Alexandra (known as Ali around the office) got into acupuncture when she was 7-years-old. She was being treated for asthma and it was one of the only things that worked. Fast forward to her early 20s when she began experiencing neurological symptoms, which Western medicine diagnosed as M.S. and she turned to acupuncture once again as the cure that was proven to work. Along with regular acupuncture, Ali changed her diet and lifestyle before seeing results and feeling “so much better.” “It was really empowering to work with an acupuncturist who made me responsible for my own health and gave me the tools to be responsible for my own health.” So, Ali decided she wanted to do the same thing for patients, which led her to study acupuncture at the New England School of Acupuncture and complete her masters in pain management at Tufts Medical School. Upon receipt of both degrees, Ali worked with an acupuncturist in Southern Massachusetts for two years before finding VEGA and settling her private practice here. Without further ado, let me introduce you to VEGA’s positively radiant acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist, Alexandra Vander Baan:
How did you get involved with VEGA?
I’m part of the Boston Business Women group on Facebook and Ashley and I started to come up in similar forums with similar interests and she reached out to me – they were looking for an acupuncturist to finish off their team. I know that they were looking for someone with Chinese herbal medicine experience because it’s a really great combination with functional medicine, which Dr. Stephanie Moore brings, and we connected and I saw the space and I loved the concept that they had for the space. It ’s all about creating a community for our patients, where people can come to one place and get everything they need and feel supported and feel empowered. And, their mission really resonated with me so I joined the team.
How exactly did their mission resonate with you?
First of all, it starts with the practitioner and if you’re not living the life that you tell your patient to be living then it’s an empty guide and I don’t think you’re as effective. Everybody here lives the life that they preach and they give their practitioners opportunities for that – so, there’s a lot of support from each other – we treat each other, we take care of each other, we take yoga and other classes together. So, their whole mission of ‘choose to shine’ they really embrace that in each of their practitioners; it’s not just something we tell others to do.
So, how do you choose to shine?
For me, it’s being active, being surrounded by positive, supportive people and I can do those things here. I have such a great team, I love all of the women I work with and I want to support them all too. I feel that I shine by supporting other women, or other entrepreneurs and practitioners. So, I’m always referring – not just for the potential for business – but because I really believe in the practitioners I work with and I truly think they are the best (and that’s why I go to them) and that’s why I feel confident referring my patients to them.
What’s one thing that you find really compelling about acupuncture?
I always want to emphasize that it doesn’t hurt. I think a lot of people are afraid of trying acupuncture because they are afraid it hurts because it’s needles – maybe we need a better name for the tool we use. So many of my patients that come in nervous to try it are like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s harmless. I didn’t realize it wouldn’t hurt’ and in fact people feel really relaxed during treatment. I just want to get the word out that it’s a really positive experience and there’s nothing to fear about acupuncture.
Do you practice on yourself?
I do. It depends on the condition I have at the time. If it’s something like I’m worn down and I need some energy, it’s really not effective because part of what you’re doing with acupuncture is transferring energy. Everything is an exchange of energy. So, that being said, if I’m rundown, it doesn’t do much for me. But if I have a local knee pain, I will because acupuncture can increase circulation to promote healing and eliminate pain.
How do you deal with negative energy?
Like if I forgot my keys and I can’t get into work and suddenly I’m going to be late, so I’m in a bad mood before the day’s even started? Well, I truly believe in the power of the breath. That’s the one thing we all have, regardless of where we are in our lives. As long as we are breathing, we are living and as long as we’re living we’re breathing. We will always have that to come back to. What I love about the breath – and I try to teach everyone this – is if you breathe properly into the lower lobes of your lung, it sends a signal to your brain and your body that you’re in a place of safety and security. A lot of the time we’re not breathing into that area, we’re doing the superficial breathing and that sends a signal of stress all the time. So, if we’re not sitting and spending time doing those deep breaths then we’re in chronic stress. It’s so simple to reset – all you have to do is take some deep breaths.
What’s a moment in your life that you’re really proud of?
I’m really proud of being bold enough to go out on my own and start my own practice and to have the support of VEGA to do that; to have made that leap and now it’s thriving.
What’s your perfect way to spend a fall afternoon on the weekend?
Oooh, just walking my dog with my husband. We live in the South End but we like to walk out to the Common because it’s a nice, long walk and we’ll grab tea or something. The weather is good for our dog because she’s a French Bulldog and the summers are way too hot to walk at all. I really love just walking, or cycling, but then the dog can’t come.
What’s your dog’s name?
Pippen – she comes to work sometimes.
What’s a fun fact about you that not many people know?
I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon for Dana Farber Cancer Institute in memory of my brother. Also, I am a committee member for the American Cancer Society.
Describe the VEGA space and atmosphere in five words:
Oasis, serenity, rejuvenating, exuberant, collaborative.