By Nick Jankel

Author, Keynote Speaker, Leadership Theorist, Transformational Coach, Wisdom Teacher, Co-Creator of Bio-Transformation Theory & Practice®

The World of Holistic Therapies

Holistic or complementary therapies treat you as a whole person – mind, body, spirit. This can be refreshing in a world of doctor’s surgeries where your symptoms define you and you’re given little idea how it’s all connected. The world of complementary health is a heavily populated one – it can put you into a head-spin figuring out where to start and which one is best for you. We’re going to look at a few different holistic modalities and talk in brief at what the benefits are, what you can expect and where to find them. From the more ‘physical’ therapies like osteopathy and massage, to energy healing, your starting point is here!

What to Expect with Different Complementary Therapies

You might be looking to try a complementary or holistic therapy because the ‘normal’ medical route hasn’t helped you enough, because you want to take charge of your healing journey, or because you want to treat the whole of you and not just your symptoms. So let’s look at the more ‘physical’ based therapies first. Osteopathy and Cranio-Sacral therapy are both gentle ways of releasing stress and tension from the body and kick-starting its ability to heal itself from injury and illness. You’ll want to see an osteopath if you have back pain or any other chronic aches or pains, or if you’ve had an injury like a sprain or slipped disc. An osteopath uses gentle stretching, mobilising techniques and massage. A treatment takes 30-45 minutes – and don’t expect a quick fix, you could need a few treatments. A cranial osteopath works at the more subtle, gentle end of the spectrum. Cranio-Sacral therapy is even gentler and more non-intrusive and is great for migraines/headaches, chronic neck and back pain, stress-related disorders, sports injuries, chronic fatigue, ADD/ADHD, Post Traumatic Disorder and lots of other conditions. During a cranio-sacral session you could experience a range of sensations including relaxation, peace, seeing colors and patterns, getting in touch with your feelings, and feeling more aware of yourself and your body.

There are a ton of different kinds of massage to help you chill out, release stress and get relief for sore muscles. If you want a massage on a purely physical level, to work at releasing back strain or just to chill out, Swedish massage is a good entry level option, with the focus on the superficial layers of muscle, using smooth strokes. Then there’s hot stone massage – uber relaxing and the heat works a treat at releasing tight muscles. You’re more likely to stay awake during this one – so it’s a little more invigorating than a Swedish massage. You might have seen chair massage being offered at festivals – worth a try for a short taster, to work specifically on neck and back muscles, and to avoid taking all your kit off or being slathered in oil. For overall health issues, rejuvenation and invigoration, try a Thai Massage or a Shiatsu Massage. Shiatsu uses pressure points in combination with stretches, while with a Thai massage you’ll find yourself, fully clothed, stretched into yoga poses that help you feel both relaxed and more alive. Aromatherapy massage puts essential oils into the mix: specially picked for you. If you want more than a chill out, though, and have particular physical issues you want to sort out, like knotted muscles, a Deep Tissue Massage is the way to go. Pressure is applied onto your ‘trouble spots’ – the therapist using their knuckles and elbows – and the massage can leave you feeling sore at the end – but that’s because it’s doing the trick. Reflexology is a way of massaging specific areas of your foot that correspond to different areas of the body , and is a more energy-based method of massage that overlaps with acupressure.

Moving on to the ‘energy-based’ complementary health methods. The idea behind energy healing is that as well as physical anatomy, we all have an energetic anatomy – a ‘subtle body’ – consisting of chakras or energy centres. ‘Energy healing’ refers to all the therapies that work on balancing out our chakras and energy circuits, triggering our healing mechanisms by unblocking stuck energy. It’s based on the belief that we get dis-ease (mental or physical) when our chakras, affected by our emotions and life experiences, get out of whack – so the key to health is to restore them to balance.

With other forms of energy healing, the healer acts as a channel for Universal healing energy which can be directed by the healer’s intention to where it is needed. In most healing modalities, this energy is thought to be available to us all, it’s just that healers have studied and practised using it more reliably. Energy healing isn’t a replacement for medical attention, but meant to work alongside it on more subtle levels. Energy healing modalities include Reiki healing, which uses symbols and particular hand positions to connect to the Universal healing flow, Spiritual Healing, another form of hands-on healing, Crystal Therapy, which channels the healing energy through the powerful vibrational properties of crystals to raise our vibrations, and Vortex Healing, which awakens us to our true essence – unlimited and free. Energy healing can be done from a distance as well as in person. You don’t have to believe in any religion to receive healing, but you do need to be open and receptive. It’s hard to prove the benefits of energy healing, but many people say it’s been effective for them, and some research does support that there is truly an influx of energy taking place.

With all of these complementary therapies, you will be fully clothed on a treatment couch, and a written history will be taken first by the practitioner, to get a full picture of your health and any needs you have. With massage, you will remove some clothes but always be treated with discretion, given privacy to change, and be covered with towels.


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Where to Find Body-Work and Holistic Therapists

You can find osteopaths, cranio-sacral therapists, acupuncturists and other ‘body-workers’ in private practice and sometimes in health clinics or holistic health centres. Massage therapists are more mainstream and can be found in spa’s as well as all the above. Energy healers such as Reiki healers, Spiritual Healers and Crystal Therapists are also easy to find through these channels, with some low-cost or donation-based clinics offered by Spiritual Healers. It’s best to go through a reputable body such as the NFSH (in the UK) for Spiritual Healers and BAHA (also in the UK) for energy healers in general, and to make sure that energy healers are qualified and insured through their relevant industry bodies.

What’s Behind These Healing Methods?

The idea behind all these healing methods is that our bodies contain an amazing wisdom: they know what they need to be healthy and functioning at their best, and can heal themselves, if they are given a little help. In the case of osteopathy, this help comes through helping to address problems with the body’s structure carrying out what’s called ‘irregular functions’, or problems from disease and accidents. CranioSacral Therapy (CST) – a sort of ‘sister’ therapy to osteopathy – focuses on releasing restrictions in our cranio-sacral system (which supports the central nervous system and the cerebrospinal fluid) that are caused by the stresses and tensions our bodies put up with every day. The central nervous system is so woven up with the rest of our body that keeping it healthy is key. With regular massage, deep relaxation and release of muscle tension, as well as the physical benefits of essential oils, all help to bring the body and mind back into balance. Giving the body a little help involves, in the case of energy healing, removing energetic blocks in the aura (energy field) which correspond to the different organs and systems of the body that are showing signs of dysfunction. With energy healing, there is often no direct touch on the body, because other levels are being worked on.

From Rome to Spa’s and Hospitals: A Little History of Complementary Therapies

Complementary therapies have exploded onto the international scene and onto the frontier of medical science in the last decade or so, as people have become disillusioned with medicine and drawn to more ‘natural’ options – and become better informed than ever before about the range of options out there. Aromatherapy and massage are ancient practices dating back to 3000 BC and to the Greek and Roman empires, and even Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine circa 460 – 377 BC used massage and scented baths to treat people. Cranio-sacral therapy is based on years of clinical testing and research and was developed by Osteopathic Physician John E. Upledger. Spiritual Healing is considered the root of many of the other energy healing methods that have sprung up in the last century. Nowadays, in the ‘mind-body-spirit’ world it’s taken for granted that anyone can develop their healing abilities. But it wasn’t always that way: when Dr. King published ‘You Too Can Heal’ in 1976, it was met with a lot of controversy because even in some spiritual healing circles, healing was seen as the gift of the few. Now, anyone can do a Reiki or Spiritual Healing course and learn how to channel their healing abilities – and you can usually find a Reiki healer even at your local spa.

How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?

Complementary or holistic therapies are an empowering way to explore your health and well-being – helping you to thrive on all levels: mind, body and spirit.


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