Finding Your Inner Zen
Wellness Therapies to Live a Happier and Healthier Life
In a world overrun with sensational sound bites and knee-jerk reaction headlines, people are becoming a bit
jaded with misleading claims of revolutionary crash-course diets, exotic super-foods and fat-busting new workout
machines that require just 5 minutes to lean, sculpted abs!
We’ve got better bullcrap radars than we once had and can tell when the science is being a little exaggerated.
We’re done with the extreme and the revolutionary and are starting to come around to the less sexy – though much
more accurate – reality: wellness is about a consistent, balanced approach to fitness, diet, and overall well-being.
Most notably, Western medicine is starting to relax its corporate grip on a pill-popping population
and welcome previously sidelined Eastern techniques into the flow. As more scientific studies are belying
the real benefits of some of these once-snubbed practices, a new, more holistic approach to wellness is
starting to emerge and fill the gap for many people.
Here, a look at three new approaches to wellness that make use of subtle changes and comprehensive practices.
I was dubious when I first heard about sound therapy, but at Helix Healthcare Group in Toronto they take it very seriously.
Sound therapy is basically an extension of a yogic or meditation practice, with live music to help guide the practice. Borrowing
from Eastern traditions, the music uses instruments like crystal quartz bowls, flutes and didgeridoos to create a soothing
atmosphere of meditative sound.
The sound is produced at a frequency (434 Hz) that is akin to the sounds we hear in nature: birds chirping, leaves rustling,
etc. The theory goes that the standard 440 Hz tuning that is so common to modern music was developed initially for military
purposes in the mid-twentieth century with the goal of arousing aggression in troops. So without knowing it, we may be blocking
ourselves from proper relaxation just by listening to our favourite tunes.
But whether or not you believe in this theory, sound therapy is no doubt an excellent way to relax.
At a sound therapy session at Helix Healthcare you can literally feel the vibrations produced by the didgeridoo
in your stomach as the player moves around the room, giving the very real sensation that the music is flowing through you.
Sound therapy is particularly good at addressing anxiety and depression, and it’s worth a try at least once. The calmness I
felt after the session was a welcome change from a hectic lifestyle, and it lasted the whole day.
Aerial yoga has been around for a while but is just starting to emerge from the fringes of society to become a
more mainstream practice. Through the use of a hanging loop of silky material, aerial yoga extends the possibilities
of traditional yoga and introduces new ways to get the best out of stretches, exercises and relaxation.
I went to Fly Studio in Toronto to do my first aerial yoga class, and came out wishing I could set up my own silk at home.
It can take a bit of time to get used to performing yoga poses with the use of the silk (it will train your sense of balance
like never before), but it produced the deepest stretches and best workout of any yoga practice I’ve ever done.
One of the biggest benefits of aerial yoga versus traditional is the fact that you can invert your relationship to gravity by hanging
upside down. This does wonders for decompressing your spine and counteracting the common computer-screen slump that many of us suffer from.
It also gets more blood flowing to your head, which actually left me feeling unusually energized and focussed.
Aerial yoga is ideal for those looking to deepen their stretches beyond what’s possible in traditional yoga, get a more
thorough workout of key muscles, and achieve greater levels of relaxation. It’s also worth exploring for beginners who have
trouble with yoga poses performed on a mat on the floor. With more freedom to move, it can help those with restricted
mobility find poses that work much better for them.
Holistic Wellness Retreats
There’s a big trend in the travel world: holistic wellness retreats. Playing off the idea that there is something to be gained in a
fusion of Eastern and Western medicine, you can now travel to places like India or Bali for an immersive approach to wellness. These
retreats are great for both body and mind, as physical classes taken during the day are complemented by beautiful surroundings, healthy
foods, and traditions that put more emphasis on things like spirituality and natural healing.
Holistic retreats approach your mind and body as a whole system, each aspect dependent on the others. This makes good logical sense, since,
for example, it’s useless to undertake a rigorous exercise regime if you don’t simultaneously eat a healthy diet.
Rest and relaxation is often what we aim to achieve on vacation anyway, but it doesn’t always happen. With your accommodation, activities, food,
and drink all planned out, the only thing you need to worry about on a holistic wellness retreat is making the most of the opportunity physically
and mentally. Many programs offer a totally tailored stay, designed to address your individual needs with a team of health experts. Sure, it’s
pricey. But you decide: how much is your health worth?
A New Age of Wellness
Despite the deluge of get-fit-quick schemes that society seems to be swimming in, let’s be honest – we kind of already know the truth.
A pill isn’t going to give us the fountain of youth, and an expensive new fitness machine is no good collecting dust in the basement. It’s
time to take a harder, closer look at things and vow to start making some subtle adjustments here and there that will contribute
to better health from diet to fitness to mindfulness.
We know squats and cheeseburgers are a losing pair as much as we know carrots and stress don’t lead to a long life. It’s only when we start
putting all the pieces together that we begin to see the big picture: a healthy life is a complicated thing, but it is within our power to get there.