New Approaches to Health

The New Year is a great time to get back to our healthy routines, or perhaps develop new ones. Typically we turn to diet and exercise to achieve our health goals, which can seem daunting after a holiday season full of drinks, desserts, and travel. While healthy eating and exercise are great, exploring practices like acupuncture and yoga can also boost your health in ways you might not realize.


Acupuncture is a 4000-year-old system of Chinese medicine in which thin needles are inserted into strategic points on the body. Today it’s used to treat a variety of problems, including chronic pain, anxiety, allergies, and even infertility.

Many in Western society tend to regard acupuncture with some skepticism. How can needles help with something like chronic pain? Winson Chen, who runs the Winson Chen Acupuncture clinic in Morgan Hill, explains that acupuncture has positive effects that can be observed. “Chronically contracted muscles get really tight, which can cause neck pain and lower back pain. When you place the needles in, your body doesn’t know what to do with them, so it sends all of the blood flow to those points and the muscle is forced to relax, which resolves some of the pain symptoms,” he explained. Chen said the needles also cause the body to release endorphins, which puts the body into a parasympathetic “calm” state, so that the patient is more relaxed and less stressed.

When you have less pain and muscle tightness, you’re more motivated to go for a morning run or do things that you enjoy. Additionally, acupuncture has the potential to reduce the amount of medications some people need. Some of Chen’s patients have been able to reduce their anxiety and pain medications after regular acupuncture treatments. In a case study for one of Chen’s allergy patients, the patient was able to achieve a 70% reduction in allergy medications after two months of acupuncture treatment. All of this allows for a better quality of life. “If you reduce your medication, the side effects like drowsiness go away, and you’re able to drive again and go outside again,” he explained.

The concept of having needles stuck in you might sound stressful or scary, but Ahnna Goosen, an acupuncturist from the Heart Space Studio in Gilroy, reassures that what you’re coming in for usually hurts far worse. She likens the feeling to having a hair plucked. “It’s very common to be scared—it’s something new, it’s something different, it seems weird— but the deep relaxation you receive far outweighs that small discomfort,” she said.

Goosen has taken acupuncture’s relaxing properties to the next level by offering sound healing sessions a few Fridays a month. She applies the acupuncture needles to her patients and then plays crystal singing bowls while they’re resting. The singing bowls can offer a meditative effect, which neuroscientific research has shown improves mood and cognitive function, as well as reduces stress hormones.

Since stress can cause or compound all types of health problems, Goosen feels that the combination of acupuncture and sound healing are a gentle non-invasive way to relax and reset your body so that you can achieve your health goals.


Yoga focuses on creating harmony between the mind and the body by practicing slow, controlled movements, and deep breathing, which increase blood flow and warm up the muscles.


Among the uninitiated, Yoga is often believed to be “just stretching” and is dismissed as not a real workout, which always makes Jen Carrubba, a yoga instructor and co-founder of the Morgan Hill Yoga Collective studio, smile. “All they need to do is come to a class to realize it’s not just ‘om-ing’ and breathing,” she said, “Sometimes you don’t feel like you’re getting a workout, but you are. A lot of it is what you’re willing to put into the postures and transitions. It takes focus, discipline, and control.”

Yoga not only helps build strength, balance, and flexibility, but it also improves bone density, a fact that the Yoga Collective’s other co-founder, Paula Rasmussen, believes is changing views on yoga. “When medical practitioners started realizing that using your physical body weight against itself on the mat does build bone, I think that’s when they started paying attention that yoga was an option to tell people to build bone strength. You don’t just have to go lift weights,” she said. Considering greater bone density helps prevent breaks later in life, practicing yoga can be a great approach for long-term health.

But the mental health aspects of yoga are often more surprising than the physical ones. “There’s a sense of peace that comes over me when I’m in the yoga space,” Carrubba said. Carrubba’s students have described how yoga is a time for them to tap into how they’re feeling and let go. She has enjoyed seeing her students become more confident in themselves and their bodies, and feel proud of their accomplishments. “When you lift a weight you didn’t think you could lift, you feel so empowered. It’s the same thing in yoga,” Rasmussen explained.

Trying yoga for the first time can feel intimidating. The most common concern Carrubba hears from beginners is that they’re not flexible enough. “It’s not about being flexible. It’s about breathing, getting into the positions to the best of your ability, and using props and modifications to get there,” she explained. Rasmussen adds that it’s important to try out different yoga styles. “If you really want to explore yoga, you have to give yourself enough room and time to do it. You can’t just say, ‘well, I took two classes and it didn’t do it for me, so I’m done,’” she said. Rasmussen also emphasizes the importance of finding an instructor who resonates with you.

With each new year comes a new opportunity to put our health—both mental and physical—first. Whether it’s acupuncture, yoga, or both, these practices may offer a different, relaxing way to get back on track for the new year, and can provide health benefits for many years to come.

Stay Healthy in 2023! 

Better health… it’s yours for the taking! Five things you can do:

  1.  Walk: Whether its down the street, around the block, or anywhere in our local area. new to walking? Start with a short distance and build from there!
  2. Hydrate: Most of us don’t drink enough water. as a result you may feel sluggish at times. Grab a glass or bottle of water to perk up and get the hydration your body needs!
  3. Stretch: Ever pull a muscle while tying your shoe or cramp up while reaching for the top shelf? get into the habit of light stretching daily. Five to ten minutes of stretching makes a world of difference and can save you a pain in the … back or other part of your body!
  4. Join a Friend: The world is opening up! While we still need to be diligent about personal space and hygiene, join a friend over coffee or other beverage – just to have fun and catch up in person!
  5. Get Creative: Write a poem or encouraging letter to a friend or loved one, learn to draw or paint, take up a new a craft, play a musical instrument, etc. It’s a no-judgment zone! You are free to let your creativity soar! – To your health!


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