Bhavna Dagia (Switzerland)
Bhavna Dagia has two decades of experience in the field of Chinese medicine, particularly, Acupuncture. She has trained in the UK, Canada, China and Japan as well as New York and has been practicing in UK and Canada currently in Switzerland since 10 years. Bhavna also has been practicing Tai Chi for around 30 years and occasionally teaches small classes. She is also a repeat In-Touch Japan participant.
To say that the study trip to Tokyo and Shikoku was an awe-inspiring experience, would be an understatement. The level of teaching has been second to none and the generosity of all the Senseis was commendable. The students that took part come from all over the world, (USA Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Israel, UK) with varying backgrounds, and no doubt an eclectic knowledge base and equally eclectic specialties. In any case we all looked forward to this unique learning experience offered to us. Needless to say, we were not let down.
When studying Japanese style acupuncture, one receives a flavor of precision and perfection. However, because of our existing knowledge base, it is up to us as to how we choose to implement these refined techniques. The best I can describe is, imagine you are a in a top notch, high class restaurant and before you lie a plethora of dishes, which are exquisitely displayed before your very eyes. No doubt your mouth is watering and your eyes cannot get enough. Your first instinct is not even to disturb this table of perfection that lays before you. However, slowly you plunge in. Based on ones’ refined taste, each one will experience the menu differently. Some will compare to the flavors that we had before, others will experiment and mix up the dishes, while others will embrace the dishes for what they are and focus on the experience here and now. Whichever way one goes, we all will feel richer for the experience.
So, what was on the menu in Japan in November 2017?
We were honored to have on day one, wonderful Miyakawa Sensei teaching Abdominal Diagnosis in Qi, Blood and Fluid differentiation for treatment of women. This was an interesting approach to abdominal palpation, diagnosis, finding patterns followed by treatment protocol using Hybrid TCM, meaning the amalgamation of TCM and traditional Japanese abdominal diagnosis. Sensei Miyakawa emphasized using gentle, painless techniques, including moxa, when people exhibit stressful signs and looking for ways to resolve counterflow patterns.
The following day we were equally honored to be taught by Tusda Sensei on Tohokai method. This day concentrated on contact needling and using acupuncture in Palliative care. We learned the subtle techniques of ‘feeling’ the arrival of Qi and appreciating the gentle approach such as stroking and scatter needling, while keeping a clear head and staying focused. As patients with cancer can react strongly, and can get exhausted easily therefore gentle contact needling works well and helps soothe anxiety. There was a chance to also work with gold and silver needles.
The third day at Goto College, Tokyo was with the ever charismatic Funamizu Sensei wielding his beautifully hand-made teishins with grace and finesse and making it look so easy. This day was all about using gentle techniques on people with psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD and so on. Sensei Funamizu described how using teishins on the scalp helped many victims of the devastating Tsunami in 2011 in Japan. With all the countries facing traumatic situations, clearly there is scope to expand such a treatment protocols. There was an emphasis on learning how to make the teishins an extension of one’s hand with softness and yet allowing the flow of Qi with appropriate speed and strength and steadiness. To reiterate, the Sensei made it look effortless. We had to remind ourselves that these techniques take years to refine and continued practice is key.
The study trip continued for the rest of the days in Utazu at the Shikoku Acupuncture and Moxibustion Medical College. Here we were warmly welcomed by the eminent president of the college, Oasa Sensei and Yoko Oasa Sensei.
Some of us were lucky to have a day on Meridian based Cosmetic Acupuncture delivered by Yoko Oasa Sensei. She showed us the method of helping rejuvenate the face with message and needle techniques and it was clear that we all felt beautiful and relaxed by the end of the day.
So needless to say, the highlight was to see the master of masters, the extraordinary Shudo Sensei and his wonderful disciple, Murata Sensei. Shudo Sensei continues to share his art of super superficial techniques and making it look flawless. More than the techniques, he shared many words of wisdom, epitomizing his ethos of ‘simple is the best’. The idea of emptying the mind and not forgetting why we practice acupuncture, in that not to forget that the “patients come first”. Shudo Sensei also reminded us that being an acupuncturist is all in the mindset and attitude.
All the Senseis emphasized the importance of Hara/ abdominal diagnosis and refining our palpation skills, including honing in on the pulse diagnosis. Another point that was salient was that once the treatment was completed, reassess the pulse and palpation and make sure an effect was achieved. If not, repeat as needed.
Variation of the superficial needling and use of teishins were taught with incredible level of mastery and panache that left some of us awestruck. However, the practice sessions allowed us to develop these skills and get firsthand feedback from all the masters. At this point the masters really helped us to get a handle on the techniques. Practice, practice, practice…. these three words did not fall on deaf ears.
Some students also had the pleasure of learning the Iyashi no Michi Japanese style acupuncture from the laconic Yasuda Mukan Sensei who used the words of Bruce Lee to encapsulate his teachings, ‘Don't think, feel!” This protocol works with being in tune with the patients’ rhythm and working with their undulations and following through.
It goes without saying that the translations, especially, by wonderful Stephen Brown, as well as ever patient, Maya Suzuki, and kind-hearted Jeffrey Dann and always funny Yasuo Tanaka made the experience worthwhile. This is because they conveyed not only the essence of the subject but transmitted the personality of each Senseis allowing the subject matter to come alive. To have these talented people as part of the team was indeed a gift we were all grateful for.
The Japan experience was not all about being cerebral, as we had been honored with banquets and dinners. People could unwind at Onsens and visit shrines and temples. Going shopping and discovering intricate Japanese souvenirs. As well as those who dared, we indulged in Karaoke evening, singing renditions of Do do do dada da da (the Police) and it’s a Sin, and Ain't no Mountain high enough….and thoroughly enjoying the experience even though off key, (well, I speak for myself actually).
I finish by saying that if you have an opportunity to go on such a wonderful, enriching journey, it will be an unforgettable and worthwhile experience for your self-development and ultimately your patients will merit from the fruits of your learning.
Maya Angelou (famous American poet and writer) once said that:
“I have learned that people will forget what you said and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Japan experience is just that, you will remember how you felt, and what's more, it leaves you wanting more. My hope is that our patients will also remember how the treatments will make them feel.
Bhavna Dagia (Switzerland)
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