A well-balanced life includes plenty of sleep, nourishing and nutritional foods, mindful movement and exercise, community connections, mental stimulation, emotional expression, and some sort of personal spiritual practice. Life’s stresses can disturb any of these elements and knock you off center. Some days you may be able to handle the challenges of life on your own, and sometimes it’s better to have some help.
Talk therapy, immersive rehab, and the life-saving benefits of Western medicine have their place. Ancient healing modalities, sometimes called “alternative medicine,” such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture, can also be the catalyst for significant change and transformation. Whether you’re trying to get back to homeostasis after an illness, injury, or transition, or you’re simply curious about getting to know yourself better, embarking on a healing path will lead you to unknown realms.
If you’re searching for a shift, try a float tank experience, attend a yoga class, go for a walk in the woods, or get some acupuncture needles put into your ears! You may get hooked or you may just have a peaceful time. Either way, you’ll have tried something new, which can be healing in its own right. Whether you’re looking for a big change or you’re in the mood for a treat, try one of the healing modalities suggested below.
Note: For each of the suggestions below, stick with it even if you don’t feel enthralled the first time you try a session. Sometimes it takes a few sessions to really get into the groove. If that first yoga teacher doesn’t inspire you, try a different class. If floating feels weird (but not too uncomfortable) the first time, try going back for two or three more sessions and then make your decision. Part of the healing process is trial and error, experimentation, and experience. Remember that the intention is to learn about yourself. Nothing lends itself better to that goal than some good old-fashioned uncertainty or mild discomfort. Of course, if you experience intense pain or the facility you try out is dirty or gives you a creepy feeling, get out of there!
1. FloatingFloating is a meditative, relaxing, gravity-free, immersion into a salinated body of water for a sensory deprivation experience. Floating was developed in the 1950s, and its popularity continues to grow as more benefits are discovered. These benefits include:
- Stress reduction
- Pain relief
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Inflammation reduction
- Increased sleep quality
- General relaxation
What Can I Expect at a Session?You can choose a one-hour, hour and a half, or two-hour float session. You’ll enter a private room, rinse off in a shower, and enter the float tank. It will be dark and quiet in there! You’ll soak in a shallow bath of purified mineral-rich Epsom salt. The density of the bath water will allow you to float, and the neutral temperature will be soothing. You can wear ear plugs if you prefer not to have any water in your ears. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and simply relax. When your session is over, you’ll be alerted by the staff to leave the tub, and rinse off once more.
Never Tried It Before?Most float spas include a video or in-person orientation for newbies. Try the one-hour float to see how you respond to the darkness and the silence. And read up on how to conquer your anxiety or fears of claustrophobia before you go in.
What Will It Cost?A one-hour float therapy session can run from $25–$100.
2. YogaYoga is a holistic approach to wellness that includes physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects. The word yoga means “to yoke” or to unite the body, mind, heart, and spirit. Developed over 5,000 years ago, the elements of a well-rounded yoga practice include yoga poses, meditation, mindfulness, and moral observations such as nonviolence. Benefits include:
- Improved flexibility
- Muscular strength
- Pain relief
- Stress relief
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved cardiovascular function
- Improved balance
- Better sleep
What Can I Expect at a Session?Typically “going to yoga” means attending a yoga class offered at a dedicated studio or gym. A yoga class can run from 30 minutes to two hours. Generally, yoga studios offer one-hour or one-hour and fifteen-minute classes. You’ll find a variety of classes, such as Vinyasa, Hot Yoga, Restorative, Ashtanga, Yin, and Pre-natal. Before you go, do some research to consider what style class will best suit your intention.
Never Tried It Before?Look for a gentle, hatha, beginner’s yoga class on a studio schedule, or sign up for a private session.
What Will It Cost?A single one-hour yoga class can run from $10–$25. A private session can be $50–$200. A weekend yoga retreat can cost anywhere from $350 to $3,500.
3. AcupunctureAcupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine and involves the insertion of tiny needles into the skin at specific points. Acupuncture helps to balance the chi, or flow of energy through your body. Benefits include:
- Reduced stress
- Pain relief
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Allergy relief
- Hormone balancing
- Improved pregnancy outcomes in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF)
What Can I Expect at a Session?You can choose a private or community acupuncture treatment. You’ll complete an intake form and talk with the acupuncturist about the reason for your visit (e.g., chronic pain, depression, injury, overall well-being, immune boost, etc.). The provider may ask to see your tongue briefly and take your pulse. Then you’ll sit or lie down while teeny, tiny needles are precisely placed into your skin. You may feel a pinch or slight tingle, but most people hardly feel anything. Then you’ll rest quietly while the needles do their magic. After 45 minutes to an hour, the needles will be removed and you’ll be on your way. Depending on the reason for your visit, you may be offered tiny acupressure beads that will continue to give you benefits even after you leave the office.
Never Tried It Before?Try community-based acupuncture. You’ll be in a comfy chair and can get a sense of how you’ll feel with the needles in you without investing a lot of money.
What Will It Cost?Community acupuncture can run from donation based to about $30 per treatment. A private treatment can cost approximately $50–$100 per session.
4. Forest BathingShinrin-yoku or “taking in the forest atmosphere” was developed in Japan in the 1980s as a way to get back to nature. Forest bathing is essentially an intentional walk in the woods. According to shinrinyoku.org, “The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way, there are calming, rejuvenating, and restorative benefits to be achieved.” In his book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, Dr. Qing Li explains that the benefits include:
- Stress reduction
- Immune boost
- Lower risk of cancer
- Improved focus
- Mood boost
- Improved intuition
- A sense of overall well-being
What Can I Expect at a Session?Here are the simple instructions, according to Shinrin-Yoku: “Go to a forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest.” Students are encouraged to breathe, relax, wander, touch, listen, and heal during a forest therapy session. You can attend a guided hike in your area or simply enjoy the sights and sounds of nature at your leisure. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, bring sufficient water and snacks, and always let someone know where you’re going before you head out into the woods.
Never Tried It Before?Find your nearest green space or county park. Take yourself for a stroll! Notice the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Take some time to breathe in fresh air and turn off your electronic devices. Sit in meditation or take some time to journal about your experience.
What Will It Cost?The admission to a local park could be free! A state park day-pass is $3–$15. A national parks pass currently costs $15–30, or $80 annually. Look for discounts for students, seniors, and U.S. military.
5. MeditationIn essence, meditation is the practice of being. It is the practice of turning inward and focusing on your breath, a mantra, or the sensations in your body. Meditation is often mistaken for “clearing your mind” or “pausing the thoughts in your head”, but that is not correct. It is about being present to your thoughts without attachment. There are numerous meditation techniques, and you can explore and find what works for you. Benefits include:
- Depression relief
- Improved digestion
- Improved memory
- Improved interpersonal relationships
- Reduced anxiety
What Can I Expect at a Session?Meditation can be practiced in any comfortable position: cross-legged on a cushion, kneeling, sitting in a chair, or even resting on your back. There are numerous techniques for meditation but a good starting place is to begin by sitting quietly and following the inflow and outflow of your breath. You may feel bored, experience physical discomfort, or feel utter bliss! Whatever you feel, make sure to sit, stay, and breathe.
Never Tried It Before?Set a timer for 10 minutes and sit. Here are some simple meditations to try.
Your can also attend a meditation retreat to be immersed in community or sign up for the Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Experience.
What Will It Cost?Once you learn, you will have a meditation practice that is free and can be done anywhere, anytime!
There are so many interesting and life-changing healing modalities out there. Reiki! Acupuncture! Hypnotherapy! Qi-gong! There is surely something for everyone in the healing realm. If you’re searching for inner peace and are able to keep an open mind, try a new technique or something out of the ordinary. One of these healing techniques could change your life! Take a chance and see where the path to transformation leads you.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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