Acupuncture without needles is practised in Japan – and now it has arrived in York. MAXINE GORDON makes a point of checking it out

AS a needle-phobic, I was never going to submit to acupuncture. I’d rather walk over hot coals than have someone stick needles into me.

So I was intrigued by news that the Japanese therapy, Toyohari – a form of acupuncture without needles – was now available in York.

Sylvia Schroer has been administering acupuncture for 20 years and for the past ten years has been trained in Toyohari, during which she visited Amsterdam and Japan for tutoring.

“Toyohari is a style of acupuncture from Japan,” says Sylvia. “It has a long tradition of being practised by blind people and because of this there is a strong focus on sense and touch for diagnosis.”

The treatment is newly available at the Gateway To Acupuncture clinic at York Natural Health centre on York Road, Acomb, and I was one of Sylvia’s first York clients.

Pipping me to the post was Penny Cole, who suffers from arthritis and had some Toyohari treatment on her ankle. A self-declared sceptic, Penny came out of the session surprisingly complimentary. Normally after sitting still for half an hour or so, Penny said her ankle would feel stiff and weak. But today, she said, it felt okay, adding she was off to take the dog for a walk.

I doubted Sylvia would be able to work any similar magic on me – mainly because I felt well and had no health complaints.

But Sylvia said I didn’t have to be unwell or in pain to benefit from acupuncture.

The clinic is running detox treatments, designed to give the body a boost.

After checking my medical history, Sylvia asked me to lie on the couch. She placed a blanket over me and immediately I felt relaxed.

She held my two wrists in her hand and took my pulse. This, said Sylvia, was a crucial part in the ‘diagnosis’ process and helped the therapist pinpoint any ‘imbalance’ in the person’s body that needed corrected.

She immediately picked up an imbalance in my lungs. “In Chinese acupuncture, the lungs are to do with breath and on a mental and emotional level it is about taking things in and letting go,” said Sylvia. “The lungs are also to do with grief.”

She also detected my spleen and kidneys needed some rebalancing and soon got out a thick silver needle (like a darning needle) and laid it carefully on certain points on my arm and ankle.

There was method in the seeming randomness of these selected parts, I later discovered. The points treated by Sylvia lay along meridians which channel the chi (or energy) through the body. By harmonising this flow, you optimise health and well being, says Sylvia.

As part of my detox treatment, Sylvia used moxa (mugwort herb), well established in traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. Practitioners burn a tiny piece of the herb and apply it to acupuncture points on the patient’s skin to improve the flow of energy.

Intrigued, I watch Sylvia light an incense stick, using the red-hot tip to ‘light’ the moxa which she then applied to my skin in a swift dart action. It was over in a nanosecond before she did it again – to several other points.

Sylvia said the treatment would not be painful, and true to her word, it wasn’t.

But did it work?

Well considering I had no obvious ailment, I can’t honestly say I felt any different. I did feel a bit light-headed afterwards, and it was very relaxing (so much so it was a struggle to drag myself back to the office).

Sylvia said: “You can use acupuncture to make you feel clearer and lighter. That’s often the first thing people feel – clearer and more relaxed. Most have a sense that something is happening to them that is good and their body likes. Very often that is the driver for them to continue treatment.”

Acupuncture is now recognised as a valid treatment for various problems by the mainstream medical establishment.

York GP Andy Field, based at 32 Clifton, supports the clinic and will be acting as a medical contact should patients or practitioners wish to discuss diagnosis or treatments.

Acupuncture, he says, can offer a fruitful approach in treating ailments as diverse as back pain and depression.

“It is in the NICE guidelines for back pain and has some relevance in certain gynaecological conditions and possibly depression,” says Dr Field. “If we were in more positive economic times, I think we would be using it a lot more.”

In recognition of these cash-straitened times, the Gateway To Acupuncture clinic, operates a multi-bed practise. This allows therapists to treat three patients at a time in one large room, with individual beds screened off. This, explains Sylvia, makes the treatment more affordable, at £20 per session. Also, patients who had been referred by their GPs will receive a ten per cent discount.

Sylvia said: “Hopefully this will mean more people can access acupuncture. And if they have a chronic health problem and need a lot of therapy they will be able to afford it.”

• Find out more at or telephone 01904 788411 to book an appointment.