Life & Style

My experiments with woo wellness

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I began writing this story on a full moon night, right after a conversation about tantra on Clubhouse. If 2020 was the year of reality checks, this year I’m running away from this dystopian world, indulging in sound baths, charging crystals, clearing chakras, cutting chords, manifesting, earthing, and dabbling in white witchcraft. I’m obsessed with the school of woo-woo wellness, which is sometimes seen as magical but mostly as pseudoscience or an alternate belief system, thereby eliciting skepticism and several eyerolls. It doesn’t help that Gwyneth Paltrow is its poster child, with her ear seeds, ice plunges, jade eggs, and vaginal steaming. But even though people love to hate woo and Gwyneth, I love them. Why? Because this type of wellness is more playful, palatable and doable. And while some people recharge with a vacation, I like to explore new rituals.

Covid-19 has amplified the need to get better, shifting priorities from work and money towards physical, mental and emotional health. Because of this reason, the wellness industry in general is seeing an upswing. According to a 2021 McKinsey report, the 1.5 trillion-worth global wellness market is growing at 5-10% every year, with 72% respondents believing wellness is important and 42% making it a top priority.

Science behind rituals

While some practices are now being viewed through the lens of science, let’s not forget that until recently, most rituals (including pranayama and meditation) were seen as pseudoscience and therefore a part of woo-woo wellness. But today, we have scientific proof that they can help. For instance, a daily meditation practice helps relieve the eczema itch, according to researchers at Emory University, United States. Scientists at Seoul National University, Korea, found evidence that the body has a system of meridians. And just the fragrance of sandalwood oil helps cells proliferate and heal, as per a study by Ruhr University Bochum, Germany. Of course, a huge part of wellness can be attributed to placebo, but isn’t that real too?

Personally, I use these rituals merely as functional tools since I have no great, yogic ambitions such as moksha or nirvana. For me they work as a daily practice, a mental bath. They help me sleep, find answers and most importantly, shift focus. But that doesn’t mean there’s no magic. If you think about what makes things magical, it’s discovery. A sound bath or chakra healing helps me discover the minutest sensations in the body and peel back the layers of my mind, which is quite extraordinary.

Still, one cannot deny that woo-woo wellness is now so commercialised. Today anyone can be a healer with a three-month course, past life regression is a weekend exploration and tarot reading is an essential pastime. The market is reaching saturation point with chakra-activating teas, protective crystals, cleansing salts, magical candles, aura-boosting oils, and videos on everything from channelling angels to strengthening the aura. It’s becoming so popular that it’s irksome, even for me.

Meanwhile on Clubhouse

An information overload on ashwagandha smoothies and ayahuasca transformations can be irritating. But to be open, vulnerable and candid because you have done internal work (with woo, traditional wellness or therapy) is the biggest flex. This was apparent in a recent Clubhouse room I did with a wiccan on manifestation. It was a new moon night, perfect for setting new intentions. At exactly midnight, one by one the audience members revealed their deepest fears, hopes and ambitions. The room wasn’t special only because we were manifesting but also because there were 300 other people listening with compassion and an open mind.

Perhaps this is why we need woo wellness. Because traditional systems are too rigorous and science too sterile. I like to view it as wellness lite, which is more relevant in these times when most of us (me included) lack the focus or discipline required for more advanced practices. And ultimately, the biggest advantage of any type of practice, be it new-age or traditional, is that it helps us form a connection, be it to our inner, outer or astral worlds.

Vasudha Rai has authored Glow: Indian Foods, Recipes and Rituals for Beauty Inside and Out and blogs at vbeauty.co.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not substitute for professional medical advice


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 10:44:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/my-experiments-with-woo-wellness/article37126387.ece

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