sound healing session

IMAGINE yourself receiving a deeply comforting, relaxing treatment on the massage table, and then, while you’re still floating in that dreamy rainbow-coloured bubble of pampering bliss, add the magical sound of crystal singing bowls, an angelic female voice and the sound of an ancient string instrument designed by Pythagoras, as waves and vibrations of sound flow up and down your body like the waves of the sea do when you bask on the shore.

Welcome to the millennia-old practice of vibrational sound healing.

As someone who is a great fan both of alternative therapies and the world of sound  – from natural to hyper-produced – I was most excited to try out a session, and was fortunate to find Sound and Energy healing therapist Kristina Alicia, whose clients (especially the creative types who experience ‘blocks’ and need to reawaken their awareness and sharpen their focus), rave about her work.

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5,4,3,2,1 – may the sound healing journey begin!
I had no idea what to expect, but being a new mother with an aching body and a sometimes alarmingly sleep-deprived brain, I was more than open and willing to encounter the benefits I had heard and read so much about. The science of sound has been explored since ancient times, and although in the present day plenty of knowledge has been gathered as to its therapeutic properties, we ironically continue to live in cities imbued by noise pollution, are glued to gadgets, TV sets and computers that produce constant chatter,  and on an average day, rarely make special time to tune out, let alone actually using sound for its healing properties.

Fortunately, there are therapists like Kristina Alicia in Athens, whose entire practice centres on the many benefits of sound, and who can help clients get the most out of its powerful healing properties.

didgeridoo_imagicity_1070There’s nothing new age or gimmicky about sound healing – in fact it stretches back into antiquity, even though the historical record captures only a fraction of its origin. It can be traced back to many ancient civilizations including Greece, India, Africa, and the Orient (learn more about the origins of sound healing below).

Before our session, Kristina Alicia explained to me that when an organ or body part is healthy, it resonates in harmony with the rest of the body. With dis-ease, a different sound pattern is established in the affected part of the body. When sound is projected into the dis-eased area, correct harmonic patterns are restored. During a session, Kristina Alicia follows a sequence of several relaxing and therapeutic techniques aimed at restoring a healthy flow and order in the mind, body and spirit, and leaving the receiver feeling re-balanced, blissfully peaceful and mentally open.

In the next stage, her therapy moves from the realm of ‘regular’ manual therapy and lifts one to the universe of sound healing. “In the second phase I work on the aura using the crystal singing bowls,” says Kristina, “and the tuning forks, to tune (exactly like adjusting a piano) our organs and nervous system so optimal balance is achieved.”  The experience of having crystal singing bowls placed and rung on my back and around my head immediately transported me to a different state. At first, my often over-active thinking mind was trying to trace the sounds, the feelings, even the direction from where the sound was coming, but then, just like that, I let go and allowed myself to be immersed in the experience, suddenly feeling myself distanced from mundanity, from thoughts, and even from the room we were in.
10997784_1061748203842696_1106981414360834350_nResearching the effects of crystal singing bowls a few days after the treatment I was not surprised to read that the notes of the crystal bowls are tuned to specific vibrational frequencies (notes) found within the human body. Thus when the sound moves through the atmosphere and touches us, it causes our cells to move in different directions at a different speed, in rhythm with the sound wave, which puts us in harmony with the sound wave. The sound penetrates into our very cells and rebalances them through oscillation and resonance; vibrational sound touches the body on a molecular and crystalline level. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.”

Next, Kristina Alicia placed the monochord, (an ancient scientific and musical instrument, invented in Greece in 500 B.C) on my back. She explained that “in the spiritual healing part of the session, the strings of the monochord bring healing harmonics in each cell of our body. From head to toe you feel this healing resonance, as our body is 75% water.” I actually felt the vibrations of the monochord flow and down my spine, very pleasantly intense at times, and then going from my head to my toes, even making me feel like I was the instrument itself, with its music pouring out of me. Kristina Alicia accompanies the instrument by singing sacred Aramaic, Hebrew and Sanskrit mantras.

“The voice,” she tells me, is the most precious instrument, as it can be filled with your intent”. That definitely made me think of how irresponsible most people, me included, are when using their voice to address each other, and how we hold such a powerful tool that we do so little with.

Sound healing therapist Kristina Alicia
Sound healing therapist Kristina Alicia

At this stage of the therapy I started to see vivid colours and patterns, as well as a few scenes that were reminiscent of a powerful dream that’s trying to tell you something. Later on, when I mentioned this to Kristina Alicia, she told me that through such a session one’s subconscious does usually unfurl to reveal our deepest messages to our self. In fact, she says, one of the key purposes of what she does is to help one “reconnect and listen to the sound of your soul.” She tells me that “some people have found their life course after receiving sound healing therapy.”

In the final part of the vibrational sound healing session, Kristina Alicia uses Tibetan singing bowls, which she says help the client “ground again” after having been on a different plain altogether. Sound Healing expert, Diáne Mandle states that Tibetan Singing Bowls don’t only affect a great deal of physical healing but also have far-reaching implications that occur on emotional and spiritual levels. It is a regenerative process married to a spiritual awakening that can have profound consequences on illness, disease, and all aspects of our lives.

Sound healing in mainstream medicine
In fact, mainstream medical teaching facilities like Duke University and the University of North Carolina have added programs that link body, mind and spirit to the treatment of cancer. Cancer prevention centers are utilizing sound as a vital part of the healing process for patients with astounding results.

Dr. Mitchell Gaynor,  director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in NY, has been using sound, including Tibetan Singing Bowls and chanting in work with cancer patients for many years. He says: “If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies.”

The medical director of the Deepak Chopra Center in California, Dr. David Simon, found that the sound from Tibetan Singing Bowls as well as chanting are chemically metabolised into ’endogenous opiates’, that act on the body as internal painkillers and healing agents.

INFO:
Kristina Alicia
on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/soundishealing soundishealing@gmail.com

vicky vlachonis: lighting up stars

The Osteopath and holistic therapist stays true to her Greek roots, dynamically advocating holistic practices ancient and new and changing lives via her book, talks & 1-on-1 sessions.

“Everybody has pain. We’ve all felt pain in our heart, stomach, shoulder, head” says Vicky Vlachonis, author of the book ‘The Body Doesn’t Lie’ and osteopath to the sparkliest stars in the Hollywood sky. “Pain is the most powerful tool we have, if only we listen to the signals our body gives us. That’s why I wrote the book and have offered a three-step, pain-free program based on Reflect, Release and Radiate.”

Vlachonis was one of only two first Greeks (The other is Vangelis Scotiniotis, who heads the Greek Osteopathic Association) to get a Masters Degree from the European School of Osteopathy in the ’90s and, working at London at the Hale clinic and the Integrated Medical Center, treating dancers from the Royal Ballet, Prince William and Prince Harry when they were grieving the loss of their mother, setting up her own practice in 2001 and later being flown to film sets, homes and music tours to treat some of the world’s biggest celebrities, such as Cameron Diaz, Sir Elton John, and Katy Perry.

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Through her successful book, website and the motivational talks she gives for Young Living essential oils, for which she is a brand ambassador, she effectively raises awareness of holistic concepts such as, among other things, how emotional and physical pain are registered by the body in exactly the same way, and that one’s emotional / mental state should never be overlooked when facing physical pain, because feelings are stored in our cells as physical matter.

Another major focus for her is to delineate how our diet plays a direct and commanding role on our physical, mental and emotional state. As an osteopath and muscoskleletal specialist who also uses complimentary therapies such as acupressure, acupuncture and cupping, she always questions her clients on their emotional balance, present and past traumas and daily habits that are so often overlooked as key factors for disequilibrium and disease.

Described as “a blonde, modern-day version of Hera” by her most beloved and loyal client, Gwyneth Paltrow (who wrote the foreword to her book, and also calls her “the pain gangster” and “clicky Vicky”), Vlachonis has made it her mission to introduce age-old holistic concepts combined with up to date medical facts and scientific research related to the importance of diet, body care and mindfulness. She also works closely with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

vvbcIn ‘The Body Doesn’t Lie’ she describes at length the positive and powerful influence that her family had on who she is today, saying that they offered her all the inspiration, drive and focus she needed – her tennis coach father, and a mother who was among the very few yoga teachers and Reiki therapists in Athens at the time, taught her sports discipline and mindfulness / holistic wellness techniques respectively throughout her childhood, while every summer she travelled to her grandmother’s home in Pelion, which only served to deepen her love for Greece. “It was there that my mum and I practiced mindfulness, meditation, learning to respect and care for my body. My grandmother, who was a cook, had her own vegetable and fruit garden, even though she also liked baking sweets. Every morning we’d wake up and discuss our dreams. Then there was the sea and enjoying the therapeutic effects of the water, long walks in beautiful nature, fresh air.”
“My clients love that I come from Greece,” says Vlachonis. And in turn, what I love about my American clients is that they honor their bodies, are disciplined, they eat healthy, they meditate, they exercise. Greeks have it in their DNA to wake up near the sea, to see lemon and olive trees and walk by medicinal, fragrant herbs right outside our doorstep. We have that immediate connection with glorious, curative nature, and should honour it!”

A poem by Vicky’s mother, Jenny Vlachonis, who as a Reiki therapist and Yoga teacher, raised Vicky very much according to holistic philosophies, and who has always been deeply inspired by her country, Greece:

 

This is Greece!

A glance at her sky,

the blue is different here!!
Her sea embraces you
from end to end!!
Her mountains are fragrant
with thyme and oregano.
Her island gardens filled with basil!!
Greece is a little chapel, all white.
A blinding light,
and the chink of glasses.
A cluster of grapes and an olive tree.
Kneeling before the Acropolis and Delphi,
And gazing at Sounion.
The cry of a seagull
for Greece, a country in pain!!
Greece is to dream of talking
with Aristotle!! Socrates!!
Plato!! Pythagoras!!
Alexander the Great!!
To write poetry with Homer.
Greece is the silence of Santorini.
Greece is the kiss of a Greek mother.

 

four seasons of fresh bio food

Souvlaki may still be one of Greece’s most popular and accessible (street) foods, yet for health-conscious foodies, Athens has become an increasingly easy and exciting place to live and shop in. Today, practically every neighbourhood in the city has at least one bio shop or food stores selling a decent choice of traditional, pure, healthy, ‘home made’ style foods. Then there are the weekly local laiki green grocer’s markets where if you do your research and talk to sellers, you can usually find ways to get the “good stuff” brought to you – fresh farm eggs, the best varieties of seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs, and more.

There are numerous by now for good quality and reliable organic produce in Athens, but one that has consistently remained popular throughout the years, and not by chance, is Tessereis Epoches (Four Seasons) on 30 Nikis St just round the corner from Syntagma Square. The substantial variety (over 3.500 products) of fresh, dried, frozen, canned and dry foods, as well as ecological household cleaning products and cosmetics, mainly from Greece but also from around the world, and the friendly, helpful and highly knowledgeable staff, serve to make it a highly desirable shopping destination.

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The bio store opened in 2004, when the bio food scene was still very quiet in Greece as demand was still very low – today, it’s always busy with people trying to tailor a better diet and healthier lifestyle for themselves and their family. The mini-market’s owner, Vassilis Souvatzoglou, who helps run the family business with his mother and brother George, says: “Our target goal was and still remains to rediscover lost essence of foods, and find out about new ones. We are a team of young people that are specialized in organic products and love what we do.”

At Four Seasons you’ll find fresh, seasonal produce by small producers from around the country, sometimes sold at delightfully affordable prices – locally-grown foods like rare mushrooms, avocados and kale in winter, huge bunches of asparagus in spring, strawberries, courgettes and more recently even Cretan papaya, mangoes and passion fruit in summer. Souvatzoglou says: “Daily we are offering small producers the opportunity to grow and provide their products to a larger group of buyers, while supplying our customers with some of the best that Greek nature has to offer.”

te3Souvatzoglou adds that he has witnessed a significant shift in how Greeks eat in the last decade: “Nowadays, people are searching for quality foods and are more cautious about what they eat. This outlook has led to the creation of a new scene in Greece.” Vassilis and his team make ongoing research into the food industry a priority, travelling far and wide to meet producers at the very places where they live and farm, seeking out quality produce. “We constantly travel around Greece and internationally to discover new ideas and healthy habits. Our main purpose is to promote healthy living and enjoy good food. That is why we always aim to be one step further and create our local food revolution.”

 

ancient to modern: greek plant medicine

“If only we continue to examine the practices, writings and teachings of ancient Greek physicians and pharmacists, our knowledge can leap ahead by at least 6000 years. But if we prove indifferent to the vast knowledge of the ancients, we will stay behind by 3,500 years,” says pharmacologist Dimitris Kallimanis, whose passionate life mission is to investigate, experiment with and teach about plants and the plethora of sophisticated and fascinating data related to their hundreds of species.

The expert, who sustains that what today is commonly described as “folk medicine, or natural remedies” based on plants is no less than a serious, noteworthy science, states that according to historical documents, the first person to analytically expound on the benefits and uses of herbs was the epic poet Homer (born circa 850BC, although his exact period of existence remains a mystery to scholars). Kallimanis reveals that his globally influential writings such as ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ are packed with recipes and practices based on herbs: “from Homer we learned, for example, that Achilles used Achillea millefollium – a hemostatic, wound-healing and powerfully antiseptic agent that is still used today – to treat those who fought by his side, or that the family of herbs most favored by the ancient Greeks was Liliaceae.”

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Homer’s The Odyssey

According to history, Theofrastus (372-287 BC), Aristotle’s successor at Athens’ Peripatetic School, was ancient Greece’s “father of botany.” Among a plethora of writings, he is the author of the major botanical treatises ‘Enquiry into Plants’ and ‘On the Causes of Plants’. Kallimanis and many other experts of his caliber sustain that the doctor and apothecary Dioscorides (40-90AD) was the real father of botany.

materiaHis five-volume work ‘De Materia Medica‘, was translated into Arabic and Latin in the 12th and 13th C and in German, Spanish, French, Italian and finally English after the 16th C), emerging as the basis of the world’s botanical knowledge. Indeed, the knowledge of Dioscorides, who followed a holistic and allopathic doctrine reminiscent to that practiced by Hippocrates, continues to startle academics to this day: it was he who first created the systematic categorization of some 500 plants and around 1000 of their medical uses, their varying dosages for treating ailments, and their side effects.

“However, there is a vast time gap between the botanical teachings of Homer and those of Dioscorides,” Kallimanis notes, “and the individual who played a great role in spreading knowledge on herbs within that time is somewhat unexpected; enter one of Greece’s most legendary figures in poetry, drama and creative thought – Aristophanes!” tragiccomicmaskshadriansvillamosaic
In an era when it was widely feared that Greece and its influence would be obliterated by the Peloponnesian War, the bard (444 – 385 BC) cunningly managed to share precious information with the masses. He subtly weaved substantial quarantines of knowledge through the words recited in his highly popular comedies, making one of the lines recited by the chorus in his play, ‘The Babylonians’, especially poignant, when they say that “the author-director of comedies has the hardest job of all.” Kallimanis explains that through both simple terms for the common-folk to coded, more refined information directed at educated viewers, all within the same text, Aristophanes managed to distribute ancient recipes based on herbal medicine to the greater public. Kallimanis says that doing so he “ignited and bolstered the knowledge of common people and all levels of medical practitioners, even some of the information remains challenging to decode to this day.”

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Monks weighing herbs

Throughout the ages, the information and understanding of botanical medicine and its usage garnered from the ancient world was made accessible to the literate via Greek and translated documents that could be found mainly in monasteries, especially those on the Holy Peninsula of Mount Athos. The uneducated, however, spread knowledge verbally, with villagers across Greece developing and transferring further learning and expertise to their communities by combining proven theories and techniques and hands-on experimentation. Making the best of nature’s bounty developed from the profoundly pragmatic need to survive, as throughout the centuries villagers were left to their own devices when it came to individual and community’s healthcare. The main priority in using herbs and plants throughout rural Greece was, and remains, the need to systematically and effectively treat physical and spiritual ailments, from the common headache, melancholy and respiratory disorders to broken bones, madness and heart disease. Meanwhile on the dark side, herbs have also played a significant role in magic and superstitious rituals for breaking spells, clearing the cloying effects of the evil eye and other psychic ‘disorders’.

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Magicians and faith healers carved out a niche for themselves among frightened, mainly uneducated individuals, often over-exceeding dosages and invoking divine powers or satanic entities to bring them into contact with other worlds, and to generate intensely hallucinogenic effects” Kallimanis says, adding that “their favorite plants were mainly those from the Solanacaeae (or nightshade) family, such as poisonous Belladonna and hallucinogenic Mandrake, some of which are highly toxic and can have serious or even deadly results. “Today, these magicians would be able to teach us about a whole host of other-worldly experiences, and we could call them magician-physicians – however, they didn’t have the ethics of a doctor or pharmacist, so I certainly wouldn’t call them that myself.”

* Many thanks to Dimitris Kallimanis, whose Greek-language book ‘Natural Cosmetics and Therapies from Ancient Greece and the Byzantium until the Present Day’ (Afoi Kyriakidi) on the bookstands as of November 2016.

                                                                As first published in Greece Is

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