Emily Grace Siy, founder of Emily Grace Acupuncture, is a Doctor of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in New York City. She is a Licensed Acupuncturist and nationally board certified in Chinese Herbs by the NCCAOM. She completed her Masters training at Pacific College in NY, as well as a three year study of Medical Qi Gong with Dr. Stephen Jackowicz and continues to study Classical Chinese Medicine.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Emily about her identity, her practice, and how we can achieve greater understanding about our bodies and our own wellness journeys through Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
Q: Tell us about what inspired Emily Grace Acupuncture.
A: Managing my own healthcare while grappling with the complexities of health insurance has always felt overwhelming, daunting, and, sometimes, even defeating. Instead, visiting a Chinese Medicine practitioner for herbs and acupuncture was a simpler and more pleasant process for me. As I got older, I also became more aware of the inequalities of our healthcare systems, how certain communities are disregarded. I realized that there are not just gaps in the system but outright discrimination toward under-represented communities. And I know I’m not alone in this, that many people are searching for answers and alternatives to the mainstream healthcare offerings. I feel personally inspired and responsible to provide an experience for patients, which includes a method to help them better understand themselves and what they might be going through.
Learning more about Chinese Medicine was not just a career-path journey but one of identity and self-reflection. Chinese Medicine is a comprehensive healthcare system because it is holistic and nature based, as well as it includes self care and lifestyle management. Because the U.S. has a long history of anti-Chinese sentiments, Chinese Medicine, despite its efficacy, is seen as “alternative” medicine. With that label, Chinese Medicine is often sought out by people seeking a different, safer experience for their healthcare.
Q: Were there any early influences in particular that propelled you towards becoming an Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist?
A: Growing up ethnically Chinese and having my paternal grandparents live with us had a huge influence on my path. I remember constantly being reminded at a young age by my parents that people would treat me differently because of how I looked. In the U.S., because of how I look, I am often asked to identify myself. People I’ve just met will interrogate me about where my parents and grandparents were born. This has forced me to dig deep into understanding my identity and what it means in the context of where I live and how I live. Additionally, watching my grandparents use home remedies, herbal pills, and soups when taking care of us made me regard their knowledge as special and different from some of the people I went to school with. Studying Chinese Medicine has been a path towards piecing together my identity and heritage.
Q: You have noted that Chinese Medicine is a vast and lifelong study. What motivates you to continue this lifelong exploration?
A: Being ethnically Chinese it is largely about learning more about myself, history and cultural context of some of my family’s practices and rituals. The more knowledge I gain about the medicine, the more I learn about how it can be used to help those who have experienced discrimination in healthcare.
Q: Who or what conditions is acupuncture best suited to help with? Are there any specific ways acupuncture can support bladder health?
A: Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are well suited for those who don’t feel heard or feel they have been left out or wronged by other healthcare systems or settings, i.e., marginalized communities. Chinese medicine offers many non-invasive, natural, and gentle forms of treatment. The principles focus on prevention of illness and maintenance of health, as opposed to just treating symptoms after the fact. Because self care is an important component, those who are motivated and proactive in their healthcare can feel more in control of their treatments and overall health.
Acupuncture works to increase circulation. Increased circulation reduces inflammation and strengthens immunity — our natural ability to heal ourselves and thrive. I’ve worked with people who deal with incontinence, chronic and frequent UTI’s and have seen their conditions improve with a series of regular acupuncture visits. In addition to my practical experience, research studies on acupuncture and bladder conditions have also yielded positive results.
Q: Here at Attn: Grace, we often say that there is no wellness without “WE” What inspired you to focus your practice on wellness and community in self care?
A: In Chinese Medicine, holistic health is not just “considering the body as a whole,” but also considering your health and condition in relation to your physical environment, nature, family, friends, and community. It is about identifying your relationships with all of these things as well as your relationship with yourself and your health. In that way, it’s a WE process.
Q: You emphasize at your practice that acupuncture treatments also be a learning experience. Can you elaborate on what you would like your clients to learn?
A: In a world complicated by technology and societal norms, we begin to train ourselves to ignore our own sensations and intuition. I always tell my patients that during acupuncture you might feel what is called “Qi sensations” like tingling, static, heaviness, itching, or even throbbing sensations. These are signs that your body is responding to the acupuncture with increased circulation, which is ultimately a sign of healing. Acupuncture encourages your body’s ability to thrive not just as a biological organism but as you, a unique being. We often lose ourselves in our work, relationships, surroundings. Acupuncture can remind us of our true selves. Ultimately, I want people to learn how to be better at paying attention to their bodies and listening to their intuition. This is why and how the principles of Chinese Medicine can work as preventative medicine.
Q: What advice would you give to women who have only ever known traditional, Western medicine, and have not yet ventured into more holistic treatment?
A: Chinese Medicine has been around for more than four thousand years. It is a tried and true system that has been consistently practiced for much longer than modern medicine. We look at the body as a whole and not just symptoms alone. It is important to try to see a larger picture of the self and not just the physical body in order to learn where and how the symptoms came about. When we have this understanding of ourselves we can be more active and in control of our health in many ways. This can also encourage us to make lifestyle modifications that in themselves serve as preventative medicine.
Q: What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about health as it relates to one's wellness and acupuncture, and particularly as it relates to women as we get older?
A: Getting older is an inevitable change and therefore we should fully embrace it. Chinese Medicine can really help us appreciate and look forward to those changes. When we age, we gain experience, knowledge, wisdom, and confidence. Acupuncture can be used to help us reconcile these changes.
Q: What are some of the most common challenges or struggles that your female clients share with you and how do you support them in navigating these issues?
A: I’ve noticed that more and more people hold distrust around their gynecological health. Some people feel they aren’t given options that meet their needs. I often hear about how some people feel they’re not heard. I meet a lot of people who, as a result are more interested in learning about their bodies so that they can take their reproductive health into their own hands and use more natural and preventative strategies. Common challenges are that many people who menstruate do not fully understand their menstrual cycles and what they should be looking out for. They are too often told that their debilitating PMS symptoms are “normal.” They want solutions other than surgery or birth control pills. I offer group workshops on vaginal steaming in which I teach menstruators about the phases of their cycles and how using steam can be a gentle form of self care. I teach them how to safely use this ritual at home in order to maintain a healthy cycle. I also encourage patients to be more in touch with their cycles. Our cycles give us important information about our health.
Q: What wellness and self care tips do you recommend every woman add to their daily routine?
A: Deep breathing, meditation, gentle movement like yoga, qi gong, tai chi. Gaining more knowledge about our bodies. Taking time to be slow.
Q: How have you cared for your own well-being during 2020? Are you drawing inspiration from any particular sources right now?
A: Taking things slowly so that I have time to think and observe has been important. I spend more time reflecting this year. Meditating, isolating, getting regular covid tests, physically distancing from loved ones who I don’t live with have also been a huge part of my well-being. I have done a lot of acupuncture on myself and kept up on herbal regimens. Taking deep breaths, making sure to focus on the inhale and the exhale has gotten me through many hard moments of 2020. Through the pandemic I’ve been drawing inspiration from my community. Seeing how people go out of their way to help each other despite how much more challenging it is has been inspiring.
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