Attending to the Flow: Attention and Needle Technique

With Guest: Justin Phillips

Episode Qi049

Needle technique is more than knowing how to insert a needle and count the turns in a particular direction. It requires more than the memorization of some protocols, or the rote following of a recipe of steps.

In this conversation we explore needle technique as a part of understanding how to feel into the tissues of the body. We discuss the creation of a treatment that relies not on someone else’s outline, but from your own understanding of first principles.

Listen in for a discussion of using ourselves as much as using the pins when doing acupuncture.
In this conversation we discuss:
  • The book was an unplanned endeavor
  • Importance of learning to feel into and through the tissues
  • There are different sensations in the tissue for which you need to develop a feel
  • What you are doing vs what you are feeling
  • Using needles as a kind of listening post
  • Why a few focused needles create more movement in the system
  • Emotion is not about how people act; it is about the direction the qi moves
  • Building your treatments not from protocols, but rather from first principles
  • Tensegrity, Bucky Fuller and the channel system
  • The basics we can learn from throughout our entire career
"Don’t think of the needle only as a tool of treatment, otherwise you leave half of what it can do on the table. The needle is a probe, a diagnostic tool, and if you pay attention it can tell you a lot about the state of the patient’s points, channels, and overall health."
Justin Phillips

I started studying meditation when I was five, martial arts when I was six, and Chinese qigong when I was ten. It was pretty much all downhill from there. After I finished my undergrad in English I didn’t really have a clear sense of what to do with the rest of my life, so when a friend said he wanted to go to an open house at a school of Chinese Medicine I figured I had nothing to lose. The rest is, as they say, history.

Early in my studies I had the privilege to study with Dr. Robert Johns and his emphasis on needle technique as central to the practice of acupuncture meshed with my own background of physical practices in dealing with energy. In my practice of martial arts I had studied both Eastern and Western fencing and the needle was just another sword in my hand, to be wielded with skill. This remained a central focus of my practice, and I moved farther into the physical and energetic aspects of the medicine, studying Applied Channel Theory, and deepening my training in Medical Qigong. I eventually taught Medical Qigong for the Healing Tao Institute of Austin and then needle technique at the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine.
Links and Resources

Visit Justin's website at

Read his book The Living Needle: Modern Acupuncture Technique

Read Jason's article on needle technique in the Journal of Chinese Medicine

Thank you for listening to Qiological, and if you would like to support the show so it has more resources to continue to expand and evolve, then please join and become a member of the community.

Support Qiological with a monthly or yearly membership.
I’ve heard it said that for something to be heard — it takes someone to speak and another to listen.

Michael Max

Acupuncturist, Podcast Host
About me
I've always been more drawn to questions than answers. And the practice of medicine seems to more lively when infused with a sense of curiosity and inquiry. It's been delight and honor to be able to discuss our medicine with so many thoughtful and skilled practitioners.

Created with