People have been using holistic therapies to destress and get back in balance for thousands of years. Ancient books containing massage techniques have been found In ancient China and Egypt. Natural therapies have been used for centuries to heal injuries and relieve pain, as well as preventing and curing illnesses. Before pharmaceuticals and western medicine became widespread in the past two hundred years, people had no choice but to use natural methods. In recent times there has been a backlash against modern medicine, with many people turning to alternative/complementary therapies to combat stress and illness. There are many different types of holistic therapies which originate from all around the world. Below are listed some of the most common therapies and their benefits.
Massage is an ancient therapy which dates back to China in around 2700BC. It is also used in the Indian practice of Aruryveda. In the early 1800s the Swedish doctor Per Ling developed the Swedish massage system, which is still widely used in the West. The Japanese technique, Shiatsu has also spread to the West. Now massage practices can be found in most towns and cities around the world, as well as in spas and larger hotels. Massage practitioners often go into workplaces to help staff members to destress. Massage has many benefits, including:
- *Reducing stress and tension in the body
- *Lowering anxiety and depression
- *Improving circulation and reducing blood pressure
- *Boosting the immune system by draining toxins from the lymphatic system
It’s widely accepted that a one hour long massage a month is beneficial, but if you have a more stressful job, increasing the number of massages you have is recommended.
Reflexology involves the application of pressure to the hands and feet with specific techniques on various zones and areas. A reflexology chart shows how the areas of the feet or hands correspond to areas on the body, and it works on the basis that pressure apply to areas on the hands or feet creates a physical change to the corresponding area of the body. It was introduced into the US in 1913 by William Fitzgerald and later modified in the 1930s and 40s by Eunice Ingham. Some practitioners specialise in fertility reflexology or reflexology to help specific conditions. Benefits of reflexology include:
- *Improved circulation
- *Helps with insomnia and sleep issues
- *Increases energy
- *Speeds up recovery after illness or surgery
- *Provides relief from pain
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance mental and physical well-being. The aroma from these “essential” oils is widely believed to stimulate brain function. Essential oils can be absorbed through the skin and are can alleviate pain, improve mood and increase cognitive function. There are a wide number of essential oils available, each with their own healing properties (popular oils include lavender which helps with sleep and anxiety, eucalyptus helps reduce cold and flu symptoms and is effective for respiratory problems).
Main benefits of aromatherapy:
- Promotes relaxation
- Improves quality of sleep
- Improves skin condition
- Soothes pain and inflammation
- Reduces anxiety and alleviates depression
- Strengthens the immune system
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is done by ‘laying on hands’ and based on the idea that an unseen life force energy flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words: Rei which means ‘God’s wisdom or the Higher Power’ and Ki which translates as ‘life force energy.’In other words it is spiritually guided life force energy. It was founded by Mikao Usui in the early 1920s in Japan, and is a simple, natural and safe method of natural healing. Anyone can be attuned to Reiki by a Reiki Master and can use it for self-healing, to give treatments to others and eventually teach it themselves.
A treatment feels peaceful and warm, and usually involved the recipient lying on a massage bed with the reiki practitioner working with the hands over the body to give Reiki. It is beneficial in helping many physical and mental conditions such as anxiety and arthritis.
The main benefits of reiki are:
- Creates deep relaxation in the body and helps to release stress and tension
- Promotes harmony and mental/emotional balance
- Dissolves energy blocks
- Helps relieve pain and supports the body’s physical healing
- Aids better sleep
Hypnotherapy is a natural state of mind and the subject is in complete control at all times. It is not stage hypnosis, it’s not a belief system, it’s not spiritual and it is not designed to distort the mind in a negative way whatsoever. It allows the subject to experience deep levels of relaxation, similar to the state achieved if a person were to enter into meditation. The mind gets a complete break from the interference of anxious and busy thoughts. This has a direct effect upon the person’s ability to think clearly, reduces their stress levels, and helps with concentration. Regular sessions of hypnotherapy (or guided meditation/mindfulness techniques – it’s all the same essentially) reduce the possibility of stress and anxiety developing into more serious mental health issues such as severe depression.
(Contributed by SIlvia Mather, from Hummingbird Employee Support)
*Please visit your GP or physician if you are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. Holistic therapies are not intended to take the place of medical advice, but to act alongside medical treatment to improve your wellbeing.
There are many other types of holistic therapy – acupuncture, shiatsu, homeopathy – we will be adding more to this page.