Somatic Acupuncture


THE BODY TELLS A STORY Somatic Acupuncture

Most people that come to see me that I’ve had acupuncture in the past say that they’ve never experienced anything like my treatments. I am fully trained as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner but the training and experience I had prior to doing graduate school is what makes my work different. What I do is called Somatic acupuncture. In order to explain what it is I must go into the question, ‘What is the history of mind-body medicine?’ There is an ancient history of mind body medicine that comes from ancient indigenous cultures worldwide. The most familiar examples, are traditional practices such as Indian yoga, and Chinese medicine. However, every ancient culture on earth has a valid healing tradition. This is a huge topic and members of these diverse and varied cultures would be the best historians of their own rich traditions .
I’d like to focus on the  history of mind-body medicine in the US which is part of my 25 year education as a holistic practitioner. With the explosion of interest in all things holistic and alternative medicine being integrated into more Western medical trainings, I believe it’s important to acknowledge the true roots of mind-body medicine in this country.

When I was 20, I enrolled in a massage school in a Northern California founded by a graduate of the Esalen Institute, also in N. California. The school was located next to an herbal college founded by Rosemary Gladstar, a renowned American herbalist. I was lucky enough to be exposed to older and wiser practitioners. They gave me a glimpse into the century old unique American tradition of holistic health .The style of massage that I learned is best described as somatic. This early exposure continues to inform the work that I do as an acupuncturist and as an intuitive advisor.

What is somatics? Soma is the Greek word for body. For more than 100 years, a number of independent groups from around the world have been exploring the integrity of movement, anatomical dimensions, intelligence, and spiritual consciousness of the body. ( continued in next post)

Part 2 Somatic Acupuncture/These schools of thought, developed roughly around the First World War, have a wide scope of therapeutic applications. Based on a mainly nonverbal system communicated by touch many of these techniques are sometimes confused with psychotherapeutic approaches such as hypnosis and guided imagery. The difference with Somatic’s, is the body, not the mind is acknowledged as the guide. However, as with psychotherapy, in Somatic’s, the client and the practitioner are always learning side-by-side. How? By gleaning information from the clients’ body’s reaction and sensations.

Because of the silent world of nonverbal practices, few writings were done during the early history of this field. Unfortunately, many of the pioneer practitioners were European and were scattered around the globe as refugees due to both world wars.
In 1960, the Esalen Institute was founded as a healing and educational center in Northern California. Esalen attracted many of the old Somatics teachers and students who revived their practices and studies.


“Find your true weakness and surrender to it. Therein lies the path to genius. Most people spend their lives using their strengths to overcome or cover up their weaknesses. Those of you who use your strengths and incorporate your weaknesses, who don’t divide themselves, those people are very rare. And in any generation there are a few and they lead their generation.- Moshe Feldenkrais”

Moshe Feldenkrais, a Israeli physicist developed trainings called “awareness through movement” at Esalen which are still used worldwide. His interest was applying the principles of physics to physical disabilities and body restrictions, enabling clients to move more easily. I’m just using Feldenkrais as an example, although there are several other schools of thought in the field of Somatic’s, as well as, many wonderful practitioners. His work expressed, “the embodied psyche.” This is one way to describe movement with mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a term that is quite common in 2018. However, it’s taken 35 years for the term “Mindfulness” to become secular. In the US, we attribute the term to Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn Who is doing work on the other coast at the University of Massachusetts.. However, it’s roots reach 2500 years into the past. There is some traditional form of prayer or meditation in all of the world’s major religions.

Mind-body healing techniques and mindfulness practices will continue to become more integrated into our lives. Let’s continue to pay respect to those great minds, brave explorers  and outspoken individuals that laid the groundwork for the practitioners, clients and patients that reep the benefits in our mind, body and spirits.

Traditional Chinese Diagnostics




Pulse diagnosis is one of the original set of four diagnostic methods that are described as an essential part of traditional Chinese medical practice (1). The four diagnostic methods are:pulse reading, inspection, listening, and inquiry.

Pulse Qualities
These are some example of the major pulse qualities. In Chinese medicine, each type of pulse quality relates to a Chinese diagnosis, as well as particular physical and mental/emotional symptoms:

A fast pulse indicates excessive “heat” in the body. This pulse is often present when there is a fever, an inflammatory condition, or increased stress on the nervous system.
A slow pulse indicates a “cold” condition or could point to a particular body system that functioning in an inefficient or sluggish way. This pulse is often present when there are problems with blood circulation, cold hands and feet, etc.

A strong pulse indicates “excess” of some kind in the body. This pulse is often present with stress, anger, high blood pressure, and headaches.
A weak pulse indicates a “deficiency” of some kind in the body. This pulse is often present with fatigue, weakness, insomnia, low blood pressure, and depression.

A thin or thready pulse indicates “Blood deficiency” or “Fluid deficiency”. This pulse is often fatigue, weakness, insomnia, nutrient deficiencies, and sub-optimal digestive absorption.
One of the most typical wide pulses is called a rolling or slippery pulse. This pulse indicates food stagnation in the intestines, or a build-up of phlegm somewhere in the body. This pulse is often present with a variety of digestive problems and sinus/allergy congestion issues. These and other pulse qualities help us determine what is happening in the body on a macro level. The positions of the pulse show us more specifically where these things are happening.

Pulse Positions
Over the past 2000 years, Chinese physicians have mapped out the which pulse positions correlate to which parts of the body.


Guidelines for Fertility


Chinese Medicine Guidelines to Increase Fertility

Many women find acupuncture after a long stressful journey struggling with an Infertility diagnosis (and label). By the time you reach an acupuncturist you may be emotionally and financially burnt out. I find that after a few weeks of treatments that stress dissipates and you recover. The process of coming back into balance and connecting to our natural fertility requires the conscious use of the body, mind and spirit .In my experience, on the average, after six months of treatments couples are able to naturally conceive. I’ve outlined a guide to your “homework” while receiving acupuncture to enhance fertility. Journaling-while charting your cycle note emotional triggers, try to name your emotions while also tracking physical symptoms such as breast tenderness or constipation. Journaling is helpful in sorting your feelings about what is happening in your body and can expand the “clinical” mindset of charting exact temperatures and hormone levels. In this journal, also note cravings for alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, or dairy. Don’t worry about being judged. This info is helpful to your practitioner.

Food Guidelines- The Chinese have a special way of eating for health and specifically fertility. I have listed the “dos and don’ts” below;

  • Cut out iced beverages and foods-this practice done in China helps woman avoid a cold uterus
  • Decrease raw foods, as much as possible, cook vegetables. Eat more soups than salad. This is especially important in winter.
  • Decrease dairy, and soy and cut down on refined sugar, avoid artificial sweeteners completely. If you are doing dairy Whole milk, or whole milk yogurt without artificial sweeteners is ideal. Raw milk is superior if you can get it. Warm milk to a boil then quickly turn down heat and add spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger to decrease the Dampening affect on your body. Dampness is said to block the Qi to the uterus.
  • Eat only hormone free meat and dairy.
  • Drink a minimal amount of alcohol. Talk to your practitioner about what you consider minimal.
  • Eat protein at every meal in one of its many forms. Those who don’t eat red meat are advised to eat a moderate portion of hormone-free red meat three times a week, only if this is not an ethical challenge. Doctors from China think it is unhealthy for our fertility that many women avoid eating red meat even in small amounts .Its ironic that we generally do this for health reasons.
  • Eat Whole grains daily and try to maintain a healthy weight .Too much excess fat in the body tends to hold on to estrogens and may impair fertility.

Exercise-Daily gentle exercise is best. Learn to be gentle on your body and learn what nurturance feels like in your body. Nurturance is the essence of fertility and conception. Heavy weight lifting is thought to be counter- productive to conception in Chinese medicine and must be closely watched. Vigorous exercise should be kept under 7 hours a week. During the menstrual flow running should be avoided. Incorporate Qi Gong, Tai Chi or yoga into your exercise routine. Please consult your practitioner about participating in Bikram or “hot” yoga and Ashtanga or advanced power yoga during certain times of your menstrual cycle.

Meditation- start by carving out at least 30 minutes minimum a week outside of your journaling time of simple meditation. This time may be spent in a bath without reading material or in the location of your choice. Practice using your breath to bring your awareness to your body-mind connection. This time may be used to just relax or to delve deeper into issues surrounding your femininity and fertility. Consult practitioner if you need info on breathing techniques or visualizations.

Relating to your partner- Learning to do some simple acupressure as a couple at home will double the effectiveness of your acupuncture treatments. Your spouse obviously needs to be involved in this process and bringing balance to their system will help the process of increasing fertility .These acupressure treatments require you both to give and receive acupressure massage and will be outlined by your practitioner.

Self-care- In order to keep the Qi flowing and unblock blood flow to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries abdominal massage should be performed by the patient on the patient every day. This simple relaxing procedure will be outlined by your practitioner.

Supplements- These suggestions should always be run by your doctor before any changes are made in your current medical care.  A whole food supplement of magnesium can be wonderful for easing PMS symptoms. Many natural doctors use wild yam, and a combination of chaste berry and black cohosh especially during the luteal phase. Other Chinese herbal formulas will be discussed using combinations of 5-12 herbs depending on your Chinese diagnosis. Your practitioner will discuss with you your specific organ, meridian, blood, chi, yin, and yang profile and suggest herbal formulas best suited for you. It is common to take different formulas at different times in your cycle. Good luck on your Fertility journey and please contact me if I may be of assistance.                                                                                               Stephanie McGuirk Licensed Acupuncturist ; 913-522-1198



Breach Presentation During Pregnancy


Evidence shows us that moxibustion in combination with Acupuncture and other postural techniques such as inversion can safely turn a baby in the breach presentation. Consulting an acupuncturist trained in Chinese medicine with experience and a high rate of successful outcomes in these cases is a smart choice.

Doctors refer their pregnant moms to me between 32 and 35 weeks. I prefer to see them sooner rather than later. Only 3 to 4% of pregnancies will be delivered with the breach presentation. Most babies in the breach, position will turn on their own by 36 weeks. However, undue stress on the mother worrying about possibly having to deliver by cesarean section can be upsetting to her and the whole family.

Acupuncture for these moms is wonderful because it relaxes the mother, and helps baby get into to the right position for birth. While she is there I will often treat other symptoms of the last trimester of pregnancy such as back pain, heartburn, and sleep problems.

Let us know at Acupuncture health and healing if you or anyone you know needs help during their pregnancy.

Springtime Wellness Suggestions


It is springtime in the US, and in most regions of the country that brings lots of wind. The seasonal change is positive because it brings the renewal of spring, which helps propel us into positive action. In Chinese medicine, wind has special significance. There are whole categories of illnesses and disorders that the Chinese referred to as “wind” conditions.

Traditionally, in the Chinese culture at large, it is recognized that environmental factors such as heat, wind, or severe cold can affect the human body and the Meridian systems. As an acupuncturist, I help prepare the body for seasonal changes and strength to cope with these environmental factors. Some practical advice for dealing with wind: wear a scarf over the wind gates which are located on the back of the neck and on the head. Hoodies are great this time of year! Also pay very close attention to your diet, avoiding sugar, sugar substitutes, artificial flavors, MSG, alcohol and marijuana which are all considered wind aggravators. Air travel, bike riding or motorcycle rides, moving and life transitions are all considered wind aggravators as well. Being extra gentle with yourself during these times can be helpful.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, in the Spring, the Liver (gan) and Gallbladder (dan) channels are of primary importance. The color green (a yellow green like new grass and leaves) is said to soothe and nourish the spirit as the liver meridian is said to “open to” the eyes. In other words, Vision is the sense associated with the Liver. The five element association is wood.

In the spring, the direction that the Chi moves in the body, is up and out. This is the direction of the force that moves sap up a tree trunk through the branches into the buds of a spring blooming tree.

As this energy moves in our body, it can sometimes push or release slower moving energy that may have been settling into the system over a more sedentary winter

In Chinese medicine we invite the movement of the body’s natural seasonal detoxification.

I encourage my patients to:

  • Eat more sour foods: lemon, lime, sorrel, plum, etc.
  • Find a healthy outlet for frustration like exercise, manual labor like gardening, crying, letting it out,
  • Stimulate Acupressure Liver 3 point
  • Try dried dandelion root and Nettle tea (dried nettle leaves) to your diet. Nettles are a natural antihistamine and have a high mineral content. Dandelion is also high in minerals and traditionally associated with the liver. As soon as fresh dandelion greens, safely and abundantly harvested from unsprayed areas, and fresh nettle leaves become available consuming those are very helpful as well.

What are ear seeds?


Ear seeds will be used as part of the protocol for the Holistic Weight loss and Winter Cleanse that is starting January 8 and running for five weeks here at Totem Acupuncture. So, I thought I would explain a bit about them.

They are small black seeds from the vaccaria plant or small metal beads that are secured with a piece of adhesive tape on acupressure points of the ear. The continuous mild pressure they exert is amplified by pressing the bead for a few seconds at least 3 times per day. This treatment is based on a Auriculotherapy which is a microsystem of Acupuncture located on the ear. The acupoints on the ear work a bit differently than those on the body.

What makes the ear acupoints different?

Stimulation of these points can reduce pain by normalizing the pathological reflex pathways that connect them to the somatotopic brain.

How do Acupuncturists use ear seeds?

They are used in two ways. Firstly, in my clinic I use ear seeds as the patient is leaving my office to extend the treatment results. I often use a very famous point called Shenmen for anxiety. The directions that I give and the points I choose are based on the severity and the type of condition we are treating. Another way that ear seeds can be used as as a stand alone treatment. For instance, for children who tend to respond very quickly and easily to a treatment.

What conditions can be improved by ear seeds?

There are many conditions that are treated by auriculotherapy. Those that I commonly treat in my clinic are stress, high blood pressure, nausea, detoxification, pain, sleep, and addictions. My patients love ear seeds and will always remind me to replace theirs at the end of a treatment.

Now is the time to prepare for Hay Fever/Ragweed season in Kansas City.


In the Midwest, this season lasts 10-12 weeks from August through October. A single ragweed plant releases one billion grains of pollen over the season. This is also known as “burr-weed” because of the tiny burrs which hook themselves into our respiratory tissues. Lovely, eh? Luckily, we have acupuncture endorsed by the NIH for controlling allergic rhinitis and asthma symptoms due to allergies. Just a few treatments, with adjustments made for the strength of your general health and the severity of symptoms, will decrease or eliminate symptoms all together.

Holistic Weight Loss and Winter Cleanse


5 week nutrition and acupuncture program

Total cost $550


Description: A five-week course with a gentle 21-day cleanse that incorporates 5 acupuncture appointments and a diet recommendation that includes juices/smoothies, nourishing bone and vegetable broths, whole and pureed soups, good fats and fermented foods. Salads and entree recipes also included.


Holistic Weight Loss and Winter Cleanse with Stephanie McGuirk, Doctor of Acupuncture and Heather Fischer-Page of Healthy Decadence.

Heather has received her certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and  is a Certified Food and Spirit Practitioner.


– Includes materials, three support meetings in person or via Zoom, private Facebook group for participants, and two 45-minute appointments with Heather of Healthy Decadence.

Schedule – Individual appointments will be scheduled with each participant.

Week 1 – First meeting! Introduction, of cleanse materials and prep for week one of cleanse.

Week 2-5 – Cleanse begins the first day of week 2. Second meeting will be scheduled around day 4-5 of cleanse. Learn about ways to support the body during a cleanse.

Week 5 – Last day of cleanse and final meeting. Information on how to incorporate elements into your lifestyle.

The Brain During Acupuncture


“ I wasn’t asleep, but I wasn’t awake. I always feel better after Acupuncture.”

I hear a version of this many times a day from my patients. So what is happening to your brain during Acupuncture?

Lets start by reviewing the 4 brainwave patterns:

– Delta Waves: associated with deep sleep and the release of human growth hormone

– Theta Waves: associated with REM sleep(dreaming), the production of catecholamines hormones release during stress, and increased creativity.

– Beta Waves: associated with concentration, arousal, mental sharpness and anxiety

– Alpha Waves: related to relaxation, wakefulness, the production of Serotonin.

Today’s brain is highly stimulated and many times stressed. This causes an unhealthy pattern of fluctuation between Beta (high stim.) and Delta (exhausted sleep), sound familiar?

During Acupuncture the brain starts oscillating between Alpha and Theta (relaxation and meditation). The best part is these benefits remain long after the treatment.

Try Acupuncture once a week for 3-4 weeks. You should feel more relaxed and calm during the day AND sleep better at night.

Embodiment Beauty Treatment


Embodiment Beauty Treatment is a new treatment offered by TOTEM Acupuncture.

$693 for a package of 8 treatments (8th treatment free) ($99 for single treatment)

As well as Acupuncture, acupressure and GuaSha, what makes the embodiment massage different is its use of the manual and micro-current techniques:

  • Healing Touch on the head face and neck-Intended for relaxation and to bring a healing sense of well-being to the treatment.
  • Lymphatic Drainage for the face-The purpose is to move fluids out of the tissues and into the lymph nodes where bacteria is disposed of. This can heal skin and greatly reduce puffiness.
  • Myofascial Release for the face- Did you know that tense facial muscles can anchor your mood in the past? When the myofascial muscle fibers of your face are released your face will look calm and rested.
  • Micro-current Treatment- uses micro-ampere currents of electricity mimicking the bodies own bioelectric system. The treatment softens wrinkles, rejuvenates and lifts skin.

Acupressure- Manual pressure on acupuncture points of the face ‘primes the pump’ so to speak for the acupuncture, so it works quickly, more effectively, and the results last longer.

Acupuncture for the face- Acupuncture is done on the face to release expression lines in the dermis (underneath the epidermis), activate meridian points to improve the function of collagen production and blood circulation to the skin, detoxify waste products from the skin, and regulate “heat” a.k.a. redness in the skin.

Gua Sha on the face with labradorite- Gua Sha is a thousand-year old Chinese massage technique that is very good at treating the tight facial muscles which can “ cement” expression lines on your face. I perform this comfortable treatment with a Labradorite stone which is known for its healing properties.