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What’s the alternative?

Daily News, South Africa
Mar. 5, 2004
www.dailynews.co.za

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Friday March 5, 2004

Complementary therapies and new-age principles provide a meaningful addition to traditional medicine, mainstream philosophies and orthodox health-care.

And they are hot topics of discussion – so much so that a new comedy taps into this global fascination and takes a light-hearted view of the plethora of leaders and personalities that have emerged as a result. There seems to be a “guru” for every malady, encouraging followers to open their third eyes, journey into past lives and develop their subtle energies and receptivity to other dimensions.

Guru is a rollicking comedy about the new-age movement in which actor-writer Clinton Marius takes a satirical dig at the Age of Aquarius. But while it’s light-hearted, many alternative treatments provide valuable therapy. Here’s an overview.

Acupuncture
More than 5 000 years ago, the Chinese discovered that pressing certain points on the body relieved pain and also benefited other parts of the body more remote from the pain and the direct point of pressure. The energy is carried in the body through invisible channels called meridians. Needles are inserted into specific points on the body in the belief that they restore energy balance.

Aromatherapy
This body massage uses some of the 130 aromatic essential plant oils which are believed to have therapeutic qualities. Oils can also be blended into skincare preparations and be added to the bath and used for steam inhalation. Aromatherapy combines the sciences of chemistry, botany and physiology with the art of essential oil blending and is thought to achieve physical, emotional and mental balance and harmony.

Colour Therapy
Colour therapy is based on the belief that colours can have a psychological impact on our wellbeing. Clients sit in a prescribed coloured light or are told to visualise colours. The therapist may also recommend what colours the client should wear or use to decorate their home to achieve maximum wellbeing. Some practitioners read the client’s auric field in order to diagnose the state of colour balance in the body. Others read the balance of colour energies in the spine and then, with the use of a chart, will set up a programme to rebalance the colour energies if needed. Colour therapy is recommended for depression, deep relaxation and physical ailments.

Homeopathy
Works on the principle of “like curing like”. A homeopath believes that if a person is given a microscopic amount of a substance similar to that causing the illness, the body will be stimulated to cure itself. There are 3 500 homeopathic remedies comprising minute dilutions of plant tincture, animal and mineral products. One of the mysteries of homeopathy is that the more diluted the remedy, the greater the impact.

Hypnotherapy
The hypnotherapist induces a trance-like state of deep relaxation in the client. This is done with soothing speech, visualisation or by looking at lights or an object held at the limit of vision. He or she can make suggestions which the client carries out. These may be words of self-healing, confidence boosting or how to overcome phobias and addictions. No one understands how hypnotherapy works, although it is believed the hypnotherapist bypasses the conscious left side of the brain and works directly with the intuitive, creative right side.

Iridology
This is a method of diagnosis which studies the iris of the eye. When one looks at the coloured part of the eye, one is looking at 28 000 nerve endings, all of which are connected to the brain via the hypothalamus. Most of the neurological pathways extend down the spine and out through to the various parts of the body. Rather like a reflexologist working on the nerve endings in the feet, an iridologist is studying the exposed nerve endings in the irides, all directly connected to the brain on the iris stalk. Iridology reveals non-pathological states that modern medicine is not really geared to find.

Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is the scientific manipulation of the soft tissues of the body for the purpose of normalising those tissues. Touch is the fundamental medium of massage therapy. Massage is one of the oldest existing disciplines in health-care practice. Massage therapy is now used in a variety of ways, ranging from simple relaxation to stress reduction, from sports massage to treating specific maladies.

Meditation
Meditation is natural, easy to learn and safe. Its benefits are archived in all of the world’s great spiritual traditions and examples can be found across cultures and across faiths, including Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam. One of the most popular and accessible forms of meditation is Transcendental Meditation, a unique state of relaxation far deeper than ordinary rest.

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Reflexology
Reflexology employs a unique method of using the thumb and fingers to apply specific pressures to reflex areas in the feet and hands that correspond to all the glands, organs and parts of the body. The reflexologist works each reflex, thereby triggering a release of stress and tension in the corresponding area or body zone as well as an overall relaxation. Foot reflexology removes blockages in the body’s energy flow.

Rolfing
This is a system of deep massage and manipulation of connective tissue said to improve the alignment of the body within the pull of gravity. This is recommended to ease back, neck and joint pains, emotional problems and for increased energy.

Shiatsu
This is a form of manipulative therapy licensed by the Japanese authorities which focuses on the use of pressure applied to specific points and pathways (known as “channels” or “meridians”) all over the body. Shiatsu incorporates a variety of approaches drawn from different traditions, both ancient and modern – all of which share a common element: touch.

Tai chi
Chinese martial arts have always been valued for improving fitness, health and longevity as well as for their usefulness in self-defence. Tai Chi is encouraged, especially among the elderly. It benefits cardiovascular functions, bone condition and metabolism. Further benefits include flexibility, balance and improved circulation.

Yoga
Hatha yoga is the most popular type of yoga practised today. It consists of non-strenuous physical exercises which take each joint of the body though its full range of motion, strengthening, stretching and balancing. The exercises are performed with regular breathing to provide oxygen to working muscles. Concentration, meditation and relaxation techniques all combine to gently improve health and wellbeing.

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