4 alternative wellness treatments you won’t believe are a thing
Bored of the usual over-priced wellness treatments on offer? Laura Martin tests
some alternatives – from black metal yoga to snake meditation…
The global wellbeing industry is currently valued at around $3.4trillion, but against a world of smug #eatclean blogs and glossy offerings, there’s a resurgence in ancient, holistic therapies. Although they may seem outlandish to our modern ears at first, these treatments, some of which are thousands of years old, have stood the test of time and offer results. To find out more, Balance asked me to take the plunge and step out of my comfort zone to try a few – after all, the things that are good for you aren’t always glamorous.
BLACK METAL YOGA
‘RAAAAAHHHH!’ I stand, feet firmly planted apart, in Warrior Two pose. A low, growling voice resonates from the studio’s speakers. ‘RAAAAAHHHH,’ we yell back, sticking our tongues out for good measure. We’re in Hackney taking part in a DoomYinYoga class, part of a new wave of yoga for those who are done with the usual ‘aaaand relax…’ type classes.
One of DoomYinYoga creators, Kamellia McKayed, says: ‘We’ve all had yoga classes where teachers soundtrack the session with really cheesy pan pipes or trickling water, so instead, we decided to use Doom music.
‘This originates from bands in the 70s such as Black Sabbath in England and Pentagram in the States and on our playlist we have modern tunes from bands like Bong and Skepticism. It’s much slower than regular black/death metal and the guitars are tuned down for a heavier, drone sound.’
I find it empowering, almost primal – great for releasing pent up anger from the day.
The Apiary, Hackney
£5 per class.
HEALING POWER OF SNAKES
On a similar primordial vibe in a studio in London Bridge, a chanting group of participants form a circle as part of a snake healing ceremony.
Kwali Kumara, a kundalini yoga and group meditation teacher, wearing a flamboyant feather headdress, has developed a form of kundalini yoga that incorporates live snakes – and yes, that means cosying up with one for spiritual wisdom.
‘Snakes have had a bad press,’ she says. ‘We’re conditioned from an early age to be terrified by them, but in places like India, they honour the serpent and they worship it at Naga temples.
‘In kundalini yoga our life force is often depicted as a serpent. To become enlightened, you need to serve the snake.’
She adds: ‘I think there’s a link between people being scared of snakes and people having inner fear. Once you get over your fear of the snake, you’re not in fear of anything else.’
Kwali takes the group through a yoga and meditation session, then brings out several 14ft boa constrictors for guests to connect with.
Rather than being the horror show you expect, embracing the serpents – both inner and actual – turns out to be remarkably effective. Apparently the snakes even enjoy it, too.
£50 per group session
LEECH BODY READY
Another ancient practice which is having a bit of a revival is hirudotherapy, otherwise known as leech therapy. While many might think of it as a grotesque treatment from the middle ages, that’s something therapist Gregory Curylo from Re-balance Therapies is trying to change.
He explains that rather than being vampiric blood-sucking pests, leeches should be seen as miracle workers, thanks, oddly, to their saliva: ‘It’s not about what they take, it’s what they give to you. When they attach to your body, they inject you with their saliva, hirudo – a great cocktail of up to 300 different bioactive enzymes.’
Gregory’s practice places a couple of leeches on your body for up to 40 minutes. But they never actually take more than 6ml of blood – and can cure inflammation, rheumatism, arthritis, even depression.
He says: ‘They release endorphins as they attach to you and it can feel like you’ve had two pints of beer to unwind.’
Once you’ve accepted you have a few creatures clinging on to you, it can be quite relaxing.
And while popular in places like Poland, it’s not well known in England – crazy when you think that pharmaceutical companies are currently spending millions to synthetically recreate leeches’ spit, because of its immense healing qualities.
£65 per session
Another esoteric treatment proving popular is the bee sting facial. For 5,000 years apitherapy – the medical use of products from bees – has been loved by everyone from the ancient Egyptians right through to the likes of actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
Bee venom (or apitoxin) is known to be a natural healer for skin due to the peptide melittin, which is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and stimulates the production of collagen. It seems like it could be the perfect treatment to conclude my trip to the dark side of the spa.
Don’t I need to be in beekeeper gear or something, I ask my Heaven Skincare therapist, Liza? ‘No,’ she laughs. ‘We’ve developed the facial using bees’ venom, which we collect from bees in New Zealand for our Abeetoxin Bee Venom Mask.’
And these bees don’t even have to become martyrs to our beauty endeavours either, as they ‘sting’ a vibrating silk sheet, releasing some of their venom, but keeping their stings intact, so they don’t end up in a swarm in the sky.
Over the course of an hour, once I’d relaxed a little – after being told the tingling to my face is due to the exfoliating sugar cane, not anaphylactic shock – my face is massaged into a buzzing bliss. Afterwards, I feel very peaceful and my skin is certainly glowing.
The BeeSting Facial costs £64 with beauty director and £55 with a therapist.