Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
TIME OUT : May 2, 1999
Panacea for body and mind
When Mr. Lal, 52, suffering from side effects of medicines for diabetes, came to Blossom Kochar, he was looking at aromatherapy as a last resort. She started him on a juniper essential oil treatment. Within ten days, Mr. Lal says he was "living again". His sleeplessness and lethargy were gone and he "felt like a new man". Within a month of the treatment, Mr. Lal had his eye operated, something he had been unable to do earlier.
Says Blossom, "It is quite simple really. Juniper helps stress-related diseases. The oils work on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands that in turn activate other glands like the pancreas. The balance is restored through the oil." Juniper is also useful for treating migraine.
Legend has it that Queen Cleopatra perfected the art of rejuvenation through aromatherapy, that uses essential oils extracted from different parts of odoriferous plants for healing, aesthetic purposes and as mood enhancers - all of which Blossom's latest range of care products, Aroma Magic, India's first aromatherapy range, fulfils.
One faces levels of stress at every stage in life. From the alarm clock that did not go off to the one that did (accidentally), to the maid who decided to take the day off and the husband who did not. A positive, relaxed attitude of mind, say experts, is all it takes to combat the friction of an increasingly high-pressured contemporary world. Easier said than done? But, watch out, we are warned, not only does stress accelerate ageing, it causes ulcers, high blood pressure, arthritis, and has even been linked to cancer and AIDS. Fortunately, there is, the world-over, a return to alternative therapies that have been a heritage for Indians.
What do Sweden, India, Thailand and Japan have in common?
Massage. Different versions of it. In Bali, for instance, under the "sporting" ambience of Club Med in exotic Nusa Dua, I discovered the wonders of shiatsu, reflexology and all the pinching and pulling that goes into what initially seems to be a simple massage.
After having been turned upside down with legs criss-crossed, there is a tranquility as Shiatsu, a form of finger pressure harmonises the system. Jean Paul, the instructor, explained: "Shiatsu is simply a way of neutralising energy patterns in the body that are out of alignment."
According to Jean Paul, who incidentally spent three months at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, reflexology works on the principle that the whole body is represented on the feet. By pressing deeply over a particular area, the organ represented will be stimulated in such a way so as to normalise the function.
For us Indians, massage has been a part of our lives. Whether it be a backache or post pregnancy - we resort to massage as though it were the most natural thing to do.
According to Shahnaz Husain, the tsarina of return-to-natural herbal cosmetics: "Massage with Ayurvedic medicated oils is also preventive medicine. It helps in toning up the circulatory system and in rejuvenating the body."
Gita Ramesh of Kairali Ayurvedic Health Club which recently opened a resort in Palakkad (Kerala) and Khajuraho, says: "Kairali massage, prescribed in ancient Indian medical lore has been practised in Kerala for centuries in accordance with the works of Charakha and Sushruta."
The massages are done on wooden beds carved to match body contours.
"Abhyanga" or the general massage from Kerala is done by two masseurs who apply herbal oil on the head, neck, shoulders, ears, chest and back. It is then continued to the rest of the body.
"Dhara" popularised in the capital by Shahnaz Husain's Panchkarma clinic, has the patient receiving a continuous stream of herbal decoctions in a clay pot over the head drop. Said to awaken the third eye, it is great for relieving stress and tension.
For paralysis, hemiplegia and muscular distrophy, Gita recommends Navarkizhi. Small linen bags of Navara rice cooked in cow's milk along with Ayurvedic herbs are applied on the body. The bags are neither hot nor cold. After wiping the body dry, oils are applied again. The course lasts 14-21 days.
Herbal oils and treatments are selected to suit individual needs. Litle wonder, then, the Kairali massage is renowned for its therapeutic values. When combined with Panchakarma, literally meaning five actions that flush and eliminate toxins in the body, it is ideal for those aiming for a state of perfect health.
Mohan of the Sujok Academy of Acupuncture in Chennai, an allopath, practices the Korean system of acupuncture, "Sujok," a method by which thin needles are used only on the hands and feet. Sujok concludes all organs of the body are represented on the hands. Mohan is practical about the limitations of his system. "Medical emergencies will need to be tackled with technical equipment." As far as the success rate goes for pain disorders, it is close to 95 per cent, he says.
Water is a stress-reliever - whether you sit in the calm natural sulphur springs in Rotorua in New Zealand, decide to deliver your baby in a bath tub or have a colonic. Many are said to experience an internal calm following a colonic. Colon irrigation or tissue cleansing, is the irrigation of the large intestine with sanitised, filtered water under gentle pressure to wash out or detoxify it of stagnated fecal material. An average of five gallons of water is used under gentle pressure for up to an hour, washing out all putrefied waste poisoning your system.
Cleopatra is said to have worn a magnet in her tiara to maintain her beauty. According to Dr. R. S. Bansal, director, Indian Institute of Magnetotherapy, "Magnetic therapy revives growth of cells."
Colour therapy is an ancient art but we practise it everyday, often unaware that we are doing so. We paint our bedrooms blue because we know the colour is soothing. We stop at a red light as the colour signifies danger. A gifted therapist simply by looking at auras of a person can say what colours he is short of. Colours are supplemented by gems like ruby for red and fruits and vegetables such as beetroot. In Singapore, machines read auras of people and one even gets a printout on the state of one's health and mental being.
"Aum" is the basis of every sound in India, Indonesia, Tibet and China. Christians say "Amen," Muslims say "Amin". Studies show that sounds affect stress levels. Sound vibrations are said to have treated rheumatoid arthritis. Bass sounds are said to be preferred by women as certain notes vibrate the pelvic organs.
An unusual healing system using a pyramid by a police officer in Delhi, created waves ten years ago. It is believed that electromagnetic waves concentrated in the pyramid help correct faulty vision and increase hair growth. However, such claims have not been substantiated.
Harry Oldfield in the U.K. believes in the scientific healing power of crystals. Different from anything used before in the medical field, adopted from Kirlian photography, he has developed a three-dimensional method of scanning the body using electrical fields.
Oldfield believes one of the reasons people fall ill is due to blockage or imbalance of "chakras". He explains: "If the chakras are not balanced, or if the energies are blocked, the basic life force will be slowed down. The person may feel listless, tired, out of sorts with the world, depressed. Not only will physical bodily functions be affected but so will the thought processes and the mind."
Why crystals? "It is well known that crystals have outstanding properties - they are reliable, constant and specific. This is why watches and even radios use quartz crystals. They can also transform from one form of energy to another. If you strike a quartz crystal, the energy transforms to a spark. They also have outstanding healing properties." Red crystals are generally stimulating, white quartz amplifies, and blue crystals are calming.
"Tibetan medicine is based on certain Ayurvedic and Chinese principles that propound the balance of three humours - vayu (gas), pit (bile) and phlegm," says Dholkar Khankar who practises Tibetan medicine in Delhi. When Cleopatra bathed in sour milk, she knew the wonders it did to her complexion. What she did not know was that it was the lactic acid in the sour milk that was helping keep her skin smooth and blemish-free.
Whether it is Reiki, meditation, yoga or any "natural" therapy, alternatives are here to stay.
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