East Meets West: How Acupuncture, Qi Gong, Shiatsu, and Yoga Support Western Lives

According to one government survey, around 38% of the United States’ adult population uses alternative medicine. That’s a little less than a third of the population, or about 100 million people. Evidently, alternative therapies are not going anywhere, and while many of them originate from Eastern countries, they occupy an important part of many Westerners’ lives.

Acupuncture, Qi Gong, Shiatsu, and Yoga are all alternative therapies that focus on improving health and wellbeing not through medications or invasive procedures, but through movement, mindfulness, and physical manipulation. These ancient traditions offer a holistic approach to health, which can complement Western allopathic medicine for a well-rounded path to wellness.

How They Are Similar

Acupuncture, Qi Gong, and Shiatsu have their roots in Chinese medicine, and they all center their efforts on Qi. Qi is considered the vital life force that flows throughout the body, and these modalities work to strengthen it and keep it healthy. Yoga, of Indian origin, operates in a similar framework. Prana is considered the primal life force, and yoga practice a means of cultivating and maintaining it.

How They Differ: A Wide Variety of Benefits

While each therapy shares a similar view of health and healing, each one has distinct characteristics that can make it beneficial depending on your circumstance.

Qi Gong (pronounced “chee gong”) is a gentle exercise system that combines slow, conscious movement, deep and relaxing breathing techniques, and mindfulness. By practicing Qi Gong, you can reduce stress and anxiety, and boost immune health—studies have shown that Qi Gong’s calming effect can lower cortisol levels (also known as the stress hormone) and increase the number of cells involved in the body’s natural defense system. Qi Gong can also be extremely helpful with improving balance and coordination. The slow, mindful movements enhance proprioception, the body’s awareness of its position in space.

Similarly, yoga can reduce stress and increase balance, body awareness, and overall mindfulness. However, it can be more effective at strengthening muscles and increasing flexibility, because it combines more rigorous physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Like the other therapies, it also offers a holistic approach to well-being.

There are many different types of yoga, each with different advantages. Some of the most popular forms include hatha yoga, which is the most traditional Indian form of yoga that focuses on relaxation and holding positions, and vinyasa yoga, which is more active and usually includes vigorous exercise. Some styles actively incorporate meditation and breathing, and some focus more on the postures.

While Shiatsu and Acupuncture share a similar framework to Qi Gong, Shiatsu is a form of bodywork, and acupuncture a needling technique. Shiatsu uses a combination of kneading, pressing, stretching, and tapping to facilitate healing, and is performed through light clothing. Acupuncture uses small needles inserted into important energy areas, called meridians.


As mentioned before, Eastern therapies are not meant to replace Western medicine. Instead, they provide valuable tools for proactive wellness, health care, and self-care. Integrating Qi Gong or yoga sessions into your routine, or scheduling regular trips to acupuncturists and shiatsu practitioners can support stress reduction, pain management, and overall well-being, allowing you to live a more balanced and fulfilling life.

If you’d like to find a practitioner to work with, check out Tribe’s practitioner directory.

Related Articles