For many people, the thought of being pricked and prodded is the furthest thing to a relaxing experience. For Grace Elliston and Georgie Ireland, co-founders of The Elements Project, acupuncture became the guiding light towards better and more fruitful lives. “The most common misconception is that we only treat physical pain. Not many people know that Five Elements Acupuncture is a holistic practice which addresses a whole raft of issues including mental and emotional problems,” the duo tells me. On the topic of needles, they explain: “People also often assume that we use lots of needles and treatment can be quite painful. We instead only use one needle at a time and we rarely leave them in.”
With new physical and mental concerns coming about due to prolonged periods in isolation, Elliston and Ireland are even more keen to support clients and new prospects alike by introducing them to the many ways that acupuncture can solve their issues. “We treat a total variety of problems from anxiety to fertility to IBS and many more. Some of our patients come to us when no one has been able to offer an explanation as to the cause of their distress, others because they are keen to try more holistic methods—to be treated and cared for as a whole individual not just their isolated symptom.” Find out more about how these talented entrepreneurs and acupuncturists first discovered the power of acupuncture and the challenges of being business owners.
If you told yourselves 10 years ago that this is what you’d be doing, would your former selves be surprised?
Grace: Hell yes! 10 years ago, I was 17 and in the middle of my A-levels, preparing for a life in something far more strait-laced. 17-year-old Grace would have been completely dumbfounded, but hopefully pleasantly surprised, if she did find out that her future self had embarked on a semi-spiritual career.
Georgie: YES! I don’t think I’d even heard of acupuncture 10 years ago. I was just about to start reading Spanish at university as I wanted to keep as many doors open for my future, but sticking needles into people as a profession was definitely not what I envisaged as being one of them.
Many people discover their passions because they’re drawn to them via a certain life experience. Was it the same for you?
Grace: Yes again. I was introduced to acupuncture as a patient first; treatment really brought me back to myself after an unexplained and prolonged period of disconnection. As a massive skeptic, I was so gobsmacked by how huge the difference was in how I felt. I knew I had to make sense of it all and that’s why I trained. I still marvel at how much it has broadened my mind and taken me to depths I never knew were possible.
Georgie: Yes. I found acupuncture during a very challenging and dark period in my life. It was the only therapy which helped me when I was suffering from severe anxiety and depression after my dad’s death. Once I came out the other side, I knew I needed to understand more about the practice. It always blew my mind—and still does—that a couple of needles could completely alter my perception of reality and how I felt about myself internally. So from pretty early on, the love affair and passion began!
What is Five Element Acupuncture and what sets it apart from other types of acupuncture?
Five Element acupuncture is an ancient practice which originated in China over 2,000 years ago. It upholds the idea that mind and body are made up of the five elements found in nature: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal, and that all five energies must be in balance to achieve optimum health and wellbeing.
What sets it apart from other types of acupuncture is our focus on finding the root cause of imbalance rather than treating symptoms. For us, symptoms are just alarm bells of distress. Each of us will have a weakness in one of the five elements and our skill, as the practitioner, is to isolate that cause and treat it directly so that balance is restored to the whole system. It is a preventative and strengthening form of medicine rather than symptom management.
What type of experience did you both want for your clients when founding The Elements Project?
What we noticed through our own experiences is that whilst there is a lot of awareness of mental health nowadays, the avenues offering help are very limited. We wanted to combine the magic of this ancient practice with this modern need. Making it accessible and relatable whilst also providing a safe space that allows our patients to grow and heal.
What has been the biggest challenge of being business owners and what are the unique strengths each of you bring to the table?
The responsibility is huge. Holding the space for your patients whilst also going through your own challenges and having the drive and vision to grow the business outside of the treatment room can be full on. But with that being said, seeing the results from our patients makes exhausting days all the more worth it.
Grace: I love working with Georgie. You only need to meet her once to feel the warmth and calming energy she brings and the care and consideration she gives her patients. Georgie’s incredibly charming and engaging and has the ability to entice even the biggest skeptic along for an initial consultation, which makes her a great business partner. Normal things that scare others don’t tend to scare Georgie and whether that’s down to her incredible inner strength and resilience or determination, I’m not sure—maybe it’s both—but I do know that it means that I and all her patients, can depend on her to keep us going, no matter what.
Georgie: Grace is a rock. She takes charge of the structure and organisation of the business. She is intimidatingly good at Excel, getting stuff done, staying on top of things, pointing out the facts versus reality, and holding the business—and me—together. She is also incredibly talented, creatively—her wonderful and unique vision is what really brought the brand to life, aesthetically. As her patients know, she’s a gem, who is unbelievably wise and will do everything within her power to ensure you’re reaching your full potential. You’d be incredibly fortunate to have her as your practitioner, as well as your business partner. I love her!
What can someone expect from a session at The Elements Project?
In the first session we have extra time to go deeper into your story and find out what you would most like to get out of treatment. This is followed by a simple starter treatment, where we clear the decks and make sure we’re laying good foundations to build upon. We would expect to see you a week later for your first follow up, where we would catch up, see how you have got on, and continue with treatment.
Eastern and Western medicine differ greatly on when people decide to get treated. What are your thoughts on this?
We think it is really important to invest in treatments which are preventative in nature rather than being solely dependent on a quick fix or external cure.
Whilst Western medicine is incredible, what Five Element Acupuncture provides is the tools for us to trust in our own body’s innate intelligence and to ultimately heal ourselves. In empowering people to be more proactive towards their health, this practice builds a sense of our own agency and inner authority.
Of course, it is not about being illness-free. Some illnesses are unavoidable and require medical intervention—as we see now—but if that is the case, regular Five Element Acupuncture ensures the patient trusts their body and mind to confront and fight the reality as best as they can.
What are some of the common issues clients come to you for and why do they turn to acupuncture for these?
We treat a total variety of problems from anxiety, to fertility, to IBS, and many more. Some of our patients come to us when no one has been able to offer an explanation as to the cause of their distress. Others because they are keen to try more holistic methods, to be treated and cared for as a whole individual, not just their isolated symptom.
Is there anything you’re doing to continue connecting with clients and prospects during the lockdown?
We have been in touch with all of our patients and have offered Zoom calls by way of support. Right now, we are focusing on building our brand through social media and trying to reach as many people as we can that way. We started an IGTV series to explain more about what we do as well.
What’s the first thing you’ll do once we’re all allowed to go outside?
Grace: I would love to go for a swim in some freshwater somewhere, but I am also missing the pub…
Georgie: I was going to say that! But actually I think I’d like to go on a really long country walk and see the bluebells—if they’re still out.
The Elements Project
Address: The Eurolink Business Centre: Unit 69, 49 Effra Road, SW21BZ,
The Bonnington Centre: 11 Vauxhall Grove, SW81TD