical Acupuncture is a remarkably poetic and metaphorical art as the Gu Qi treatment I was able to receive. Most of the points used in the Gu Qi or digestive treatment have the Chinese character for “Gu” in their name. This word is commonly translated as “valley” and depicts a vessel with a stream passing through it. When the streams become dammed, overflow or dry up, we’re no longer able to make optimum use of the food we eat.
Acupuncture points only have meaning in relationship to the other points; one point has the potential to express multiple functions depending on the other points it is employed with. The five point of the Gu treatment when needled together create harmony and efficiency in the digestive tract. It’s a treatment that has been used at Sloan-Kettering Memorial hospital for cancer patients suffering the debilitating effects of chemotherapy on the digestion with great effect.
One of the points is called Xian Gu. The meridian traverses the mouth encouraging us to chew well to enable a perfect digestion, something often neglected in our power juice juggernaut. The next points she touches is a kidney point, the Ran Gu and a spleen point, “Earth Taking Flight,” then the He Gu and the Yang Gu. The body needs an adequate amount of Yang (moving or warming qi) in order to digest properly. The Yang Gu is the master point of fire in the small intestine, it brings heat and moving Qi to the digestive tract to enable the maximum derivation of nutrients from food. Ann applies combustion to the needles in order to give more energy to the acupuncture points. A sense of euphoria and well being fill you up when you are done indicating that Qi is again flowing well where it was blocked. I leave the Wellness Center feeling energized and full of life, convinced that strengthening the body and balancing its Qi is really the key to sound medicine and preventing the onslaught of imbalances that cause diseases.
You can schedule an appointment with Ann Cecil Sterman for a half hour consultation to be directed to the acupuncturist best suited to your needs. If you want to make an appointment for treatment with Ann herself there is a waiting list until March 2011 for new patients. However, she will take you as a patient sooner if you are in a desperate situation where no other treatment has worked for you and she is your last resort.
Classical Wellness Center
214 West 29th Street