By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s
Let’s face it: We are a nation of pill-poppers and quick fixes – there’s no doubt about that. But let’s put our smarty pants on for a second and think about a little somethin’ called alternative therapies. Because, hey, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in some cases, they just might be the better, healthier, choice.
Call it hippie-like, snicker at the idea of granola eaters chanting “Om” during a yoga practice, but the truth is many alternative health options are proving to be better healers than your ibuprofen. And if you’re like me, you’re the kind of person who likes to research your options. For example, if a doctor tells me I need a pill, I am the first to ask him if I can go ahead and heal this with yoga or changing my diet. It’s not always a sure thing, but what alternative therapies give us are options. And, people, I’m all about the options.
Here are a few of the hottest ones around:
Deep breathing exercises
If I had a nickel for the number of times my mother has told me to breathe in and breathe out, I’d be a freakin’ millionaire. But, while I may sometimes roll my eyes at this tried-and-true wisdom, many health experts say simple breathing exercises can help ease stress and anxiety. Try this deep breathing exercise from Dr. Andrew Weil: Keep mouth closed, rapidly inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Breaths should be quick, but equal. It will seem silly – you’ll feel like a bit like a dog in heat – but after just 15 seconds you’ll feel refreshed and relaxed.
It’s tough to achieve a totally pure meditative state, but when you take a peek at the long list of benefits, it’s even more difficult to ignore. Just to name a few: It increases blood flow, slows the heart rate, creates a deeper level of relaxation, decreases muscle tension and headaches, helps with PMS, aids post-operative healing and enhances the immune system. Try adopting a mantra – a phrase or sound that you repeat in order to tune out all the bull crap. A little light, calming incense or aromatherapy oils are also nice, and make sure you are comfy because you will be on your booty for quite a bit of time.
It might seem like there’s nothing new to explore here, seeing as how everyone from Madonna to your Great Aunt Millie seems to have caught the yoga bug. However, one thing to keep in mind about this 6,000-year-old “trend” is that it has also proven to be stellar for alleviating stress.
“What makes yoga unique in terms of stress reduction is in its multifaceted approach, “said Beth Shaw, President and Founder of YogaFit®, Inc. “By working at the physical and psychological levels concurrently, yoga reduces stress at each level and this reduction in stress is supported by the work done at other levels. Yoga postures combined with deep breathing facilitate deep relaxation that combat stress.”
People like to lean on diets to help them get slim quick, but there are also a number of food plans that can help ease some of your worst bodily woes. Alternative health gurus back diets like veganism and macrobiotics, claiming that eliminating, adding or controlling certain types of foods can help to improve health. Many of these diets focus on eliminating certain trigger foods, like processed sugar, caffeine or animal products, in order to help boost not only a sister’s immunity, but all of the body’s systems. Take a look at the Kim Barnouin’s “Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps” for ideas on how to trade your favorite foods for animal-free, healthier alternatives.
This is where we tap into that mind-body connection that we hear about so often. Biofeedback is an alternative therapy that leans on the idea that we can use our thoughts and mind to control our bodies, and specific conditions and illnesses. Does it all sound too voodoo to you? Consider this: This technique has been shown to help ease symptoms related to headaches, asthma, epilepsy, nausea caused by chemotherapy and low back pain, just to name a few. Not so black magic after all, eh?
Ugh. Just the idea of my spine cracking makes me cringe. But it’s hard to ignore the benefits of chiropractic adjustments, a method of treatment that can include a combination of spinal manipulation, therapeutic stretches, ultrasound, ice and heat therapy and soft tissue manual therapy. Research has shown chiropractic therapy has been useful in treating ailments ranging from migraine headaches to osteoarthritis to acute back pain. As someone who suffers from migraines, I’ve learned first hand how chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate pain and restore the loss of mobility that is often associated with the bouts I can suffer for sometimes multiple days.
So, now that you have alternative therapy options being thrown at you left and right, the question is: Which one will work for you? The answer might not be glaring, but one thing is for sure –figuring it out could be your little piece of heaven.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, TheGSpotRevolution.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.