When the search for healing the mind, body and spirit stretches far beyond traditional Western medicine.
"The best healing is done from within."
Katherine Hamer - Sound Healing Practitioner
Where Western Medicine Ends, Self-Healing Begins
By: Teranderose Russell
The client was living with debilitating pain in her lower back when she reached out to Rebecca Scott, a healing practitioner in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. The woman, a 40-something school teacher, had tried numerous medical treatments for what doctors told her was a problem with her spine, Scott recalled. But the condition only worsened, making it near impossible to make it through her daily routine of work and keeping up with her young son. She gave up exercise, even swimming.
With Scott, she tried Havening, a psychosensory technique that uses eye movements and light touch, such as stroking the shoulders, elbows and other areas of the body, as a therapeutic tool. Havening practitioners say the process stimulates the brain to release serotonin, colloquially known as the “feel-good” hormone, and create new positive associations in the mind. The technique is used as a protocol for wellness, coaching and stress management, says Scott, who is also a hypnotherapist, massage therapist, reflexologist, and reiki practitioner.
Scott suspected an underlying cause for the pain that might be rooted in a difficult experience.
“With Havening, we try to get to the root of the pain,” said Scott. “In this case, it was a situation where she stood up for something in her school and didn’t feel support from the other teachers she worked with and the principal.”
After her session with Scott, the client went home with ways to practice on herself at home.
“She had great results,” Scott said. A few months later, the woman contacted Scott to thank her and tell her that she was no longer in pain.
As alternative therapies become more mainstream, people are looking outside of traditional Western medicine to find treatments that address more than physical ailments. From sound healing, to meditation and fasting, people are seeking ways to heal themselves.
“I’ve been doing this for thirty years,” said Scott. “More and more people are looking beyond what medicine can do, looking for more possibilities that support medicine and beyond. Now, more people are aware of alternative healing techniques. Every year more and more people are open and receptive to improve their health and wellness.”
For some, the search for alternative therapies begins when Western medicine seems to fail them. It might be a persistent illness, a trauma that has wounds that go beyond physical healing, or an unqualifiable sense of “imbalance.” Ancient therapies known for their focus on healing the mind, body and spirit are resurfacing on the wellness spectrum and becoming more popular.
According to a recent National Health and Interview Survey, about 40 percent of the population are using alternative therapies like acupuncture, chiropractic and massage, as well as practices like yoga, tai chi and qigong. Over the past five years, alternative healthcare providers in the United States have grown by 3.8 percent, reaching total revenue of $17 billion in 2018, according to a report by the marketing research group IBIS World. The report notes that more insurance companies and employers are recognizing the benefits of covering complimentary or alternative healthcare.
Derrick Little is a sound healing practitioner and kundalini yoga instructor who says he took up sound therapy at a particularly low point in his life, both physically and emotionally. Sound healing uses harmonics and repeated patterns to put people in a state of deep relaxation. Practitioners say the experience helps the physical body and mind to balance itself. Little, who was introduced to sound healing after buying a Tibetan sound bowl on a whim, says it was transformative for him and he went on to become a practitioner to help others experience the same “lightness of being.”
“Medicine,” Little says, has been commandeered by the medical and pharmaceutical industry. “I think that these practices we can initiate for ourselves in a more intimate way, where you’re more involved and you’re taking care of yourself and you’re taking responsibility for yourself, is really where healing happens.”
For many people, the idea of fasting is either a religious practice or a way to lose weight. But some use fasting as a path to wellness. “Intermittent fasting” is a type of fasting where one goes without eating for set periods of time, like 12 hours a day or 24 hours once a week. Enthusiasts say the fasting allows the digestive system to take a break from processing solid foods, which improves digestion. Others believe the benefits include balancing hormones and blood sugar, decreasing inflammation and increasing cognitive functions.
The proliferation of smart devices has more people spending their time attached to their smart phones and other electronic devices. Its considered normal to be plugged in and available at all times. More than ever, people are finding ways to center themselves, calm their minds and detach from the overstimulating world. Mindfulness and meditation practices are increasingly popular. In a recent health study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 9.9 percent of the American workforce has engaged in meditation. The $16 billion industry is continuing to grow. The access to phone apps, podcasts, spas, retreats and meditation studios makes the practice more approachable.
Angela Molnar is a social worker at Family and Children’s Aid in Danbury, Conn. She incorporates her training as a yoga instructor and her meditation experience into her work with children who suffer from anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other mental health issues. Molnar says meditation can be a great coping skill for everyone.
“Currently, my favorite meditation app is Headspace,” said Molnar, who also took part in a 21-day meditation challenge led by Deepak Chopra, which she described as “great.”
Molnar says she likes Headspace’s full app because it has guided meditation for everything, from kids, to sleep, to cleaning meditations. “I find that my mood is more positive and present throughout the day,” Molnar says. “It’s a chance to spend some time taking care of myself and focusing on what I need at the moment, whether it’s to be less stressed, less angry or sad, more centered or grounded, more positive and hopeful.”
Complementary and alternative therapies are becoming more mainstream as many doctors and medical practices are starting to take an integrative approach, says Kathy Hamer, a sound practitioner and teacher who says sound healing helped her recognize a cancerous tumor in her breast that her regular mammogram did not detect. She is going through chemotherapy, but she considers sound healing part of her treatment.
“I encourage anyone interested in healing themselves to consider alternative approaches, especially vibrational therapies,” Hamer said. “This is where healing happens on a spiritual, emotional, physical and mental level.”
Sight and Sound Immersion
Practitioners create sound waves and visual effects designed to bring participants into a deep state of relaxation and a dream-like experience.
(Photo: Derrick Little)
Sound Bath Session
Playing a array of crystal bowls, gongs, drums, bells and traditional Tibetan instruments, the sounds and vibrations brings the mind and body back into a state of harmony, says practitioner Katherine Hamer.
(Photo: Katherine Hamer)
"The idea of a healer is very different than that of modern medicine. Taking responsibility for yourself is really where healing happens, and a lot of people are recognizing that."
Derrick Little - Sound Healing Practitioner
Gong Playing (Photo: Teranderose Russell)
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