I tried it: Five Element Acupuncture
A petite, female acupuncturist was sniffing the back of my neck. She moved down to my stomach, took another whiff, and then rose to face me. "Your earth is out of balance because you're not nurturing yourself enough, that's why you're feeling so stressed out."
It was an hour into my first Five Element acupuncture treatment, which I'd sought out to help me deal with the pressure of a new job and pending move. According to classical Five Element acupuncture philosophy, based in ancient theory from the period of around 200 B.C., one of the primary five elements (wood, water, earth, metal, and fire) make up a person's chi, or life force. When this element becomes out of balance it disrupts the equilibrium of all the other elements and, over time, can lead to ill health. Practitioners develop a diagnosis based on a one- to two-hour consultation in which a person's facial colors, voice inflections, odor (hence the sniffing routine), and emotion all come into play. Sessions end with a customized acupuncture treatment that aims to realign the elements while healing pain and illness.
During my session, my acupuncturist asked me typical doctor-patient questions as well as questions about my relationships, my favorite season, and the time of day I feel most energetic. Afterward she guided me through a thirty-minute acupuncture treatment, which evoked intense tingling sensations. Although practitioners typically suggest at least six sessions, my single session eased some of my anxiety and muscle tension. What's more, I gained a sense of how my life experiences are connected to my overall physical health.