Today’s challenging lifestyles are provoking a renaissance in ancient healing methods.
The fast-growing global wellness economy is worth a cool US4.2 trillion, according to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI). These are, however, 2017’s figures, and coming into 2022 no doubt that figure has increased exponentially. Interestingly, taking stock of the practices and modalities that make up this lucrative industry, many are steeped in healing modalities that have been practiced since time immemorial. Here are some of those that have not only stood the test of time but are experiencing a modern-day renaissance thanks to today’s challenging lifestyles.
MUSIC AS MEDICINE
Music is one of the oldest forms of healing. Even the tiniest tribe has its own music, and the various genres have been found to be influenced by society, culture and climate. Back in 500BC, Pythagoras discovered harmonic frequencies could heal diseases of the body, emotions and soul, and history also tells of shaman, elders, monks and healers who have all used voices and drums, bowls and gongs, didgeridoos and other music makers as healing tools.
Made up of 70 percent water, the body is ideal for transmitting the vibrations emitted by voice or instrument, the ripples of which resonate at a cellular level, rebalancing the body. Sound therapy is being embraced by today’s wellness industry with live Tibetan, singing and crystal bowls, gong baths, drums, chanting and newer binaural beats. Music therapy is proven to relax, improve mood and fatigue, may help those with autism, dementia, depression and Parkinson’s, can increase one’s pain threshold, and improve sleep quality and duration.
Somadome pods at the Four Seasons Westlake Village, LA, combine LED colour therapy with binaural beats that emit wavelengths to initiate a meditative mental state. Martha Collard runs Red Door Studio in Hong Kong, a meditation gong centre with the largest collection (over 30) of gongs in Asia. Now a seven-year gong therapist, the former recruiter believes that the vibrations from gongs can help physical ailments from improving circulation to dissolving kidney stones.
WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE
The ancient Greeks and Romans loved social bathing, Hippocrates was a fan of hydrotherapy, and many civilisations have promoted healing via hot and cold water over the ages. A myriad of options include steam, hammams and saunas, Turkish baths, Japanese onsens, Russian bath houses and Ayurvedic herbal baths, as well as hot springs bubbling up through faults all over the Earth’s surface. Today, water therapy continues to be social, multi-generational and healing.
Water is an excellent conductor of heat or cold and, depending on what the body needs, can deliver healthy cleansing and relaxation, massage via jets, minerals via absorption, and comfort from injury via weightlessness. Hot and cold water both initiate detoxification, especially when used alternately. Warm water increases blood flow, reducing pain and stiffness and promoting sleep post-bath, while cold water immersion (cryotherapy) minimises muscle swelling, pain and inflammation, boosts the immune system, metabolism, mental resilience and focus, and wakes the body and mind up.
In Marrakech, the Royal Monsour Hotel’s spa offers one of the most luxurious hammam rituals money can buy. In Poland, The Iceman, aka Wim Hof, leads winter expeditions that combine immersion in ice baths and snow treks with visualisation and breathing.
Today’s world suffers from a nature-deficit disorder. As far back as 580BC, in Persia, Cyrus the Great planted a garden, because even then people needed calm sanctuary. Nature has always rejuvenated the human spirit and had a positive effect on our wellbeing, even if scientific evidence has been hard to come by. More recently, Japan’s trend of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, has started spreading around the world, sparking more research.
Dr Qing Li, president of the Japanese Society of Forest Medicine and author of numerous books, believes that phytoncides, chemicals released by plants, give our immune systems a boost that can last up to 30 days. He writes that shinrin-yoku is beneficial against strokes, gastric ulcers and cancers, lowering blood pressure, as well as alleviating depression, anxiety and stress. The trick is to fully immerse yourself, wander slowly and aimlessly, sit or stand still, mindfully listen, breathe, reflect.
In Japan there are certain forests that are certified for shinrin-yoku, or stay at a place such as Shishi-Iwa House in the woodlands of Karuizawa, an hour from Tokyo. Canyon Ranch’s Woodside Retreat Connect is in 16 acres of Silicon Valley woodland with treehouse decks and walks or yoga between redwoods.
BREATH, PRANA, QI
Breath is key to life, more specifically our life force, known as prana, qi or chi. Different practices such as Ayurvedic yoga, tai chi and traditional Chinese qi gong offer movement and meditation that centre around the breath. Pranayama, one of the eight limbs of yoga, bridges the body, mind and spirit, helping to shift consciousness towards enlightenment. And other than helping keep us in the present (in both senses of the word), breathing feeds every function of the body.
We don't need to make an effort to breathe, but most of us should. The kind of shallow short breaths we live on, whether because sedentary or stressed, bring minimal amounts of energy to our cells. Conscious breathing might take the form of diaphragmatic breathing, maximising oxygen in and carbon dioxide out, or hypoxic training, which involves holding the breath to stimulate red blood mass in a similar way as breathing at altitude. Other common practices include yogic fire breath (kapalabhati), which pumps oxygen into the body to increase energy and mind focus, and the 4-7-8 technique, which relaxes, ideal when stressed, or suffering from insomnia.
Britain’s Stuart Sandeman of Breathpod helps health clients and athletes boost their wellness and performance at his workshops. Free diver Stig Severinsen leads master classes on conscious breathing with focuses on PTSD, asthma, allergies, and more.
People talk about the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of our beings, but we are also electrical, and healing for our energy fields has been carried out by shaman and healers since time immemorial. Everything is energy, from the universe itself through to all its beings, and we as humans operate within this energy system. Crystal healing dates back past ancient Egyptians who used stones for protection and health; chakra work was mentioned in early Hinduism and Buddhism; acupuncture in China used sharpened bones instead of needles; and Reiki is believed to date back centuries, even though it is Usui Sensei’s mystical experience in 1922 that is usually practiced today.
We take energy cues from our surroundings, our beliefs and thoughts manifest in our senses playing out in our emotions, and eventually show up in our physical bodies. Being out of balance or alignment can manifest as pain, illness and disease. Working to unblock, unknot or realign our energy can happen in a multitude of ways, for example, in Reiki the healer channels positive energy into the client; crystal frequencies enhance our own in crystal healing; and acupuncture stimulates our energy via the body’s meridian energy channels.
Lifehouse Spa & Hotel in Essex, UK, offers chakra balancing and Reiki with experienced healer Michael Barthaud. In Costa Rica, Pura Vida Retreat & Spa offers many kinds of energy work, including Reiki.
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