2 February, 2015
Health & Wellness

Sassy tries Traditional Chinese Medicine at Balance Health!

2 February, 2015
I might have to live in Hong Kong forever just for cheap foot massages (sorry, Mum!) but I’ve been sceptical of poking my nose any further into the Traditional Chinese Medicine door. The idea of someone sticking needles in my face or sporting a back full of cupping love bites just didn’t seem like it was worth investigating…Enter Balance Health, a natural health clinic offering an array of traditional Chinese medicine and alternative treatments. The questionnaire I had to fill in as soon as I walked in the door sold me, not because I totally buy the idea of my big toe being connected to my nose, but because they were asking questions I found myself dumbfounded doctors had never asked me before. Questions like “When did you feel the best in your life?”, “How do you sleep?”, “What was your diet like as a child versus now?” and, “What would you change about your health if you could?”


Judy Xu, a holistic health coach, talked me through these questions and explained my body composition type – determined through a multiple choice questionnaire on an iPad. I’m hot and humid, one of nine potential compositions. Judy and I talked through my stress levels, sleeping patterns, diet, relationship with exercise, what made me feel better and worse day-to-day and what I could be doing to feel better more often.

Western medicine is great for trauma or healing a specific disease, she said, but too often it treats a symptom instead of an underlying cause. So if you have a headache, her practice is about figuring out why – instead of popping a Paracetamol. Judy and I determined my biggest issues were digestion (how much fun is getting old?), sleep, and the need to balance my fiery energy – her words!

Consultation done, it was time to get to that needle-in-face portion of the treatment. I was set to try acupuncture, shiatsu and chi nei tsang, which is basically a deep tissue stomach massage. Through each stage of the process, the last person to see me spoke with the next, making sure they all understood my particular needs, goals and body.


Dr. Grace Yu, the acupuncturist, felt my pulse and checked my tongue. She and Judy were both in the room talking me through what was about to and had happened and why. Some of the needles stung going in; some I couldn’t even feel. By the time she was done, there were about 30 needles in my head, face, wrists, abdomen and legs. Sometimes one needle would sting and then it would fade. After 10 minutes, Grace came in to rotate each needle and the waves of tingling returned.

After she removed the needles, I wandered down the hall in a contented daze to meet Anne Cousin, who would be doing my shiatsu and chi nei tsang. Anne exudes a warmth and calm that seem almost antithetical to her fiery curls and bright eyes. She explained that shiatsu follows the same principles of acupuncture and began the massage that felt like a combination of reflexology points, Thai stretching and traditional muscle release. An hour later, I felt like I’d woken up from the best nap of my entire life.

I returned the next week for the chi nei tsang, which combines breathing exercises with massage and pressure points in the abdomen. Certain parts of the treatment led to discomfort that bordered on pain but Anne was very conscious of keeping me engaged in my breath and what was happening. It was a funny sensation upon finishing, like doing a particularly good pilates core or yoga session that led to feeling more aligned, better situated on top of myself.


Each treatment costs about $1,000 per hour, a rough estimate given the range of therapies and practitioners, meaning this will have to be a special treat instead of a regular addition to my foot massages.

The word holistic gets bandied about in anything related to health and lifestyle but this is the first time I felt a business live up to the label. And it was as simple as asking the most obvious questions and having one practitioner talk to another to ensure cohesive treatment – Western medicine, I’m raising an eyebrow at you.

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