Providing a Space for Healing to Occur
Licensed Acupuncturist Larissa Stewart explains it this way: “When you set your mind on something, then your energy will go toward that thing.” Well, she should know. Six years into her role as the publisher of Natural Awakenings Atlanta, she is expanding both her 13-year practice of acupuncture and other techniques and the magazine’s reach into more areas of the metropolitan area.
Years ago, as a consultant in the information technology department at Price Waterhouse, the lifestyle was getting to her. “I was stressed out and my body felt like it was falling apart in my early 30s, and I thought, ‘This cannot be what it’ all about.’ I was exercising like crazy and my body just wasn’t enjoying it,” She recalls. “I went to a street fair in Maryland, where I was living, and found a brochure for a tai chi school, and it struck me that what I needed was some way to de-stress, so tai chi was really a first step.”
She loved it and started teaching at the school, which led to exploring other similar modalities, such as qigong. Stewart was also teaching fitness classes at the time. Tai chi both strengthened and relaxed her body, so after finding resistance at her tradition-bound tai chi school, she integrated qigong, with its simple, repetitive movements, and tai chi principles into her aerobics classes and called the hybrid Qirobics. “It gave people an opportunity to experience these movements and get interested,” she notes.
Continuing her studies, Stewart earned a Master of Acupuncture degree from the Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH, formerly Tai Sophia Institute), and explains, “To become a licensed acupuncturist, most states, including Georgia, require completion of three to four years of academic education at the master's degree level as a minimum in an acupuncture program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), the only accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the authority for quality education and training in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.” She is a nationally board-certified diplomate in acupuncture (NCCAOM) and a qigong instructor certified by the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi, having taught it for more than 20 years.
One of her elective classes made quite an impact on Stewart’s outlook. “Ohashiatsu is a style of shiatsu created by Wataru Ohashi. “In some styles of shiatsu, you just use one finger or thumb or elbow and press into a point—in Ohashiatsu, there’s always one hand ‘listening’ while the other hand presses the points, she notes” Ohashi is a very small man, and when he came to this country, he was working on very large athletes and it stressed him physically. So he integrated aikido movements, tai chi and dance to innovate a technique that is very much about addressing a person’s core (abdomen) as the practitioner moves their body with the patient’s body, both leaning against each other.
“It’s almost like being rocked in a rocking chair by grandma,” says Stewart. The second hand serves to trick the mind and the body with a steady touch in another area in order to apply a deeper pressure with the primary hand without discomfort. “It reminded me of partner tai chi. It felt familiar and comfortable, and I thought it might be useful in my acupuncture practice, as well,” she says.
Stewart offers acupuncture, moxibustion, gua sha (a non-invasive scraping technique), shiatsu/acupressure, hands-on qigong healing. She is also a certified practitioner of Matrix Energetics, originated by Dr. Richard Bartlett, which comprises a set of tools for energy healing with the hands. It involves holding two points and visualizing the infinite possibilities that lie between them, which includes the absence of pain. There are also qigong and yoga lessons as methods of self-enhancement and self-healing that serve as homework for her clients.
About her healing techniques in general, Stewart says, “I’m not healing that person. Even the acupuncture needles don’t heal the person. I am creating space for healing to show up. That person who is receiving the treatment is the only one who can actually heal themselves. Whether it’s helping them get their mind out of the way so they can see that possibility or relax their body enough or move the energy in a way that relief is possible, in the end, I am just providing space, whether it’s with a needle or shiatsu or Matrix Energetics or qigong, so they can find that healing space on their own.”
For more information, call 404-673-5445, email [email protected]
Martin Miron is the editor of Natural Awakenings Atlanta.