Eva Wiseman: 'The needles are out'

I've always imagined that the thing with basic relaxation is (and pay attention here, because you might save yourself many hours and pounds) that it's really, really comfy. You need two things - a working telly and a pair of pyjamas. A tracksuit will do.

Essentially we're talking about any trousers with an elasticated waistband. And at least an hour of sitcoms, preferably American. Sit back, slack-jawed, and watch the worries float away, like helium balloons from a crying child's hand.

The beauty of this, the old-fashioned form of relaxation, is that it uses little-to-no energy. Interestingly though, the kind of relaxation where you pay for someone to do it for you is referred to as "energy therapy".

Energy therapy includes acupressure, sound and colour therapy and reiki - one of the fastest growing therapies, which claims to access the physical body via the etheric, and involves a healer laying on hands. The ability to use it isn't taught - it's transferred. A typical session takes about an hour, during which the practitioner runs their hands over the fully-clothed subject. There's little-to-no giggling encouraged.

Reiki is based on the idea that people are surrounded by a magnetic field, or energy, which is perceptible to those trained (and attuned) to read it. By assessing the body's energy, the practitioner will identify any problem areas and can then channel their own happy energy to the affected area.

However, I decided that if I was going to pay for my stress-related headaches, then I really wanted to feel it. I wanted needles. I went to Sen, a chain of centres that claim to marry ancient Chinese knowhow with modern western quality.

The acupuncture therapist, who looked like a crinkly 1940s film star, talked to me through a translator. He took my wrist, looked at my tongue, and recommended I eat less cold foods, before taking me into the tiny treatment room, where I lay in my underwear, tense as hell.

Within seconds, the needles were out and pricking into my hairline, my cheeks and my belly. When he flicked two into my groin, I felt a sudden rush of nausea. It passed quickly, but I became excruciatingly aware of any movement. Two more little pins in each of my legs, and then the lights were dimmed, and I was left to lie down for half an hour.

I kept very still, to avoid the pins wobbling, and tried to relax. When he returned, and disposed of the needles, I felt vaguely dizzy, a gentle headache fizzing in my temples. I turned over on the couch and heard clinking ...

The therapist's lack of English was frustrating. I wanted to be cooingly told to relax. I wanted to know what was happening. Instead, I was cupped.

Cupping is a form of acupuncture that focuses on the movement of energy - or chi - which circulates around the body. Practitioners of oriental medicine believe that pain is caused by stagnant energy, sometimes as a result of injury or stress. Cupping is thought to stimulate the flow of blood, lymph and chi to the affected area, or, as my translator at Sen said, "It'll draw all the toxins out".

It was oddly agonising. The therapist laid six glass jars along my spine, heated to create a vacuum. He left me again, for five minutes, each of which were spent chanting obscenities under my breath and listening out for signs of a hold-up in the shop. I had a meandering fantasy that the therapist would be kidnapped by robbers, and I'd be forgotten, trapped under these tight glass bowls (I am something of a worrier, hence, I suppose, the headaches). He returned, eventually, and released the pressure in the jars. I sat for a while, and nursed a mug of warm water.

When I pulled down my dress to show my friend the cupping marks, she screamed like a mating cat. I had circular purple bruises poking out of my collar. It looked like I'd been beaten up by a robot. Despite the heat, I wore a scarf for a week.

And now? I can't say I feel more relaxed. Headaches bother me daily, but I have a niggling trust that if I stayed the course, having the treatment twice a week as the therapist recommended, I'd start to feel a difference. As it is I have a collection of brilliant bruises, all the better for scaring children, and a large TV, which provides soothing relaxation therapy at the flick of a switch. I can't complain.


Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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