When Dr. Gayl Hubatch started to study acupuncture in 1982, not many people in the United Stated knew what that was. Fast forward 40 years and now it’s unusual if somebody doesn’t know what acupuncture is. In this special interview for MysticMag, Dr. Gayl explains to us what inspired her to know more and shares a bit of decades-long work.
I’m really curious to know about your first experience with acupuncture. When did you decide that you want to go forward and study more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine?
I actually did not have any experience with acupuncture when I first decided to study acupuncture I had studied psychology in college and then was looking for something to help me understand more how the mind and the body work together. It coincided with my mom having cancer and ended up passing. So, I would go and see the western medical treatment, and I just knew that there was a lot missing.
After having a baby, I went to a midwifery conference, where I met an acupuncturist. And he was teaching body mind acupressure, and when I touched the points, I could feel the chi, I could feel the energy moving through people and so that was very curious to me, I thought, ok, something’s going on here. And I decided to study with him. This was in Eugene, Oregon, in 1982.
It was very early in America for Chinese medicine. And so, I studied with him for a while and then I decided to further look into traditional Chinese medicine, and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where there was only a few schools at that time; Chinese medicine, just like yoga and the Ayurvedic medicine, it came out of the ancient world, and so people were living outside and they were looking at the stars, they were astronomers and they watched animals, and so all of this kind of played into the language of Chinese medicine, which I really like. I like the simplicity of it and so it just makes sense to me. You’re not adding medicine, you’re not altering anything in an unnatural way, all you’re doing is supporting the environment of the body and the mind, which includes the organs, the endocrine, the nerves, the vessels, everything.
You’re stimulating all that environment to come to a place where it just naturally is balanced, and then the body can heal faster. So, acupuncture helps to stop inflammation, reduce swelling, and so it stops pain, it helps people relax, it increases circulation and vitality of energy flow, and so people feel better, they sleep better, they think more clearly.
You mentioned starting in 1982: what was the reaction? Acupuncture is well known now, but I don’t know if in 1982 it was.
It wasn’t. In the United States, Chinese medicine was very limited to Chinese immigrants that lived in San Francisco or in certain pockets. But then when Richard Nixon, who was president in the 70s, when he went to China, one of the reporters on that team had an appendicitis attack and was treated with acupuncture with anaesthesia, and he recovered very quickly, he was amazed, and so he came back and wrote an article, and Harvard, I don’t know if they were professors, don’t know if they were physicians or what, but some Harvard professors found that article and thought, wow, this is worth really studying.
That’s honestly how Chinese medicine came to be studied more in America. I was at the cutting edge because this was in the late 70s and I was very young, in the early 80s and I found this doctor in Oregon who was practicing. I’ve been one of the pioneers in this country and at that time nobody really knew about it, so I had to start teaching right away in order to educate people.
I taught at the university in Oregon and just privately and then would travel all over the country. So, teaching has been part of my career, just naturally because of when I started.
What points of acupuncture that you believe that we don’t know yet or it’s a little bit underestimated?
Well, this is a great question because now in medicine, western medicine, there’s a lot of focus on the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve and the longest nerve in the body, it runs from the brain through the digestive organs. And I think because of the COVID pandemic and the anxiety that people have felt with this change of the world, this vagus nerve has been a focus of study, and I think for Chinese medicine that’s one of the focuses too to say “Okay, Chinese acupuncture stimulates the nervous system, so let’s look at how exactly it stimulates the nervous system”
What’s has been fascinating for me is that, given my background in history of Chinese medicine, is when western science creates a study and they find out the different ways that the nervous system acts or particularly the heart acts, the ancients from Chinese medicine already knew that, like it was part of their system. If it was just high intuition or if they studied it over time, but the theory that’s built into Chinese medicine is being proven all the time it’s being proven by the West more and more.
In Chinese medicine we say the heart is the monarch or the Emperor organ, it’s the main organ of the body and it governs all the other organs. The HeartMath community and also in various western scientific communities discovered the heart actually is the main organ of the body. It has its own brain, It has 40,000 neurons in it, It influences all of the other organs by entraining them, which means that if your heart is balanced and cohesive, not only the rhythm and rate of the heart is strong, so it adapts to different behaviours, but if we’re connected mentally to our heart, then all of the other organs can also be stronger and enhance their functions, so it’s just the interesting conversion of eastern and western science around the heart.
And how do you integrate? Because HeartMath is also a software, right?
HeartMath was developed by some scientists on the West Coast who studied the heart and the implications. They developed and app and sensor The sensor detects heart rate variability (HRV) You can download an app on your phone, called Innerbalance, and attach the sensor to your earlobe.
So, you click the little arrow on your phone, and it will start to read the rhythm and rate of your heart, heart rate variability, is the distance between the peaks of the heartbeat eg: how our heart beats differently according to different exercises or sleep patterns. The resiliency of the heart, should come back to homeostasis when people are under stress, anxiety. If the heart rate variability is not coherent state, the app is a like a biofeedback mechanism to help you learn how to not just manage your emotions, but actually elevate your emotions, build them into the memory that’s in our heart and in our brain, so that your body and mind will come back to a high level of resiliency after stress or illness.
Do you believe that people, especially after COVID, are more open to alternative methods to complement even common diseases or known diseases? Because well, the limits of the Western medicine are well known, so do you believe that people are more open to that?
Absolutely! We have to be! So many people have high levels of anxiety or if they’ve had COVID, maybe they haven’t fully recovered with their adrenals or their lungs or something and so, western medicine doesn’t really know what to do with these people, right? But so called alternative or complementary or integrative medicine, which is what I practice, integrative medicine, it helps open the lung function and one of the things I have noticed when I treat people that have had COVID is that their energetic pathways sometimes become disconnected from the disease process, and so acupuncture helps stimulate these energetic pathways so that they come back together and then the chi can flow more easily.
When the Chi flows easily, you feel good, you feel you have energy, you’re inspired, and resilient!
Doctor Gayl, to finish, I wanted to know more about your book, Fabric of the Soul,8 Extraordinary Vessels
My book, Fabric of the Soul, 8 extraordinary vessels. the eight extraordinary vessels are the original template of how energy or chi comes into a form at conception and through embryologic development. . And so, the extraordinary vessels predate the organ meridians because when an embryo is first forming in utero, the cells are just starting to differentiate and divide. There is a template or a basis of energetic flow that helps the function of the body to be, let’s see how can I say this, so we have we have an innate intelligence within us right? I mean it’s kind of one of these miracles like you plant a seed and it grows into a tree, or you cut yourself and you heal, and you know two people come together and then a baby forms. we may call it higher force or Creation, even God, you know, it’s the nature of life.
In Chinese medicine there’s a theory, of the extraordinary vessels, When life begins in the body, in the human body. When these energetic vessels are operating in harmony, then people either get well or stay well – healthy longevity.
When somebody has like an autoimmune illness or some disease that breaks down many body systems, like COVID for example, some people might have this cough that they can’t get rid of and then their digestion is messed up and maybe they have headaches or maybe their back hurts, like they have all these different symptoms, and that may be a sign that this template of energy has been affected. It’s a deeper layer of energetic connection, so the vessels are a way to access what we call Original chi. Like when we’re young and as a baby or a young toddler, when you’re just full of vitality and full of energy.