Body & Fitness

Heard of mindful menstruation? Unusual health trends that are gaining popularity

From gong sound meditation to mindful menstruation, these are the new trends gaining popularity in the world of health and wellbeing.

Outside the realms of conventional medicine and therapies, there are some weird and wonderful ways to try and live a happier, healthier life.

If you’re stuck in a rut and want to try something new in 2019 then read on for the latest experimental treatments that are causing a buzz amongst those in the know.

There are practices to reduce stress, enzymes to improve digestion and ideas to help you get in tune with your monthly cycle. But are they as good as they sound? We take a closer look.

Nootropics: The magic brain pill

They are also known as ‘smart drugs’ and are believed to have originated in the high-pressured, high-achieving environment of Silicon Valley in the US.

Nootropics are ‘cognitive enhancers’ that are supposed to improve memory, increase alertness and concentration and boost energy.

The most commonly prescribed nootropic is Modafinil, says sleep physician Dr David Cunnington.

“Modafinil is approved to help treat symptoms of sleepiness during the day in people who have medical reasons for being sleepy. So, it’s approved for people who have narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnoea. It can also be prescribed for shift workers as a harm minimisation strategy to help them cope with sleepiness,” he explains.

But Dr Cunnington says nootropics found on the internet that are often plant-based are untested and unproven.

“You find nootropics mentioned in articles that promise to show you how to be a better you and how to make you more awesome! They’re not something I’d recommend,” he advises.

Gong sound meditation

Gongs were used in China as far back as the 6th century although ‘gong’ is a Javanese word.

When struck with a beater, a gong vibrates from the centre outwards and people who believe in the benefits of gong therapy believe the sound waves induce a meditative state and help with healing.

“Our body is a walking musical instrument and every cell in our body is vibrating. When we play the gong, it vibrates too and creates resonance. Our body is in tune with that sound and this helps us relax,” says sound practitioner Leith James.

“The vibrations from the gong penetrate every cell – they go through blood, bones, the nervous system and brain and they also put you in a state of meditation.”

Leith adds that research from the British Academy of Sound Therapy shows that after 20 minutes of listening to these kinds of vibrations, blood pressure may start to drop.

The International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences looked at the effects of music on pulse rate and blood pressure and found reduction in both after listening to slow music. “If people find it hard to quieten their mind, the gong can help people relax more and ease stress.”

Digestive enzymes

By 2025 people are expected to spend around $1.6 billion a year on digestive enzyme supplements, which are being offered to help manage symptoms of an unhealthy gut – the discomfort of bloating, flatulence and heartburn. But Harvard University researchers say that in some cases they may be a waste of money.

Our body naturally makes digestive enzymes that help break down food, so nutrients can be distributed and used throughout the body.

Most enzymes are made in the pancreas but sometimes the body doesn’t make enough. People can then be prescribed enzyme treatments that are regulated and approved by medical authorities.

But health food stores and the internet are awash with supplements that are not medically approved. Dr Kyle Staller, a gastroenterologist, says if they lead to bleeding or a change in the colour of your stools, talk to your GP.

Mindful menstruation

It’s a time of month that many women dread. But ‘mindful menstruation’ can help women change their perspective about their period, says yoga instructor Kate Alexandra.

She says being aware of the ebb and flow of a monthly cycle can help women be more caring towards themselves and help them make the most of days when energy and creativity are highest.

“Women move through seasons within their body during their monthly cycle,” says Kate.

“The follicular phase and the release of the egg are related to spring and summer, and women get this whoosh of energy pre-ovulation and during ovulation. I feel that is when I have my superwoman powers! In the luteal phase, when the egg falls away and the uterus lining thickens and prepares for release, I become more irritable and my inner critic is louder. I try not to have difficult conversations or to make big decisions around that time of my cycle.”

Kate advises tracking your cycle using an app or chart.

Over time, women will see patterns emerge in how they feel physically and emotionally.

“You can then plan your life in a way that is resonant with the energy of your menstrual cycle on different days.”

Holotropic breathing

Psychiatrist Dr Stanislav Grof and his wife, Christina, developed this technique in the 1970s. It blends modern consciousness research, transpersonal psychology and Eastern spiritual practices.

Sessions can last for two to three hours and are done in a dark room, with eyes closed and accompanied by loud music. A person sits with the person who is practising Holotropic breathwork.

“It’s a simple breathing technique designed to help material from the psyche to emerge, so it can be processed and help healing,” explains Anthony Olsen, an acupuncturist and Holotropic breathwork practitioner.

“People breathe deeper and faster continuously but it’s not hyperventilation – it’s more a full, connected breath that is deeper than normal breathing. It helps people get in touch with processes inside the psyche.”

The process is said to help release deep-seated emotions.

“You may feel more connected to the people around you and have a better understanding of what motivates your actions,” says Anthony.

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