As this week is National Complementary Therapy Week, we have written a short explanation of 10 complementary therapies that might be of interest to you.
A Naturopath works with a combination of a number of natural (complementary) therapies including nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, iridology, herbal medicine, functional testing and other newer methods such as bio-resonance and colon hydrotherapy.
They will work with people on an individual basis and apply their chosen therapies in a holistic and preventative way – considering supporting the body, mind and spirit on an ongoing basis.
Most Naturopaths will offer an initial consultation of around an hour, following which a personalised plan will be agreed.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to affect the body’s flow of energy, known as qi (pronounced chi).
Qi is said to flow through meridians (or pathways) in the body, said to be accessible through 350 acupuncture points on in the body.
Developed in China thousands of years ago, the practice remains controversial as modern science has been unable to explain how it might work.
Despite this, the World Health Organisation has listed a number of conditions in which they say acupuncture is effective, including blood pressure, nausea and some pain conditions.
Homeopathy was developed in Germany in the late 18th century. It is based on the idea that taking small very diluted amounts of a particular substance will cure the symptoms that substance would cause if it was taken in large amounts.
These diluted substances are taken in the form of a small tablet, taken at regular intervals by placing under the tongue.
As the substances are often significantly diluted, there are many critics of homeopathy. However supporters state that there is increasing evidence of its validity and effectiveness in practice.
Reiki is a physical practice where the client remains clothed and lies on a couch or sits in a chair whilst the practitioner gently places their hands on or near the body for up to 90 minutes to stimulate the life force energy believed to be flowing through our bodies. It is promoted as being comforting, supportive and calming, helping to reduce stress and support relaxation, thus promoting healing.
The word Reiki is made up of two Japanese words – Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki (chi). It is based on the idea that unseen life energy flows through us – if this energy is low, then we are more likely to feel stress and potentially get sick, and if it is high, we are happier and therefore more likely to be healthy.
Yoga originates from India and is both spiritual and physical. The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, which means to yoke or bind and is believed to have been established over 2,000 years ago when the Yoga Sutra was written.
The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that outlines eight ‘limbs’ of yoga – yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).
Most people only practise the third limb of yoga (asana), involving a programme of physical postures, potentially combined with some meditation. Practising yoga can help to support both physical and mental strength.
Reflexology is a type of massage or touch therapy that involves the feet, hands or ears – although it is mostly known for its focus on the feet.
It is based on the theory that these body parts are connected to specific organs and body systems and applying pressure to different areas of the feet can bring relaxation and healing to the corresponding area of the body.
For example, the middle of the base of the big toe is said to correspond to the pituitary gland, the tips of the toes to the head and/or brain and the arch of the foot to the liver, pancreas and kidney.
It is often used for people with stress-related conditions, headaches, digestive disorders, sports injuries and insomnia, amongst other health complaints.
Hypnosis is a practice that uses guided relaxation and concentration to focus a person’s attention on specific thoughts or tasks.
It is often considered an aid to psychotherapy as it enables the exploration of painful thoughts, feelings and memories that may be part of the unconscious mind. A practitioner can work with a patient in two ways – suggestion therapy, to help change behaviours, and analysis, to explore the root of a symptom.
Hypnotherapy is most often used in relation to phobias, fears and anxiety, sleep disorders, depression, stress, grief and loss.
Aromatherapy is the application of essential oils (made from the flowers, leaves, roots, peel, resin, seeds and bark of some plants) through massage, acupressure and inhalation.
An Aromatherapist will take an account of an individual’s emotional and/or physical symptoms before selecting suitable oils to perform a light and relaxing massage treatment.
Aromatherapy sessions may be carried out on a specific part of the body or the entire body on treatment beds or chairs. A personal blend of oils is often given as an aftercare application to be used at home by the patient for use on their pillow at night or to be added to their bathwater.
Swedish Massage originated in Sweden and is the form of massage of that we think of in the Western world. Techniques include stroking and gliding, kneading, rubbing, tapping or pounding and vibration.
Swedish Massage can be adapted in terms of pressure, techniques and areas worked according to an individual’s needs and preferences. It involves treatment of specific body regions, such as the back, or as a whole-body massage typically taking 30-90 minutes to perform.
Meditation comes from the Latin “meditari” and means reflect, think, and contemplate. The history is rooted in religion and spirituality, but as cultures and societies have changed, so has the practice.
Meditation today has become much more mainstream and is often suggested to those suffering from depression, anxiety and other stress-related illnesses. There are a myriad different ways to meditate and it is suggested that people find their own style that suits their individual needs – including silence, listening to relaxing music, guided meditation, group meditation and focusing on the flame from a candle or fire. There are now many ‘apps’ available that support guided meditation, including Headspace and Serenity.
Other complementary therapies that are promoted via the National Complementary Therapy Week include herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, cupping and ear candling – although this is not an exhaustive list and more and more natural therapies are developed over time.
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