Kate O’Brien takes you off the beaten track with a few alternative treatments to reboot body and mind..
With more lives more stressful than ever, an increasing number of weary souls are turning inward to find some peace and a heightened sense of wellbeing. As more Western medical practitioners embrace the world of wellness, they too appreciate that listening to the voice within may be the answer to many of today’s health crises- preventive medicine at its best.
In the spiritual world, this is a perfect time to begin your inward journey, with witches, shamans and mystics following the earth’s lead and clearing space deep within for spring’s renewal. With this in mind, the following is a taste of some of the lesser known therapies sharing many commonalities, but most notably that they focus on mental and spiritual wellness as the foundation of enduring health.
Now is the perfect time to unleash your inner shaman and discover the far-reaching benefits of these time-tested and exceptionally powerful healing practices.
At the heart of this ancient Indian system of healing is the concept that our bodies are a microcosm of the universe with three doshas at work: Vata (air), pitta (fire) and Kapha (earth). Just as each of us has an individual thumbprint, we also have a unique pattern of physical, mental and emotional energy that corresponds with these doshas. Achieving balance and harmony between the doshas is the aim of therapy and the foundations of health and wellbeing in Ayurvedic medicine.
From diet, yoga and lifestyle to an array of Indian techniques, including Abhyanga massage, Shirodhara and other steam- and oil-based therapies, Ayurvedic practitioners will work to cleanse and rebalance individual constitution …
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Dr Donn Brennan practises Maharishi Ayurveda in Monkstown, Co Dublin, ayurveda.ie.
Essential Ayurveda – nestled in the heart of the Lincolnshire countryside, expert Ayurvedic practitioners Andy and Laura Shakeshaft offer bespoke retreats lasting three, five or seven days and comprising daily oil massages, steam therapy, yoga and qigong sessions, dietary advice, cooking demonstrations, and individual Ayurvedic counselling, essentialayurveda.co.uk.
Ananda Spa, at the foothills of the Himalayas, runs regular Ayurvedic retreats with visiting masters. Close to the ashram town of Rishikesh (the birthplace of yoga), the Spa offers traditional massage and Shirodhara therapies as well as more complex, doctor-assisted programmes designed to cleanse and recharge body and mind. Unquestionably the perfect place to simply “be” in the home of the gods, where the cleansing properties of the Ganges are at their most powerful, anandaspa.com.
Ulpotha is a traditional working farm set in an ancient pilgrimage site on the western fringes of Sri Lanka’s cultural region. With accommodation in mud-style huts, no electricity, hot water or doors, Ulpotha is not for everyone, but those seeking peace and spiritual renewal tend to become hooked. The resident Ayurvedic physician designs personalised detoxification programmes, while some of the world’s great masseurs and yogis run workshops amidst the lush and spiritual countryside. “The most therapeutic thing about Ulpotha is to have the mind get still,” says founder Viren Perera, who many years on continues to be amazed at its success, ulpotha.com.
Today’s traditional Mayan healers (or H’men) continue to combine profoundly spiritual rituals with the best of Mother Nature’s medicine to empower all who visit just as their forefathers have done for centuries. Contrary to Western medical thinking, the first line of Mayan therapy is to promote a healthy spirit, one that is at peace with the natural world and its creator.
To achieve this, H’men work with 20 different energies and 13 life forces (or Kan Ku) to harmonise the body physically, emotionally and spiritually.
At Yaan Wellness Energy Spa in Tulum, on the southern edge of Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Demi Moore, Sting and Trudie Styler have discovered the enduring benefits of native Mayan healing. According to founder Dr Bobby Klein, the energy of their land is magical. “We recognise that we are guests on this land in the Yucatán, the home of the Mayan people. If the traditional therapies
we offer such asSobada Maya (ancient Mayan massage), Temazcals (sweat lodges), and energetic Limpias (traditional cleansing) were performed away from this land, they would not have the dynamic effect they have here in Tulum.”
The Temazcal, for example, was long used by the Mayans and Aztecs to uncover a deeper connection with the womb of mother earth, to help people discover answers from within themselves. At Yaan Wellness,Temazcals are performed in a Mayan traditional ceremony to nurture spiritual transformation and physical healing.
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In Dublin, Adrienne Egan uses the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy®, weaving a combination of bodywork, botanicals and energy work to address a range of conditions, including fertility support, menstrual health issues, and pelvic and digestive issues.
Egan is one of few to have studied with Dr Rosita Arvigo in Belize, Central America, who is primarily responsible for keeping this ancient knowledge alive and relevant, mayatherapy.ie.
Yaan Wellness Energy Spa, Tulum, Mexico, yaanwellness.com.
Shamanism is an ancient healing practice dating back 100,000 years that is believed to be the oldest spiritual tradition of our species. The traditional shaman is regarded as a person of power, one who “journeys” back and forth through territories of consciousness to retrieve insight into the true workings of energy. “Today, Shamanism is an umbrella term to describe anyone who works with energy,” clarifies journalist and shaman Anna Hunt. Burnt out from her crazy London lifestyle, Hunt went to South America in search of healing. There she travelled to the darkest depths of her soul, a journey recounted in her book, The Shaman in Stilettos, published by Penguin.
As a shaman, Anna blends the ancient healing arts of Peru with cutting-edge quantum physics to enable clients to dissolve mental overload and re-discover optimal health and wellbeing. “Shamanism offers a way of reconnecting with the natural world and our place in it, as all shamans work with the earth (herbs, plants, the energy of the earth),” she explains. “I see myself as a bridge between ancient, tried-and- tested shamanic techniques and the modern professional who is responsibility-rich and time-poor. Clients come to me with a range of challenges, from chronic health issues and burnout to financial frustrations, and, of course, relationship/family issues, and I create a bespoke experience with the aim of enhancing health and satisfaction in every area of their life, and fostering sustained inner peace.”
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Martin Duffy is a transpersonal psychotherapist and shamanic teacher at the Irish Centre for Shamanic Studies in Co Meath, located at the heart of sacred Druid sites. Emphasis is firmly on connecting with your inner spiritual wisdom in indigenous Celtic fashion, shamanismireland.com.
Anna Hunt runs regular retreats in London and worldwide, annahunt.com.
Traditional Tibetan medicine, or Sowa-Rigpa, is one of the world’s oldest healing traditions, long practised in Tibet and the Himalayan region. The fundamental principle is that everything in the universe – plants, animals, humans, indeed every living cell and emotion – are composed of five essential elements (earth, fire, water, air, and space), with each playing a key role, both individually and collectively, in achieving ultimate health and harmony.
In Tibetan wisdom, the mind and body are inseparable, so when treating patients, physicians will use a combination of foods, herbs, targeted massage, meditation and other accessory therapies to rebalance disturbed elements and realign body, mind and spirit in the most natural way possible.
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Dzogchen Beara is a Tibetan Buddhist retreat centre in West Cork. Under the spiritual direction of Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, this profoundly peaceful environment runs regular meditation and Buddhism retreats that cannot fail to still even the weariest of minds, dzogchenbeara.org.
Vana Malsi Estate in Dehradun, northern India is like a contemporary ashram, combining indigenous Ayurveda, Sowa-Rigpa, yoga and other natural therapies, with the aim of cleansing and nurturing body and mind, vanaretreats.com.
Situated in a remote Tibetan valley in the heart of the famed Shangri-La region of the Yunnan Province, China, the Spa atBanyan Tree Ringha offers a range of authentic Tibetan-inspired therapies, including traditional Tibetan massage, hot stones, muds, scrubs and much more, all performed in one of the world’s most secluded hideaways, banyantree.com.
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