Since we’re launching this article on April Fools’ Day, we want to impress that the newfangled therapeutic resources below are no joke! Yes, some may sound a bit wacky, but these neoteric healings are all the rage. Some we’ve explored have reached mainstream consciousness, and some you may think are fabricated. You may be skeptical or even find this comical, but I encourage you to delve into alternative dimensions of whole-person wellness. There are six dimensions, as developed by The National Wellness Institute: emotional, intellectual, physical, social, spiritual and occupational. Many of the nine experiences below satisfy multiple dimensions; or maybe you’ll discover a new one…
1. Laughter Yoga
Designed in 1995 by laughter guru Dr. Madan Kataria, the laughter yoga practice is practiced in 108 countries. Laughter yoga is playful and happy, promoting wellness through deep breathing from first simulated “voluntary laughter,” and then through genuine, reactive laughter. There are four steps of laughter yoga:
STEP 1: Warm-up with clapping, chanting, random movement and gibberish sounds
STEP 2: Deep breathing
STEP 3: Childlike play and movement
STEP 4: Laughter with yogic breathing, and playful and value-based exercises
“Laughter opens the personality,” ~Durga D. on Laughter Guru, India
2. Animal Yoga
The growing fad of goat yoga enables yogis to further engage their core while getting a nice massage as goats jump on their backs in positions like plank or tabletop. The animals assist with balance and overlap with Pet Therapy #3 below, in that the goats’ bleaks are relaxing to hear and they’re fun to pet between asanas (body postures). And we can’t forget the entertainment factor; one might find a goat squishing underneath practitioners in downward dog! But do they… go?, you might be asking? Some goats wear diapers and some more earthy establishments allow nature to take its course right there on your mat. Ewe? Exactly.
Other studios have adopted puppy yoga. “I can’t think of many things that would help more to bring us to our present moment and learn to calm your mind than a cute little puppy snuggling up against you,” says Shannon Roche, acting CEO of Yoga Alliance in Arlington, Virginia.
3. Pet Therapy and Animal-assisted Activities
Therapy animals have gotten a lot of attention on the news in the past year, particularly with airlines. Beginning shortly after September 11, 2001, to relax nervous travelers, this trend has gained popularity and led to increased rules and guidelines in public places. But what’s the bark all about? Visits with (and petting) dogs and cats can significantly reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Cat cafés were brought to the United States from Tokyo in the past decade. Some team up with rescue associations and promote their feline friends for adoption, like the Kawaii Kitty Café in Philadelphia.
4. Horticultural Therapy
Being “one with nature” has proven to improve blood pressure, heart rate, stress hormone levels and depression, in addition to relaxing the mind. A horticultural therapy study at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, found that patients with dementia had “greatly improved short-term memory retention after a horticulture session” in a Japanese garden. Other studies have noted shorter stays at mental health facilities and hospitals with horticulture therapy. This could take the form of planting, pruning, flower arranging, walking in the woods, and birdwatching and feeding. Adding a horticulture therapist to the mix can help frame the therapy more for specific needs, where patients learn the power of change, patience and meditation. I think many of us could use some of that!
5. Floatation Therapy
Much like the Dead Sea’s healing effects on the body, float spas fill personal pods with highly concentrated, purified, warm salt water for patients to, well, float in. Some spas offer music and/or colored lights and others provide quiet, dark spaces. The zero-gravity environment claims excellent for relaxation, reduced tension and muscle pain, insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain and injury, symptoms of fibromyalgia, ADHD, autism and PTSD, digestion problems, blood pressure, skin conditions, pregnancy pain and PMS. It was developed by neuroscientist Dr. John C. Lilly in 1954, then called an isolation tank to remove all external stimuli in an effort to explore human consciousness. He also claimed he could communicate with dolphins and experimented with psychedelics, but who are we to judge?! View this informative video by national floatation therapists’ True Rest.
6. Halotherapy (Dry Salt Therapy)
Much like the float spas, another form of salt therapy are salt caves, mimicking halite or the Himalayan salt mined in Pakistan. Pediatric Pulmonology reported in 2017 that asthma-inflicted kids found great improvement in their condition after two halotherapy sessions per week for seven weeks.
Picture it: a grotto of pink, crystal rock surrounds you while you quietly relax. You inhale micro particles of dry crystals imparted into the air by the nearby halogenerator. No need to take this with a grain of salt: halotherapy treatments have been found to provide relief from respiratory complaints, inflammation, ear infections and skin conditions.
7. Singing Bowl Sound Baths
Sound vibration is an old remedy for digestive and sleep disorders, and mental “disturbances” dating back to the ancient Greeks. In the late 1800s studies showed a positive correlation between sound therapy and the improvement of high blood pressure and metabolic processes. So does that mean you bathe while listening to music? Not quite.
Also known as Tibetan Singing Bowls, modern executions are made of quartz, an abundant silicon dioxide material found in rocks and sand instead of their wooden, copper and metal ancestors. Different quartz bowls vibrate at different frequencies and conduct energy. Played with a tuner, the consequent tones move energy throughout the room and wash surrounding beings with various sounds orchestrated to heal the body. Here are just a few of the benefits of crystal singing bowls:
- Deep relaxation
- Stress/anxiety reduction
- Chakra balancing
- Immune system stimulation
- Clarity/focus heightening
- Blood circulation improvement
Check out this 5-minute sound bath for yourself.
8. SAD Lamps
Another therapy of the senses is light therapy. It’s been shown that 20-60 minutes a day of exposure to light, mimicking the sun, may help ease symptoms of depression. SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, affects 14-26% of us in the winter months. It’s a type of depression that usually hits during longer stretches of a cold and dark climate (like winter in the Northeastern U.S.). SAD lamps can help reverse these effects by delivering approximately 20x greater light than typical indoor lighting, with little UV exposure. Patients use the lamp within the first waking hour to elevate mood by causing a chemical change in the brain. Many of you reading this now in early April may be out of the woods on this… at least until the winter holidays arrive. Maybe you could ask Santa for a SAD lamp!
Reiki is a non-invasive Japanese technique to treat physical, emotional and mental ailments. Using universal energy, it reduces stress and promotes the body’s relaxation and natural healing ability. The reiki practitioner hovers their hands over different parts of the body to transfer their life force energy into the affected areas to loosen blocked energy. Clients often leave feeling a sense of peace and whole-body healing.
“Reiki and crystal bowl sound baths are extremely healing in today’s day and age and need to be known more!” ~Stephanie F. on The Nurtured Soul, New Jersey
I have tried a crystal singing bowl session (#7) and found it therapeutic to my mind, body and soul – true whole-person wellness. You may find several alternative therapies under one roof at a multi-level Korean spa. No, nudity is not always required, but you may want to ask first! My colleague (and designer of this blog) Alina Fabozzi has this to say from her personal experiences:
“Korean spas, Turkish baths, Japanese sentōs, and Russian banyas offer a day-long, wide ranges of services with traditional foods and drinks to enhance your experience. For instance, a Korean spa offers pools filled with water of different temperatures and even medicinal herbs and flowers added. These hot tubs help reduce muscle tension and stress, helping those with lower back pain and arthritis.
A 20-minute nap inside a hot clay and charcoal room is thought to help extract sebum from your pores and increase circulation. Likewise, a Russian banya offers a sweltering sauna (almost 199◦ F!) and requires you to wear a felt hat or towel to protect your hair from the heat.”
As for me, I next want to spelunk in a Himalayan salt cave. Who’s with me on this whole-person wellness journey?Download the Article PDF