Holistic Therapy

What is meant by Holistic Therapies? Some examples and the origins of Shiatsu and Somatic therapy

Holistic therapy refers to any educational system that views the human being as one essential whole and incorporates practices for the mind, movement exercises, hands-on-techniques, dietary advice and methods to heighten the awareness of energy and sensations through the body. Rather than focusing on any one of the component parts of the human being; mind, body, emotions, spirit, holistic therapies recognise the oneness of these and are interested in the relationships between them. Each culture can trace back some form of health practice that has been passed on through the generations as a form of human, social and spiritual education, of which many contain remedial, medical and therapeutic aspects. Some of these have grown to be more widespread and been adopted and fused with other approaches and methodological studies of biology, medicine, psychology and philosophy to be relevant to current-day living. Below are a few well-known holistic therapies briefly outlined:

Yoga developed as a collective term for a range of physical, mental and spiritual exercises in Ancient India. Yoga literally means ‘union’ and the purpose of these exercises is to experience this unity within and grow on the spiritual path. The yoga now so familiar in the West (introduced in the 20th Century) with its body postures and stretches synchronised with the breath is essentially a meditative and spiritual practice. The various styles and forms of yoga of which Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Kundalini, Iyengar are just a few examples, have been developed to suit every type of person. From the rich Indian tradition also grew the comprehensive medicine system of Ayurveda that incorporates nutrition, massage and meditation, specific to the constitution of each individual. Similar to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Ayurveda has been practised for up to 3,000 years up to date and thus incorporates wisdom and insights from documented experience and observations unrivalled in the history of humankind. Ayurveda and TCM both incorporate a theoretical framework of the elements in which the relationships between them contain and manifest life force or energy. In China, methods to stay healthy and well developed from TCM with different emphasises; acupuncture (acupressure points stimulated with needles), massage techniques (tui na), herbal medicine, and exercises (qigong and tai chi). Influencing Japan in the East TCM fused with other methods of manual therapy and massage from which Shiatsu was born.

Osteopathy and Chiropractic evolved as two holistic therapies in the United States during the 19th Century, concerned primarily with structural issues of the skeletal-muscular system, connective tissue and joints as a form of creating wellbeing and ease in the whole body. They both use physical manipulation techniques, massage and movement to address postural imbalances in the body. The Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method are two other educational systems originating during this time-period addressing the structural wisdom of the body. Incorporating slow movements with awareness sometimes coupled with light touch these methods help create new embodied patterns of movement in line with the anatomy to release unconscious habitual patterns held in the body. Other somatic practises, movement therapies and massage therapies have since developed that build on the same holistic understanding of the body and especially attending to the emotional effects of physical and mental re-patterning.

Shiatsu Therapy

This Japanese healing art form and therapy is ideal for restoring health, using finger pressure to heal and rejuvenate.

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Somatic Therapy

Somatic Movement Therapy & Education aims to accompany people on a journey of more sensitively listening to the body’s inherent intelligence and wisdom, create understanding of the self and its place in the world, and awaken the body’s own healing capacity and ability to find balance and health.

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“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.”
- B.K.S. Iyengar