It’s been seven years months since Covid-19 upended our lives and we’ve had to adjust to the new normal. You’d think that we would have settled into a comfortable routine by now (mask on, hand sanitizer at the ready!), but the truth is that navigating the day-to-day during a global pandemic is still pretty damn stressful. So when I had the opportunity to speak with a renowned acupuncturist and herbalist Dr. Jill Blakeway, I jumped at the chance to add a little more zen into my life. But what does a virtual healing session look like, anyway?
Blakeway—who counts celebs like Uma Thurman as clients—founded The Yinova Center, an acupuncture clinic in New York City with practitioners specializing in Chinese medicine. When the center had to shut down its three locations (Flatiron, East Side and Brooklyn Heights) back in March, they did what so many other businesses had to do—they pivoted to online sessions. While in-person acupuncture treatments have now resumed, the virtual healing sessions are still going strong.
So, what’s the deal with energy healing?
Here’s how the Blakeway breaks it down: “The term energy medicine refers to the wide range of healing modalities used to diagnose and treat illness by manipulating the energy—the vital life force referred to as ‘qi’ in traditional Chinese medicine—that pulses through the cells of our bodies.” In-person, energy work might entail a skilled practitioner using acupuncture or massage to shift displaced energy. But it doesn’t have to involve physical contact—reiki, breathwork and meditation are also forms of energy work.
“It isn’t just people waving their hands about—it’s about prompts that prompt your body to heal itself.” And while some of these prompts are hands-on (think: acupuncture), many of them can just as easily happen through Zoom as they can in-person, says Blakeway.
What does a virtual energy session look like?
No stranger to alternative therapies (reiki, hypnotherapy, breathwork—I've tried ‘em all), I logged on to my session with an open mind and jittery nerves (blame it on the third cup of coffee I had to perk myself up after a sleepless night). We spent the first 15 minutes or so just chatting about what has been going on in my life recently and the pressures that I was facing (stuck at home all day, working full time with a newly-mobile baby). And after weeks of just trying to get through the day in one piece, it felt so good to have someone ask me, sincerely, how I was coping. After listening patiently, Blakeway told me that my diagnosis in Chinese medicine is Liver Qi Stagnation (symptoms include irritability, frequent sighing and trouble sleeping—triple check).
In layman’s terms, she told me that I was “tired but wired.” And I’ve never felt more understood. That would explain the near-constant feelings of fatigue and yet why I was unable to fall asleep at night. “You’re anxious in a cope-y way...stressed but managing,” explains Blakeway. As it turns out, this is a common diagnosis for New Yorkers.
And so we started the session. I closed my eyes and Blakeway took me through an exercise where I imagined a light slowly making its way through my body, especially the liver. In her soothing voice, she walked me through the exercise that felt similar to meditation exercises I’ve done in the past. And similar to my attempts at meditating, I have to admit that it took me a few minutes to actually sink into the exercise and turn off my inner monologue. But once I let myself relax, I was relaxed. After 20 minutes or so, I opened my eyes and felt as though a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Blakeway explained that the work we did together aimed to move tension in the diaphragm to help circulation in the liver. She also told me that she noticed some tightness in my chest. (Could it be that she had picked up on my anxiety about weaning my kid? Possibly.) She taught me an acupressure point that I could use when I felt particularly stressed (the “spirit gate” point that’s located on the inside of the wrist) and also prescribed some herbs to address the effects of stress and help me sleep (Xiao Yao Wan and Si Nl San)—which she joked should be in the tap water in New York.
How did it feel?
The immediate effects of the sessions were so soothing—I went through the rest of the day in a zen-like trance and even navigated a toddler tantrum with much more calm than usual. Was this new attitude because I had taken an hour out of my day to focus on nothing but my own wellbeing? Or was it the energy session that had worked its magic? Honestly, I think it was a combination of the two.
A couple of weeks later, I don’t quite have the same sense of ease floating through me every day, but I do feel more relaxed in my body and have also started sleeping better. I use the acupressure point as a reminder to take a moment and breathe whenever I feel overwhelmed, and I would definitely recommend a session to anyone who feels like their internal energy is out of whack. Yes, I’m still tired and wired, but significantly less so. And hey, that’s good enough for me.