Surrounded by the rubble and destruction of the 92nd Street Beach in the Rockaways, a little yoga studio, fortunately located on the second floor, has become something of a wellness haven.
Acupuncture Without Borders and the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) have turned Yoga on the Rocks into a refuge of free acupuncture and massage for locals reeling from Sandy’s after-effects. And it’s one of several healing pop-ups throughout the city.
Michelle Ladue, a PCOM graduate and acupuncturist, organized the Rockaway relief clinic, located in one of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. “Most people on this block have lost so much, like the first floor of their homes,” says Ladue.
Despite having no electricity, Ladue and others have created a healing oasis for the decimated neighborhood. “People have brought candles, we have a generator, space heater, donated teas. One of our neighbors usually makes soup. Many people just stay and hang out after their treatment.”
Cynthia Neipris, Pacific College’s director of outreach and coordinator of the free clinics, cites the benefits of acupuncture for dealing with acute stress. “All Sandy clinics use something called the NADA protocol, a treatment that targets a series of endorphin-releasing points,” Neipris explains.
Acupuncture also calms the sympathetic nervous system, the body’s regulator of the “flight or flight” response mechanism, and can even help relieve physical aches and pains.
“Some people coming in have lost everything. They’ve been schlepping their destroyed possessions to the garbage and clearing away parts of their homes. After acupuncture, they report waking up to less pain,” says Ladue.
Some locals have previously tried acupuncture, while others are completely new to it—and skeptical. “We had a woman come in yesterday—her friend had dragged her along—and she was very closed to the idea at first. After her treatment, she was all smiles. She wanted to try the teas and herbs. It’s incredible to see the shift in energy,” says Ladue.
An even more powerful benefit of these pop-up clinics? The social aspect. “A lot of the people we see have been so traumatized, and they feel so alone,” says Neipris. “Group acupuncture is empowering. You realize that you have this whole community behind you.” —Carla Vass