Kathryn Bauer

Licensed Acupuncturist & Diplomate, Loves Solving Puzzles

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Boulder, and moved to New York after high school to attend Vassar College. I ended up transferring to Stanford University and finished my degree in cultural anthropology there.

So you have a degree in cultural anthropology and ended up an acupuncturist?

You know, I have a childhood friend who also studied cultural anthropology and is also an acupuncturist now, and one of my primary mentors has his doctorate in cultural anthropology. So it may not be that unusual a trajectory!

Talk about that trajectory.

After I graduated from Stanford, I lived in San Francisco and was doing environmental work. At the time, I had chronic health issues that weren’t solved by western medicine, and one day I was walking home through Chinatown and was drawn to the office of a Chinese doctor. (It would make sense that my educational background lends itself to embracing a different view of medicine.)

After my first treatment I felt an immediate connection. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there’s an innate knowledge about how we’re supposed to function that’s been developed over thousands of years of careful study and observation. And, the Chinese medical theory I began studying reflected what I felt in my body.

And then you went back to school?

Yes, in 2003 I moved back to Boulder to get my MSOM at Southwest Acupuncture College.

What is it about your work that you find most gratifying?

The beauty of Chinese medicine is that there are general diagnostic principles, but each person is seen as a unique puzzle. The challenge of discovering that distinction and aligning my treatment in just the right way to facilitate healing is what makes my work so fascinating.

Have you had mentors along the way?

Yes, in the gentler style of Japanese acupuncture, which uses a very refined needle technique, Jeffrey Dann. He’s a wonderful teacher, and he made it possible for me to study with master teachers in Japan. And the brilliant herbalist Chip Chace has been a major influence in my approach to herbal medicine.

What unique style and ethos do you offer at Kenzai?

I spend a lot of time with my patients: I see one patient at a time, and my attention is very focused. I also do longer treatments with multiple modalities. It’s important to me to allow my patients, especially in their first appointments, to talk if they want to. From a Chinese perspective, the emotional state is integral to the physical state, and I need to understand the whole picture. I ask a lot of questions so I can hone in on each person’s particular constitution, then determine what I can do that will be the tipping point for healing.

Another crucial aspect of my practice is communicating what I’m seeing to my patients so that they can become agents in their own healing. The body has the intrinsic ability to come back into balance. My job is to gently push it in that direction.

In the course of your practice, have you seen more people turning to acupuncture and herbal medicine?

Yes! I’ve concentrated on treating fertility and women’s health for a long time, and that’s intriguing and fulfilling. But the scope of people who come to me for help with (what in Chinese medicine are known as) “knotty diseases”—amorphous, complex conditions that are difficult to treat with western medicine—has really grown in the last decade. These conditions – things like autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, and thyroid problems are perfect candidates for Chinese medicine. When you treat conditions like this from a Chinese medical point of view, you’re not isolating one function, but strengthening the entire system. And people with chronic health conditions respond well to that approach. The biggest difference I’ve seen since I started my practice, though, is how many teenagers are coming to me now. And I love treating them!

What kinds of things do you do in your life to stay balanced and maintain your own personal wellness?

Well, I love hiking in my native town. It’s wonderful having my family close by, and getting to spend time with them. A few years ago, my sister and her partner, who are both Iyengar yoga teachers, moved back from San Francisco and opened their own Iyengar studio here, and I’ve since become a devoted Iyengar practitioner myself.

In my previous life, I was a pastry chef, and I still love to bake. But nothing makes me happier than spending my free time with my husband and daughter.