Not just a hippie thing

If you think New Age health treatments are wishy-washy and, well, a bit wacky, we have news for you!

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
If you think New Age health treatments are wishy-washy and, well, a bit wacky, we have news for you!
Corbis/Click Photos
Corbis/Click Photos

Chinese Cupping

What is it?  For us, Chinese cupping was something our parents or grandparents did when their backs ached. For the rest of the world, this alternative therapy was relatively unheard of until Gwnyeth Paltrow turned up at a premiere back in 2004 showing off what looked like seven frog-mouthed hickies on her upper back. Since then, celebs from Jennifer Aniston to Victoria Beckham have all been spotted with similar marks. In fact, the “hickies” are caused by an ancient healing treatment known as cupping. Originating from China, it involves placing heated glass (or plastic) cups on the surface of the skin. The heat (or a hand pump for plastic) creates a suction effect, which increases blood flow to the area. The cups stay on for varying lengths of time depending on your condition. It’s believed to provide a stress-relieving effect (and one helluva bruise).

Why you should try it: Based on similar principles to acupuncture, cupping is believed to bring toxins to the surface and encourage the body to heal by triggering an immune response. Although there’s little scientific evidence to support its effectiveness, fans of the technique claim it helps to increase energy levels, reduce stress and alleviate aches and pains. It’s even thought to help reduce the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks. Score!

Watch out for:  There is a clear downside: looking like you’ve been punched repeatedly by someone with perfect-circle fists. Avoid if you’re due for bridesmaid duty – “angry bride” is a thing.

Floatation Tanks

What is it?  We can’t beat around the bush on this one: it’s a relaxation treatment that makes you feel like you’re on a hallucinogenic drug, except you’re not. Rather, you’re in a pool of heavily-salted water that keeps you buoyant and, with the help of earplugs and the pool being in a closable pod, provides sensory deprivation. Enter every weird thing your mind can conjure when it’s not being disturbed by the sights and acoustics of busy life, followed (hopefully) by a chillaxed stillness. Sessions typically last for 45 minutes.

Why you should try it:  A study by Karlstad University in Sweden found that those who used float tanks experienced deep relaxation, pain reduction and a spiritual reaction that enhanced their general wellbeing. Participants also found that the heavily-salted water improved the softness of their skin as well as the feel and strength of their hair. Relaxed and looking rad? Sign us up!

Watch out for: Claustrophobia and salt. Be careful not to rub your eyes afterwards. It’s not fun.

Participants also found that the heavilysalted water improved the softness of their skin as well as the feel and strength of their hair.


What is it? This Japanese healing technique is based on the idea that lifeforce energy flows through all things, including people. When a stressful situation weakens your energy flow, it can prevent the body from healing itself. Reiki uses light-pressured touch (not a massage) to locate low-energy areas or blockages and restore the balance, to leave you feeling uber relaxed. There’s no stripping down or slippery oils to rub off your fake tan, and you don’t necessarily have to be ill to benefit. However, practitioners are careful to point out it’s a complementary therapy, rather than an alternate cure for treating sickness.

Why you should try it: This handson technique might sound a little crazy, but the holistic therapy has been picked up by US hospitals to aid in rehabilitation of patients – and it’s working! The Women’s Health Services at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, USA, integrated reiki into its surgical units and measured the effect it had on patients. The results showed a decrease in anxiety and pain for those in the gynaecology, cardiology, orthopaedic, oncology and cancer centre units. It also found a reduction in muscle tension and pain, and accelerated wound healing and general well-being.

Watch out for: Any promises that reiki is a better bet than your family doc. Always do both!

Alternate Nostril Breathing (ANB)

What is it? There are a few variations of the practice, but it’s essentially a yogic breathing technique that controls which nostril you inhale and exhale from. As your nose is linked to your brain and nervous system, yogis believe that disturbed nasal breathing can cause all kinds of problems. It works by alternating blocking one nostril with your thumb and the other with your ring finger, breathing through one slowly and out the other (generally for slightly longer) for around five to 10 minutes.

Why you should try it: Well, it’s free and that’s always a win! But also, a 2008 study by Nepal Medical College found that practicing ANB each morning can signifi cantly improve your cardio-respiratory function. Win-win. It’s also been shown to aid focus and reduce stress.

Watch out for: As this technique can stimulate your digestive system, it’s best to do it on an empty stomach. If you find yourself getting increasingly lightheaded, you’ve probably been doing it a little too long…