Heal your mind, body and soul with our pick of the best therapies on the block
Want to dip your toes into the rich waters of holistic healing but slightly bamboozled by so much choice? There are so many weird and wacky therapies out there that it’s sometimes hard to narrow it down.
Complementary medicine refers to a vast range of health care systems and practices which do just that – they ‘complement’ the conventional medicine administered by medical doctors and their associated health professionals.
When choosing a therapy, it’s important to do your homework. Ask yourself a few questions: What do you want to achieve? Do you want to feel generally better and more relaxed or do you want to treat an illness or a particular health concern? While most complementary therapies work on an holistic level, treating your body and mind as a whole, some address more specific issues. For example, bodywork is perfect for physical ailments such as back pain, while you might opt for an aromatherapy massage if you’re feeling stressed and need something to chill you out.
So, read ahead to discover our favourite tried and tested treatments for ultimate health and wellbeing!
Best for immunity
Kinesiology uses a noninvasive technique called muscle testing to identify imbalances in the body’s structural, chemical and emotional energies. During a session, your therapist might ask you to press against his hand with your outstretched arm, and then they’ll ask you a series of questions to test your muscle strength and body response to pinpoint areas of stress or deficiency. Then, depending on their training, they might use a number of techniques, including acupressure, flower essences or sound healing, to correct the imbalance and unblock the energy pathways.
Best for headaches
This subtle yet powerful holistic treatment is based on the theory that different points on the feet, lower leg, hands, face or ears correspond with different areas of the body. By massaging certain points aligned with different organs you can help to boost energy and vitality in your body. What’s more, it’s very easy do it yourself once you’ve learned the main reflexology points. If you’re feeling a tension headache coming on, press the acupoint in the middle of the palm of your hand. This point is located on one of the most important meridians (or energy channels), which affects the heart, liver, and pancreas, where stress is often stored.
Best for energy balancing
This beautifully relaxing treatment is a form of energy healing based on the idea that a ‘life force’ flows through our bodies. It is just one of many therapies that rebalances the body’s subtle energies to bring about healing on an emotional and physical level. Others include therapeutic touch, crystal therapy, reiki, reflexology, theta healing, quantum touch and qigong. During a treatment you will lie or sit fully clothed while the practitioner places their hands on or near the body, allowing the energy to flow. Like all these energy therapies, it supports your body’s healing process by clearing blockages and rebalancing your energy fields.
Best for nausea
A subtle vibrational medicine, this treats illness with highly diluted substances that work on an energetic level to heal a wide range of ailments from nausea to allergies. Working in the same way as a vaccine, it is based on the principle of ‘like treats like’, for which a substance that can cause symptoms in large doses can be used in small amounts to treat similar symptoms. For example, drinking too much coffee can cause sleeplessness and agitation, so according to this principle, when made into a homeopathic medicine, it could be used to treat people suffering from sleeplessness and agitation. While you can buy many of these remedies in health food shops or chemists, for the best results you should consult a registered homeopath.
Best for back pain
Bodywork encompasses all the various forms of massage, deep tissue and movement awareness therapies. It generally emphasises manipulation and realignment of the body’s structure in order to improve its function and heal injury, as well as bring about emotional wellbeing. These therapies typically combine a passive phase, during which you will receive deep tissue bodywork or postural correction from a practitioner, followed by a more active period of movement education, where you learn to re-educate your body, sitting, standing, and moving about with better alignment and greater ease of motion. Rolfing and hellerwork are two of the more hardcore therapies and use strenuous manipulation of the muscles, connective tissues, and joints, while the gentler movement awareness therapies such as the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique are great for realigning your posture.
Best for relaxation
This gentle and relaxing therapy uses the essential oils and compounds of plants, flowers and herbs to bring about emotional and physical healing. It works on the basis that the smell of the essential oils triggers the limbic system, the part of the brain linked with emotion. The healing plant oils are applied in a variety of ways including massage, baths and inhalations. Commonly used essential oils include flowers oils such as chamomile, lavender, rose and jasmine, plus herbs such as rosemary and oils extracted from trees such as eucalyptus, sandalwood and vertiver. Because it works on many levels, aromatherapy can help to manage pain, improve sleep quality, reduce stress, relieve sore joints and overcome symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Best for overall health
One of the world’s oldest healing traditions, this ancient practice originated in India over 5000 years ago. Derived from the Sanskrit words ayur (life) and veda (knowledge), it defines health as the dynamic state of balance between mind, body and the environment. It is based on the three energies or ‘doshas’ – vata, kapha and pitta – which perform different physiological functions in the body. For example, if you’re a vata type, you’ll probably prefer hot weather to cold and, if you’re a kapha type, you’ll love spicy foods. Because it treats the body holistically it can help with anything from stress and anxiety to high blood pressure, recovery from injuries, promoting overall health, weight loss and hormonal issues. During your initial consultation, your practitioner will take a detailed analysis of your health and lifestyle – remember that Ayurveda doesn’t separate mind and body, so your emotions count as much as your physical symptoms. You will then be prescribed a combination of special diets, herbs, massages, yogic exercises and breathing techniques to bring about balance and harmony in mind, body and soul.
Best for emotional strength
Developed by a homeopath and working along similar vibrational principles, this uses 38 distillations of flower petals to treat certain emotions or negative states of mind. Sipped in water or dissolved under the tongue, they gently restore the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions. For example, agrimony can help to combat stress and tension, while centaury helps with lack of self-confidence, mimulus helps with phobias and vervain helps with emotional exhaustion.
Best for stress
A great way to ease anxiety, meditation has been shown to have numerous health benefits including combating depression and lowering blood pressure. There are many different ways to meditate but one of the easiest to master is mindfulness. All you do is concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment, such as focusing on your breathe as you breathe deeply in and out; or try focusing on the steps of your feet, one in front of the other, as you’re out walking. This allows you to clear your mind and banish anxious thoughts. What’s more, you can practise it wherever you are — whether you’re out for a walk, on the bus to work or even waiting in the supermarket queue!
Best for hormonal health
Known as TCM, this ancient healthcare system dates back over 2,500 years and uses a combination of plant, animal, and mineral remedies along with diet and exercise to heal mind and body. Based on the principle that vital energy (known as ‘qi’) runs throughout your body, it aims to restore flow of qi and the balance between yin and yang energy. It encompasses a broad range of healing therapies including herbal medicine, acupuncture and reflexology, massage such as tui na and energy movement exercises such as tai chi and qigong. Because it restores body energy, TCM, and especially its associated therapies such as acupuncture and reflexology, can treat everything from emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression to digestive complaints and gynaecological conditions.
Best for pain management
If you want to experience the many benefits of acupuncture but the idea of needles sends you into a cold sweat, this therapy is for you. Working along the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, which focuses on the flow of energy (or ‘qi’) in your body, it releases blockages to bring about healing. Like acupuncture, it can treat a variety of physical and emotional ailments easing everything from insomnia and inflammation to soothing sore joints and treating headaches. The practitioner applies gentle pressure to acupoints along your body’s meridians (or energy channels) to rebalance your body. Sometimes, it can also involve stretching or acupressure massage, as well as other methods. Afterwards you should feel calm, centred and re-energised.
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