Alternate Therapy is the alternative treatment to conventional medicine. Whereas orthodox medicine is single minded in its approach, the principles of alternative medicine are diverse. Alternative therapies treat the whole person, mind, body, and spirit. From Acupuncture to Yoga we will explore a range of methods addressing the well-being of "Self".
An ancient Chinese therapy, acupressure, like its younger relative acupuncture, targets certain points of the body in order to relieve pain by releasing energy blocks. For those squeamish about the thought of those little sharp points, acupressure uses the pressure of fingers and hands instead of electricity and remains an effective preventative health care treatment for tension related ailments.
Referred to as Tui Na (China) and Amma (Japan), acupressure uses rubbing, vibration, percussion and kneading to improve circulation through stimulating stale blood and lymph from tissues. Developed over 5,000 years ago, it addresses the flow of chi or qi energy circulating along twelve major pathways called meridians, that are linked to specific parts of the body.
During the 60's scientific research revealed the existence of an independent series of duct-like tubes corresponding to the path of traditional acupuncture meridians. Since then, the meridian system theory has been further proved by the tracing of radioactive isotopes injected into the human body that, rather than following blood vessels, travel along the meridian pathway. Acupressure focuses on the relieving of pain and discomfort by responding to tensions and toxicities within the body before they develop into illness.
Acu-Yoga (incorporating yogic posture, meditations and stretches) and Do-In (focusing on vigorous techniques as well as stretching and breathing), utilize the same points and are designed for those wishing to self-administer.
Focusing on the relationship between the head, neck and back, this gentle technique has been used in the alleviation of rheumatism, arthritis, debilitating curvatures of the spine and various gastrointestinal and breathing disorders. There are more than 21,000 people trained throughout the world, that have been recognized with the technique at the Inner London Education Authority.
Frederick Alexander was a Shakespearean actor who couldn't understand why his voice seized up as soon as he stepped up on the stage. Concerned about this career threatening affliction, he observed himself in a mirror and discovered a repeated unconscious movement. The mere thought of using his voice caused him to pull his head back and tense his throat, both doing little for his performance.. In order to combat this, Alexander pioneered a simple and effective way to re-balance the body through awareness, movement and touch. After intensely observing himself and others, he saw that incorrect posture in everyday activities like sitting, standing and moving could be linked to serious physical problems.
Alexander eventually recovered his voice by altering his breathing to arrest his habitual muscular responses and so pioneered a method that stops people unconsciously misusing their bodies. By interrupting familiar posture 'sets', the technique allows proper movement and functioning of the body. During a session the teacher may ask the student to let their head move forward and up and simultaneously allow their torso to lengthen and widen. Emphasis lies on "doing nothing" in order to think the teacher's instruction, and consequently prevent old habits by constructing a new body image.
The Alexander technique has been used to improve the performance of actors, dancers, musicians and athletes. Experiments conducted at Tufts University in the early 70's concluded that Alexander's methods could restore natural balance and responsiveness by interrupting the habitual incorrect practices. This technique is recommended to sufferers of chronic pain and back disorders as well as those wishing to get the most from their body.
Aromatherapy is the soothing natural way to feel a real sense of well-being, by using essential oils. The properties of these oils and the smell on both the body and the mind are well proven to stimulate, heal, relax or soothe. Aromatherapy is a modern name for the ancient knowledge of healing and improving by using fragrant, natural ingredients, which are called essential oils and are found in herbs, flowers, fruits and the bark, root or resin of some trees.
Taking flowers to someone who is sick, is using Aromatherapy to help them feel better. A bouquet of jasmine, roses, geraniums and lavender, all contain chemicals that relax the nervous system.. Because the molecules of essential oils are so minute and evaporate so quickly, they can penetrate the human skin to enter the blood stream and the organs, before being excreted. Scientists today who are studying botanicals are finding more and more vital ingredients in nature rather than in test tubes. Essential oils can be used in massage which combines the two senses of touch and smell and has both physical and mental benefits. In baths to relax, to soothe and to relieve muscular aches and pains. In room vaporizers it is very good for treating coughs or colds.
Ayurveda, the science of life, has its origin in the Indian subcontinent. The main emphasis of Ayurvedic Medicine is to prevent loss of harmony in the person and to regain it if disharmony has occurred. From the dawn of history, dating back many thousands of years, Ayurveda has practiced pharmacy, surgery and psychology.
Ayurvedic Medicine while emphasizing the importance of physical and mental health, deals with health in a comprehensive wholistic manner. Along with diet, exercise, rest etc, acquiring right and proper knowledge, temperance (self control) and mental concentration (meditation) are recommended. Mistakes of the mind include uncontrolled passion, expression of extremes of grief, anger, fear, pride, jealousy, stealing, feelings of attachment or solitude and an unruly tongue..
Keeping company with people of virtuous life is important for health.
A radically simple and empowering form of bodywork, Body Harmony was founded by chiropractor Don McFarland's exploration of ancient and modern healing modalities. Founded in 1985, its popularity as a healing method has been steadily growing.
A session may commence with an analysis of posture and movement, opening the client up to a greater awareness of self so that the spiritual, emotional, mental or physical goals may be achieved. The practitioner's role in the treatment is one of support, as the client recovers balance and ease at their own pace. Assuming that thoughts produce the result, positive affirmations replace old patterns and limitations to effect a transformation of mind and body. Accepting that the only expert is the body itself, Body Harmony is a process of listening, understanding and then honoring the body's instructions.
The Bowen Technique:
Developed in Geelong, Victoria by Tom Bowen, this technique makes use of the body's ability to heal itself through a reconfiguration of energy patterns. Engaging specific muscle groups, the technique uses mandatory time delays to ensure healing energies are directed towards the area requiring attention.
Focusing on the body as a whole, the Bowen Technique restores the structural integration between our outer framework and inner organs. Central to the approach is the recognition of interdependence between external physical problems and internal ailments. By realigning posture the skeletal frame-work is improved and the functioning of the internal organs enhanced. The Bowen Technique activates the lymphatic system, improving drainage and function to assist in combating the swelling or congestion of tissues. Particularly effective for alleviating muscular pain, it is ideal for sports related injuries as it dramatically reduces the healing time.
Normalizing the body's energies, with no known side effects, the Bowen Technique harmonizes and balances the body by regulating the activity levels of certain organs and has been proven to enhance the performance of athletes and sports professionals.
Realigning the bones and membranes of the skull, Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle and non-invasive technique which caters specifically to the Craniosacral System. This being the environment is which the brain and spinal cord develop. Forming and functioning from womb to death, the delicate Craniosacral System influences our sensory perceptions, emotions and motor functions. A Craniosacral therapist is trained to diagnose the movement of the Craniosacral system and "palpate" it, until the motion has become unified and properly aligned. Craniosacral therapy is used to remedy a range of subtle and severs conditions including headaches, ear conditions such as tinnitus, dyslexia and hyperactivity in children. It can also be used to heal imbalances in the system caused by emotional traumas through "unwinding" or "somatic emotional release".
Deep Muscle Therapy:
This therapy treats the deeper layers of constricted muscles, nerves and major vessels. To achieve homeostasis - perfectly balanced body chemistry - the blood and lymph must flow uninhibited, rich in nutrients and devoid of toxins. One of the major determinants restricting the flow of blood and lymph is tight muscles. By softening hardened muscle fibers, Deep Muscle Therapy practitioners help restore the vital lymph flow between the muscles.
The Feldenkrais Method involves no attempt to structurally alter the body. Aiming to increase ease of movement, it is useful to those whose freedom has been curtailed because of accidents, stress, back ailments and other physically debilitating diseases.
Developed by the original president of the Rolf Institute, Hellerwork combines deep touch, movement education and verbal dialogue in order to structurally realign the body and facilitate an awareness of the mind/body relationship. It specifically addresses the complex interweaving of the mechanical, psychological and energetic functioning of the human body. The mechanical aspect is patterned after Rolfing and aims to properly align the body with the earth's gravitational field.
Finding that the physical changes achieved by manual manipulation were not enough to bring about a permanent change, Heller developed a series of eleven sessions to provide his clients with a basis for the emotional content of the work. Accordingly, the first of these sessions sees the clients with a basis for the emotional attention called to the emotional attitudes that affect the physiological process of breathing, preparing for the release of unconscious holding patterns in the chest that are affected.
Working with movement and awareness, Hellerwork teaches clients how to sit, stand, walk, lift or run in ways more appropriate to the natural design of their bodies. The process is produced to minimize mechanical stress, creating more efficient use of the body's energy.
Hellerwork improves body alignment and flexibility, offering the increased vitality and greater emotional clarity that is essential to freedom of expression. Beneficial for anyone whose structural imbalances cause painful and stiff muscles or for conditions that may be the result of injury, emotional trauma or sustained stress.
This method involves a very gentle rocking: the practitioner rocks the patient at a rate equal to the foetal heart rate of 120-160 beats per minute, creating a soothing womb-like environment for the body and mind to heal with a holistic and natural approach.
Holistic Pulsing was developed by osteopath and naturopath, Tovi Browning, whose own experience of different therapies and training in Cranial Osteopathy led her to search for a way to integrate body and spirit in a gentle and non- confronting way. Based on the principles of life, water and movement, Holistic Pulsing allows the practitioner to see (and the client experience) where there is no movement. These blockages may be the result of old physical or emotional traumas locked in the tissues.
Holistic Pulsing uses the power of softness, inherent to water, and an absence of force to bring to awareness, the energy and potential locked away in our bodies. The Holistic Pulsing practitioner offers total acceptance of who and how we are. With this awareness comes choice; once located, negative body patterns can be dispelled, transforming people from victim to victor.
Homoeopathy is a medical rule whose main emphasis is on whose main emphasis in on therapeutics. It is a system using non-toxic drugs exclusively, and is used to treat both acute and chronic diseases, but it's greatest contribution is it's successful treatment of chronic illnesses that have become too difficult to manage by more orthodox methods.
Homoeopathy takes an holistic approach towards the sick individual and treats disturbances on the physical, emotional and mental levels at the same time. The aim of homoeopathy is to return the lost equilibrium of the patient on all three levels by stimulating and strengthening the defense mechanisms.
The Hawaiian healing arts reflect beautifully the land and people from which they evolved. A practice and philosophy which integrates subtle massage with spiritual fusion, Huna employs a gentle style to delve deep within the collective memory accumulated in the nuances of the body. The dance of Hawaiian or Huna massage, has to be experienced to be believed. Sculpting skin like clay on a potter's wheel, Huna really is "loving hands loving the body". Redirecting, calming and balancing the body's subtle energy flows, the Huna practitioner is guided by an awareness of equalising meridians and spheres such as left and right, male and female, soul and personality.
One emerges from a Huna session with a pure sense of calmed connection, a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual synthesis which lingers on.
Polarity Therapy is a gentle, holistic method of treatment, applicable to many health problems and also useful in maintaining health. Central to Polarity Therapy is the concept of a life energy, which is in constant pulsation from positive to negative poles via a neutral position, creating fields and energetic lines of force. This creates an energetic "template" for the physical body, termed "The Wireless Anatomy of Man" by Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of this therapy. Although the life energy shares some properties with electricity, one should not follow the analogy too closely, as it has many properties which differ. Disease is a process which occurs when the life energy is blocked or out of balance. It could be said that there is only one disease, that of disturbance of the energetic system, with different outcomes depending on the nature of the disturbance, and where it occurs. To overcome these problems Polarity therapy uses a system of gentle bodywork supported by a specific set of exercises (Polarity Yoga), advice on diet and nutrition, and counseling (all within the overall energetic concept described in the later section - Polarity Therapy Theory). It is this energetic approach which differentiates Polarity Therapy from many other forms of bodywork. Some techniques are derived from Osteopathy and Chiropractic (Dr. Stone was originally an Osteopath and Chiropractor), but use minimal mechanical force, relying instead on the life energy to do the work. It differs from Shiatsu and Acupuncture in the energy theory used, Polarity therapy owing more to the Indian Ayurvedic system.
There is some consensus in the literature that Qi Gong originated in China some 3000-4000 years ago. There are now 350 distinct forms of Qi Gong practiced in China. All forms of Qi Gong are valid, so none one should even claim the practice "the true style". Interestingly, Qi Gong has developed into seven main branches: Taoist, Confucian, Buddhist, Martial Arts, Medical, Folk Style, and the Modern synthesis. Each school of Qi Gong has its own area of special emphasis. All styles encompass inner peace and quiescence, relations, remaining flexible yet stable, free flow of Qi, natural integration of body movements, and moderate exercise performed in an orderly manner. Controlled regulation of body, mind and breathing, in Qi Gong exercises, leads to achieving the "Qi Gong" state. In this state a deeper form of relaxation is achieved, arresting mental processes but not suspending conscious awareness. The effect of this ancient practice are very broad and the resulting physical changes are relatively easy to verify scientifically, but the mental aspects are even more significant.
The evolution of reflexology dates back as early as 2330BC, as paintings on the Egyptian Physician's Tomb in Saqqara portray. In Anya Gore's popular paperback, Reflexology, the author claims that it wasn't until 1913 that an American laryngologist further researched this method of healing, which was later to be called 'zone therapy'. Dr Fitzgerald divided the body into ten vertical zones, beginning in the center and extending five on each side of the body.
"He found that there was an energy link between all parts of the body falling within a particular zone" writes Gore and that by applying pressure to one area, pain could be reduced in all areas within that zone."
The pressure applied to reflexology points is widely believed to affect internal organs and glands by stimulating these reflex 'zones' in the body. Practitioners often focus on the breakup of lactic acid and calcium crystals accumulated around the 7,200 nerve endings in each foot. These then connect through the spinal cord and brain to access all areas of the body.
With the word reflex meaning an involuntary response to stimuli, the subtle benefits of reflexology communicate directly to the body's innate desire to achieve a state of well being and harmony.
Reiki is a Japanese word meaning Universal Life Energy, which surrounds and imbues us. Reiki successfully addresses the realms of body, mind and spirit. It may also accelerate the body's ability to heal physically, by opening the mind to the emotional and spiritual connections to disease and pain and can be incorporated effectively into various elements of professional health care.
A Reiki Therapist aims to act as a conduit (channel) for the energy to flow through, to enhance and revitalise the recipient's own power to heal him or herself. A hands on healing approach which has gained widespread recognition and support.
Ida Rolf developed Rolfing - also known as Structural Integration - after many years of studying the systems of connective tissue and muscle function within the body. After some experience with Hatha Yoga, she became intrigued by the physiological/psychological interconnection, especially when she had been successfully treated by an osteopath for a respiratory problem - the disorder having been due to a rub displacement. Rolf postulated that a person's self-image has much to do with body posture - for example, someone with low self-esteem often has stooped shoulders.
Deep tissue massage is used in Rolfing, paying particular attention to the head, shoulders, thorax, pelvis and legs, with aim of correcting vertical alignment. Rolfing is now a gentle body therapy as extremely firm pressure is applied to release the blockages in the body causing the ailment.
Shiatsu is an Oriental healing system from Japan that aims to stimulate the circulation of energy, (Ki), through the body by the stimulation of acupressure points and meridians. Stimulating points along the meridians, (or channels of energy), acts to move the energy and re-balance the person helping to restore health.
Although Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning "finger pressure", the practice of Shiatsu is also done with the knees, elbows, toes, heel of the hand and the foot. Treatments are given with the patient wearing light comfortable clothing and lying on a futon mat. As one of the Oriental healing arts, Shiatsu shares the philosophy that disease is an imbalance of yin and yang energy within the body and the meridians, and that re-balancing the energy within the body is the way to maintain or regain health.
In Oriental medicine all symptoms of illness have either a yin or yang quality with the focus being on the cycle of change from yin to yang. Yin energy is quiet, deep, passive and nourishing and when out of balance might show up as tiredness, poor muscle tone, frequent urination, pale color, little appetite and a depressed or defeated emotional condition. Yang energy is active, purposeful. aggressive and functionally protective of the body. Signs of excessive tension in the neck and shoulder area, redness in the face, irritation, anger, over-eating or drinking would indicate the need for a yin treatment to re-balance the energy.
As with all forms of Oriental medicine, Shiatsu treats according to the symptoms the person exhibits, without necessarily giving the symptoms a name. It is very useful for those long term chronic conditions which have no diagnosed name. There is a strong reliance on common sense, observation and the sensitivity of the practitioner. The role of touch also plays a major role in the healing potential of Shiatsu. As the energy blockages are cleared, harmony is restored and the body is able to heal itself. Shiatsu is appropriate for all ages and while beneficial for the physical body, also has positive effects on the mind and spirit.
According to John Yates, PhD and author of "A Physician's Guide to Therapeutic Massage", massage can benefit conditions such as muscle spasm and pain, spinal curvatures, headaches, and tension- related respiratory disorders such as bronchial asthma and emphysema. As stated in the "Definitive Guide": "Studies show that massage can be used as an adjunct in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders and neurological and gynecological problems, and can often be used in place of pharmacological drugs".
The support for therapeutic massage has developed in conjunction with the growing amount of scientific studies. Aside from the more immediate, calming effects, massage has on an overworked and over-stressed body, therapeutic massage influences deep within the internal organization of the body. Regular therapeutic massage will help to reduce the incidence of muscle fatigue and chronic stress by releasing body tensions.
Trager Mentastics: Movement as a Way of Agelessness
Mentastics is an approach designed to restore and maintain this agelessness of body and mind. The term is a coined expression meaning "mental gymnastics" - very gentle gymnastics that are mentally directed to free the body from tensions. One of the most pleasing and natural aspects of Mentastics is the way the body's own weights are used to open and move each part. For example, the arm can hang and swing freely, joining - not resisting - the effects of gravity. Movements done in this manner can bring us into a deeply relaxed and peaceful state that Dr Trager calls "hook-up".
Hook-up is the same as meditation. Dr Trager describes its process as blending and becoming one with the energy force that surrounds all living things. Science has been able to observe and even measure this energy. We can see and study it through the use of scientific instruments, such as Kirlian photography.When in hook-up, the individual can enjoy a renewed and enhanced sense of well-being.
Yoga means "union", the union of body, mind, and spirit. It is one of the oldest health systems in the world today and was referred to in "The Unpanishads", the Hindu scriptures written around 1,000BC. Since the 1950's, when BKS Iyengar helped popularize yoga in the West, yoga has become better known and is now practiced throughout the world.
Yoga is based on the understanding that the state of mind affects the health of the body and conversely if the body is in poor health then mental functioning will suffer. There are different yoga systems each with a particular emphasis on the mind, body or spirit. Hatha and Raja yoga focus on the body and mind, Karma yoga involves conscious action, and Bhakta is the yoga of devotion.
In classical yoga physical, mental and spiritual health can be maintained by attention to the eight "limbs" of yoga. These "limbs" combine lifestyle, hygiene and detoxification processes with physical and psychological practices. The first four limbs cover purification and detoxification of the body, physical postures (asanas) and breathing practices. The other four limbs involve stages of meditation. This integrated approach to personal development helps to prepare one for spiritual growth.
The health effects of yoga are of increasing interest to practitioners in the developing field of mind/body medicine. According to "Alternative Therapies"-The Definitive Guide, the benefits of yoga and meditation for a wide range of conditions have been demonstrated in over a thousand well-designed studies. Problems to be helped include stress and anxiety, high blood pressure, poor memory, pain and various addictions. Studies have also shown that yoga has a beneficial effect on the respiratory, glandular, nervous and metabolic systems and increases the flexibility of the body. Yoga is suitable for all ages and most benefit is gained by regular practice. Yoga techniques can be easily incorporated into daily working life to improve overall quality of life.
~from Maat's Book of Shadows