Medieval torture or modern medicine?

In a soundproof, upstairs room on Hawkins Street, a woman pushes needles into a pair of bare legs sticking out from under a white sheet.

In a soundproof, upstairs room on Hawkins Street, a woman pushes needles into a pair of bare legs sticking out from under a white sheet.

Next-door, inaudible through the thick walls, a man kneads away on the internal organs of a body that’s resting face down in the middle of the room.

It sounds a bit like medieval torture.

Throw in a woman mixing up a concoction of strong herbal tinctures and pouring them into a brown, glass bottle that is reminiscent of a Shakespearian poison vial, while another heats up scalding stones that will be placed on someone’s naked back and it gets worse.

But the needles, potions, blistering stones and pummelings aren’t intended to elicit admissions of guilt or extract classified information from the patients.

And instead of occurring in a dank, dark dungeon, it’s all taking place in airy offices, with glowing hardwood floors, flowering plants and soothing music.

Welcome to Whitehorse’s newest

holistic …

No, that’s not the right word.

Well, actually, it is the right word, but it’s dangerous.

It makes people think: flaky, crystal power, stinky vitamins and whale music, according to a quick Yukon News office survey.

And that’s exactly what practitioners at the new health centre were worried about.

“Holistic is a word some people run away from; they either like it or they don’t,” said osteopath Joanne Baines.

“They have an impression of what it means.”

But holistic sums up Baines work nicely.

“I take into consideration the whole person,” she said.

“I want to know how people are doing on an emotional level, as well as a physical level, because to me it’s all interwound.”

It’s a philosophy all seven practitioners at the “wholistic” health centre champion.

During her first appointment with a new patient, naturopath Janice Millington takes two hours to “get an idea of their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

“The goal is to understand the underlying cause of a person’s health concerns,” she said.

“Then we use natural medicines, like diet and herbs, to address the underlying cause as well as the symptoms.”

It’s a far cry from your average doctor’s appointment.

In a medical system that takes maybe 10 minutes per appointment, at most, there can’t be much information sharing, said Millington.

Rather than treating the symptoms — what most doctors do — Millington wants to get at the underlying causes of the problem.

Although many don’t realize it, people have so much control over their health, she said.

“And I want to share that information, so they can take it and fly.”

Millington, who shares an office with healing facilitation practitioner Mary Gamberg, also plans to share patient information with her colleagues — after getting their permission, of course.

“What I love is that we can communicate about clients,” added Baines.

In one instance, “I had someone that needed something Janice Millington could do,” she said.

“So I went with the client and we all talked together. It truly is more of a team because the client is present, rather than me running to pick up the phone and calling Janice, then the client can’t be with you to be a part of the conversation.

“And it takes me no time at all to nip in the next room and have a quick chat, so we’ve had several clients already we’re doing that with. We can share knowledge and give each other ideas what to work on with different skills.”

These discussions are invaluable, said acupuncturist Anni Elliston, whose light-filled office sits across the hall from Baines’.

“In the past we’ve conferred about clients via voicemail, now it flows on a daily basis.”

Just the other day, the pair was discussing the generalities of treatment approaches while folding laundry, said Elliston.

“To have support both socially and professionally is really nice.”

The shared office space has been in the works for some time.

“The biggest problem was finding the right space, said Baines.

“So, the idea became lets find the space and then the centre will develop itself, because there are lots of grandiose ideas for a centre, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

“And we don’t know where it will go, or what it will turn out to be, but it could be bigger; eventually we want to do educational sessions.”

After Elliston and Baines saw the breezy rooms with mountain views on Hawkins, they were ready for the next move — to find a team of compatible associates to share the space.

 It wasn’t hard.

“There was more interest than we had space for,” said Elliston, who shares her room with transformational breath facilitator Marlynn Bourque.

Next-door massage therapist Luc Garceau also shares an office, with fellow masseuse Janet Arntzen.

It’s the only repeat in the building.

We tried to get a variety of practitioners, said Baines.

And while two massage therapists is an overlap, each has a unique focus, she said.

“Janet and I have such different skills and approaches, it’s a compliment,” added Garceau.

A neuromuscular specialist, Garceau does deep massage “to try and release pressure inside at the trigger point.”

Arntzen, on the other hand, is more concerned with full-body massage and relaxation.

She also heats smooth stones to 60 degrees and rubs them up and down her clients’ spines and between the toes.

“It’s great for stress and tension release,” she said.

Back in Elliston’s office, nestled under a warm sheet on a soft contoured bed, it’s hard not to doze off.

Even the tiny prick of slender needles doesn’t interrupt the relaxing sensation brought on by the room, music and quiet.

Then, Elliston begins to stimulate the acupuncture points, gently moving the needles.

It sends a jolt of energy up the leg, almost like the tingle after knocking a funny bone.

The Chinese believe the body is full of channels, each connected to a different organ, said Elliston, who also practises Chinese medicine.

Problems occur when these channels are blocked.

By stimulating these points with needles, blockages can be removed. And since it’s all connected, this will influence the whole system, she said.

Baines also works on the whole system.

“Osteopaths treat the bones, muscles, joints, the organs, blood vessels, nerves — basically, everything in the body,” she said.

“But if we say we treat everything in the body, people aren’t quite sure what’s in the body.”

The seven health practitioners at 303 Hawkins are not only planning to host information sessions and problem-solve with their clients. They’re also excited about working on each other.

“We’re going to trade off so we can all get an idea of the skills, and we all need our own treatment anyway,” said Baines.

It’s just matter of finding time between all the bookings.

“We’re going to try and get together regularly for relationship building, and to discuss all our dreams and ideas about what a future holistic health centre could look like,” she said.

“There’s lots of talk in Whitehorse about collaborative health, even an integrated centre for cancer care, and places need a starting place, otherwise you never get through the paperwork of the dream state.”