Walking into my first acupuncture session, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ll admit that like most, I was a little skeptical—cynical even. But, my curiosity about Eastern medicine outweighed my skepticism, and so I decided to give this millennia-old healing process a try.
Whatever cliché images I had in my mind were dashed as soon as I entered POKE Acupuncture on Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles. You won’t find any of the typical doctor’s office sterility or faux Asian Zen vibe here. Instead, owner Russell Brown has meticulously crafted a sanctuary that’s both stylish and comforting. Simply put, his office feels like home—your cool, artsy friend’s home where you always feel warm and welcome.
Ten years ago, Brown left his successful film industry career—he helped make hits like The Fast and the Furious, Cruel Intentions and a few less popular flicks that he won’t own up to—on a whim in search of something more personally and professionally fulfilling. “I was at breakfast one day eavesdropping on the conversation at the table next to me, and a young woman was talking about how she was about to start school to become an acupuncturist,” he recalls. “I had never had acupuncture, or even thought about it, but something sparked in me and I went down to the school the next day and enrolled.”
These days, Brown has established a loyal clientele of patients who seek his alternative treatment for everything from migraines to depression. While acupuncture is typically used to treat pain and stress conditions and recognized for improving circulation to create harmony and balance in the body, Brown also believes in the power of giving his visitors some quality me-time. “The most important thing you can do for yourself is to take a little time, close the door to your regular world, and just spend a little time forgiving yourself for all the failures you’ve manufactured,” he insists.
Once he pricks you with his tiny, painless pins—yes, you can feel it, but no, it doesn’t hurt—dims the lights and puts on a tranquil music playlist for 25-30 minutes of much-needed meditation, it’s nearly impossible not to let all the day’s pain and problems drain from your body.
As I left my session, feeling unbelievably relaxed and surprisingly exhilarated, I finally understood Russell Brown’s brand of acupuncture. It’s not only about the needles; it’s about the time. “I’m honored and proud to be able to give this time to my patients and let people know that acupuncture isn’t all granola or strip-mall sketchiness,” he explains. “It’s a way to chase away some little bit of darkness in people’s lives and have them leave happier than when they came in.” I know I did.
x Melissa Metcalf
photos by Stephen Zeigler