We’ve all said it, and probably more than once: when will it get warm? At this time of year we begin to daydream about those bright mornings and longer days that spell spring. We look forward to the season of flowers blooming, finally turning the clock forwards again and along with it, a little more sun. And this time of the year coincides with many a promise of self-care. With a variety of wellness treatments to be found across the city, we take a look at some of the most eccentric that will give us that much-needed boost, and explore why we’re seeking more alt-therapies than ever.
In the midst of winter, we can sometimes forget what London’s warm season is like: hazy days and warm nights spent in the park or at a rooftop bar, sipping the night away. A little black cloud that seems to follow us from November through to March, rearing its ugly head during the winter months when it’s dark and dreary for most of the day.
We get up and leave for work in the dark, and by the time we head home at the end of the day it’s dark again. We no longer begin our days at dawn – which some of us are eternally thankful for – we miss out on our dose of oh-so-important sunlight. When the sun’s shining it doesn’t just make us feel warm and glowy, it helps us regulate our body clock and top-up on serotonin (the body’s ‘happy hormone’) that controls everything from mood, to sleep, memory, and sexual desire.
This is where wellness therapies come in, and there are new ones cropping up across London faster than people can try them out. Londoners are after alternative therapies that tackle wellness on all fronts. These therapies range from the unusual, to the downright bizarre, and they’re no longer seen as eccentric but a way of urban life.
Like yoga, which has been reinvented in more ways than you can think of. Hot pods for yoga have been popping up under railway arches, acro-yoga has become the next big thing and voga – voguing while doing yoga – had a short-lived moment in the spotlight. Then there’s snake yoga. It’s a regular yoga class until someone brings out the boa constrictors. The founders say it helps us face our fears in a calm and sacred way.
As these new and ‘improved’ forms of yoga and wellness are invented, it brings up the question of why? Yoga is yoga, right? Why are we bringing snakes into the equation? It turns out millennials are healthier than ever before, switching the pint for a kale juice and the sofa for a fitness class. Busy bodies want serenity in a twenty-minute lunch break, and preferably something that’s new and stimulating.
Millions of people are reaping the benefits of alt-therapies, but there are sceptics out there too. You’re probably thinking “I’m not sure what a Boa is doing anywhere near a yoga class.”
But for every nay-sayer, there’s a growing number people that say floating in a tank, immersing themselves in light or wearing a different colour has life-changing consequences. Perhaps the mere chance of serenity means it’s worth a try?
Would you try laying in a dark, soundproofed pod floating in salted water? You can’t feel a thing, but that’s the point. Floating therapy causes extreme sensory deprivation in reduce anxiety and stress (finally, there’s your chance to sit and do nothing).
How about colour therapy to help with anxiety? In 1958, US scientist Robert Gerard did a study that found that the colour red increased blood pressure and anxiety, while blue had a calming influence. During colour therapy lights are shone on the body or coloured silks are worn – orange is perfect if you need cheering up.
While each of these therapies may take us out of our comfort zone, they highlight how there’s a genuine and growing need for calm. To meet our demand to still our ever-racing minds, more and more alternatives are being presented to us, and we’ll happily try them all.
NOW Gallery’s next exhibition taps into the wellness trend with a new exhibition Harmonics in Space, created with accessories designer and art director, Fred Butler. Her entire approach comes from a concern that humans are becoming isolated because of an obsession with technology. “I wanted to create a multicoloured healing destination as an antidote to our unrelenting harsh habitat. I think it’s integral to be in touch with nature and feel the seasons shift but we are quite removed from that in the city.”
The exhibition will be based on chromotherapy – light therapy – which is how Fred winds down. The harmonious space, set in the NOW Gallery, will contain polyhedral spheres that will allow visitors to dip their heads into the healing light. It’s not solely about light though. Fred explains that it’s important to be totally submerged in colour, light and sound, so each visitor will be given a headset to complete the experience.
“Colour has a profound effect on our moods, emotions and daily life,” explains Fred. There’ll be iridescent surfaces, tactile textures to touch and ‘chatter boxes’ to give people the chance to use their hands for craft and be mindful, rather than scrolling on a phone.
“It’s serendipity that the gallery is called ‘NOW’ because that’s the message I want to champion with this exhibition. It is officially the ‘Year of Self Care’, which is perfect timing. I want visitors to investigate and move around the space in order to discover how to engage in what is right in front of them and hopefully, this haven of colour will invigorate visitors and leave them feeling refreshed and sparkly new.”
Harmonics in Space will be lighting up the Peninsula from February until April – will you give it a try?