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Managing office ailments with complementary medicine
More and more business executives are turning to complementary medicine, convinced that natural therapies are the answer to the stresses, strains and ills of business life. Treatments can range from the Alexander Technique (a method of postural re-education supposedly leading to personal growth) to zero balancing (which claims to help patients let go of pain and move into a new state of awareness). Or you might try talking to crystals which is said to help you harmonise the energy currents in your body.
In Britain, the most common cause of absenteeism from work is backache ... the French give their main cause as stomach ache, while Americans cite psychological problems!
As an executive or manager, what advice do you give when your staff complain of aches, pains and stress-related ailments? Even the most flexible office furniture can't prevent strained muscles, and you can hardly eliminate the stress of commuting by telling people to move nearer to the office.
Complementary medicine could be the answer. These less orthodox remedies, dating back thousands of years in many cases, are growing in popularity and can sometimes prove more effective than doctors' prescriptions.
Tense, nervous backache? Try learning to breathe, dressing in indigo, or, if all else fails, lying naked on the floor while someone walks all over you.
Devotees of complementary medicines point out that, since mainly natural ingredients are used, there are no chemical side-effects. Many of the treatments are also holistic, concentrating not just on the ailing organ but on the body as a whole.
Exponents of these therapies emphasise that the aim of certain therapies is to improve physical and mental well-being rather than effect miracle cures. Practitioners sometimes prefer to be called, "Servants of Nature".
First practised in China 3,000 years ago, aromatherapy is a household word today due to companies like The Body Shop, which promotes essential oils as being good for the body and the mind.
Essential oils are highly concentrated drops of liquid, extracted from the flowers, stems, roots or bark of various aromatic plants. Extraction is a long and expensive process; for example, it takes 15kg of rose petals to produce just 100ml of essential oil. These oils are easily absorbed by the skin into the body. They are versatile substances and can be used medicinally in a number of ways; in massage, as an inhalant, in lotions, and in aromatic baths.
Aromatherapy combined with massage helps to relax the body and relieve stress and tension. It also improves blood circulation, stimulates the immune system, relieves pain in muscles and joints and improves skin texture.
Some people feel more relaxed after a massage than after a good night's sleep.
Massage is effective as touch is a very powerful medium. And the oils enhance it; they soften and tone the muscles.
Muscle tension and body pain can often result from emotional or psychological problems, especially if someone is depressed or anxious. The complaints are not purely physical, but have mental connections too. This is why a good practitioner is someone who has time to listen and who you feel comfortable with.
When used in massage, the essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil like sunflower oil before being applied to the skin, as they may irritate it. Oils can be bought ready-diluted.
The oil should be massaged into the body using smooth, firm strokes that warm the skin and thus help the oil to penetrate it. Depending on the oil used, the body will take between 10 and 100 minutes to absorb it.
If someone's pregnant, or epileptic, then they should be careful which oils they use.
The quality of the oils sold in shops can vary enormously. You can't always assess quality by smell. A good indication is price, because anything that appears dramatically cheaper than a competing brand probably isn't a pure oil.
The benefits can help people of almost any age. Children often respond well to aromatherapy, but it is advised that they should be through babyhood ... walking and talking and able to express how they are feeling.
Aromatherapy can be either symptomatic, treating one ailment, or holistic, involving the whole body. All the body organs are interconnected, but not all the connections are obvious. For instance, the liver is connected to the eye, the kidney to the ear and the spleen to the mouth.
Kinesinology which is a series of muscle tests to the body shows how its energy is flowing. So if, say, the kidneys are weak, a practitioner will select an oil to rebalance the kidneys, and the muscle strength comes back straight away. It's a really powerful technique when it's right.
Aromatherapy goes far deeper than a routine massage. It's about creating space in the body where there wasn't any before. Where there's a tight muscle, the energy won't flow.
And the body apparently knows its own mind. If the wrong oil is chosen, the body will not absorb it.
Another way of soothing stress is to relax in an aromatic bath. Fill your bath with warm water, add a few drops of oil and mix it in. Not only will the essential oil be absorbed by your skin, but it will also vaporise, so you will inhale in the steam. The door and windows should be kept closed for the user to derive full benefit from this treatment.
Aromatherapy can also be used as an inhalant treatment for colds, coughs, sinus blockages or chest complaints. One technique is to take a bowl containing a pint of very hot water and squeeze a few drops of the oil into it; menthol and eucalyptus are both good for treating respiratory problems. Then, covering your head with a towel and keeping your face a few inches above the water, inhale the steam for five to ten minutes.
An alternative is to put a few drops of the oil on to a handkerchief and breathe in the aroma, taking slow but deep breaths, for a minute.
An aromatherapy and massage session lasts about an hour and twenty minutes and should cost between £25 and £35. It is advisable to make sure your practitioner is a member of the Register of Qualified Aromatherapists.
A guide to essential
n Camomile soothes dry and sensitive skin. It also has a calming effect.
n Eucalyptus is an excellent decongestant which also helps relieve muscular aches and pains.
n Geranium is an astringent that cleanses the skin. It also helps ease menstrual problems.
n Lavender soothes problem skin and alleviates tension, headaches and insomnia.
n Peppermint has a refreshing, cooling effect on the skin, and acts as a decongestant.
n Pine is an antiseptic that helps relieve sinus problems and 'flu. It also acts as an air freshener.
n Rose acts as an anti-depressant and helps sooth away stress and headaches.
n Rosemary is good for digestion. It is also said to improve the memory!
n Sandalwood, one of the more expensive oils, can help relieve sore throats and coughs. It is also renowned for its (unproven) aphrodisiac qualities!
If you are interested in knowing about other essential oils try visiting the website: www.fragrant.demon.co.uk
Want to fix that back, or just want to get fit, supple, and slender? Now you don't have to get out of your armchair. To be precise, you don't even have to get up off the floor, but you will need a rope.
Chavutti Thirumal originated in Kerala in southern India and was developed to keep practitioners of both the local martial arts and dance supple and flexible.
Before performances, dancers and fighters would be given a 10-day intensive course to allow them to perform in peak condition. It generally prevented injuries and strains, but if anything did go wrong then a further course would equally coax them back to health.
There is no massage couch, just rush mats with a large white towel down the middle. Across the room at head height there is a thick red rope. You take off all your clothes and lie on the mat. The practitioner asks a few questions about any health problems then prepares him or herself.
Practitioners regard Chavutti Thirumal as a spiritual exercise and spend a few moments in prayer and meditation before the session. Throughout the massage they breath deeply to keep their energy channels open. Your body is liberally doused with warm sesame oil and then, using the rope for balance and to modulate his or her weight, the practitioner starts to massage.
The feeling is wonderful - strong, deep yet highly sensitive. The feet knead, probe, stretch and soothe every muscle and ligament - from the shoulders down to the toes (ending up with your face and head).
It's much more thorough than any other form of massage,according to practitioners. Use of the feet achieves a really deep pressure; hands are too light. By holding on to the rope, the whole weight of the practitioners body is behind each stroke, so with the aid of gravity, it can also cover a wider area. It's like ironing someone out.
If done regularly, the massage can help clients lose weight. Massaging with foot pressure gets the client's circulation going and helps the immune system.
This may well be, but do the customers feel immune to ridicule? After all, they have to lie half-naked under one version of an Indian rope trick.
Well it's said to be an experience to enjoy. People who try it range from people in their late teens to their late 70s. Using the feet produces long continuous strokes from the hands down the arms and torso to the feet. Most people haven't been stroked like that since they were babies.
This deep massage can also release stress, because as the body relaxes, emotional and spiritual blockages are broken down.
The feet are oiled well before starting, using sesame oil because it doesn't soak in to the skin, and it's a good consistency."
There are few contraindications for Chavutti Thirumal. Practitioners can't work on you if you have heart disease or cancer. They need to be aware of any other health problems so they can tailor the treatment.
Sessions usually last for an hour and a half and cost between £35 and £55.
There are only a handful of practitioners in the UK - for details send a SAE to The Soma Institute, 17 Condray Place, London SW11 3PE Or try visiting the website: www.movingeast .co.uk/complementary.htmll
Banking 2000 will continue to run a series of features written by business writer, Julie McCreadie, looking at all forms of complementrary medicine for the business world in the 21st century
Written and compiled by Julie McCreadie, a journalist and publisher for over 20 years. Now also advises companies on IT, new media and changes in the law - particularly regarding publishing, copyright and intellectual property. She is involved in the Technology means Business programme, managed by the Institute of Management and supported by the DTi to promote UK competition with better use of information and communications technology (ICT).
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