Updated: Apr 12
If this bittersweet pandemy has left a key learning lesson is the fact that our well-being is key when coping with challenging situations such as self-isolation, working from home or even our day-to-day family demands. A new year is always a great opportunity to discover new things and explore new ways to make our lives healthier and happier. That’s why we all are so looking forward to it!
This year can be a year of realisation or rediscovery. Whether you’re already familiar with Asian wellness or are new to it, we’ve put together a list of rituals you can’t afford to overlook this year. They all have two things in common: they were born in Asia and they all claim to have long-lasting health benefits.
Learn all about the top 5 Asian rituals you should try below!
5 Asian Wellness Rituals for an Invigorating Year
#1 Shinrin-yoku: spend time in the forest for better health and happiness
Originated in: Japan
Meaning: “Forest bathing”
A traditional Japanese practice consisting of fully immersing oneself in nature, Shinrin-yoku is the therapeutic act of spending time in a forest. Today, around 4.1 billion people in the world live in urban areas. This is more than half of the total population! With 55% of humans worldwide living in cities, the contact we establish with nature becomes a bit challenging. That’s when Shinrin-yoku comes to the rescue!
The concept of Shinrin-yoku was coined in 1982 by the director of the Japanese Forest Agency Akiyama Tomohide. He claimed that “bathing” in surrounded by greenery provided very powerful health benefits to those who did it regularly. He was not mistaken. Some of the first medical empirical research on forest bathing revealed that Shinrin-yoku may significantly improve our physical and psychological health.
This year, you can practice this Japanese ritual even if you don’t have a forest nearby! Get to the nearest park, ensure you leave your phone at home, and engage your five senses on this combination of mindfulness with the natural environment.
#2 Yoga Nidra: enter a deep state of conscious relaxation
Originated in: India
Meaning: A Sanskrit term meaning "yogic sleep” or "conscious dream"
How long does it take you to fall asleep? If you struggle to fall into the arms of Morpheus, then you should definitely give yoga nidra a go in 2021.
If you’ve practiced yoga before or have any interest in this physical, mental, and spiritual practice, then you might find it interesting to know there are different types of yoga. A kind of guided meditation, yoga nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. Also defined as “dynamic sleep”, this practice allows our bodies to deeply relax while our mind stays alert. A ritual of eight or more stages (depending on the teacher), Yoga nidra can enhance the quality of your sleep.
The benefits of this practice have been corroborated by Eastern medicine sympathisers, but also by the U.S. Military and Silicon Valley. Charlie Kim, CEO of e-commerce company Next Jump, promotes Yoga Nidra amongst his employees, including the ones in the London and New York offices. He offers it as a “sleep class” every afternoon. Employees reported better productivity, focus, and emotional balance. According to the company’s Head of Wellness, “the early adopters were the program’s best salespeople”.
#3 Kintsugi: accepting the natural imperfection in everything
Originated in: Japan
Meaning: “Golden joinery” or "golden repair"
Make a year of acceptance and empowerment with Kintsugi, the Japanese way of celebrating your scars and embracing your faults.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. A truly simple concept, the point of this centuries-old practice is embracing flaws and imperfections. The idea is that by putting broken pieces back together, we create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. The most important part of this new piece is its precious “scars”.
Based in Wabi sabi, an ancient aesthetic philosophy about celebrating imperfections and living simply, the lesson behind Kintsugi is understanding that by repairing broken things, we actually build something more unique, beautiful, and resilient. In other words, this ancient Japanese practice beautifies the breakage because it considers it an important part of the object’s history. In short, Kintsugi helps you build a culture of self-love and acceptance.
#4 Yang sheng: an ancient Chinese approach to self-care
Originated in: China
Meaning: “Nurture life”
Based on the ancient philosophy of living in harmony with the world and ourselves, Yang sheng is a central aspect of Chinese medicine. This ancient ritual revolves around the idea that disease prevention is the superior form of medicine.
Yang Sheng consists of eliminating small health problems and balancing the body so it stays healthy. This is quite tricky considering modern living can have a very negative impact on our Qi (our vital energy). Often overwhelmed by the demands of family life and work, and constantly bombarded by adverts, on average we are reached by over 5,000 messages every day!
According to Chinese medicine, all these stimuli drain and weaken our Qi, which translates into stress, pain, low energy, premature ageing, bad digestion, and lack of sleep, among others. The main idea of Yang Shen is to implement small daily changes that are simple, pleasurable, and fit effortlessly into our lives.
How can we do that?
Some examples of Yang sheng can be to incorporate soft exercise into our routine such as walking or low-intensity workouts; practice conscious breathing to increase focus and attract positive emotions; or boosting our digestion by drinking green tea throughout the day, to name just a few!
#5 Gua Sha: the ultimate skincare ritual for a radiant you
Photo credit: Maison Ito, Guasha Ritual
Originated in: China, also used in Japan and Korea
Meaning: It can be defined in two parts. 'Gua' for scraping; 'sha' for redness of skin
First things first, you should know that by performing this ritual, you’d be also applying the principles of Yang sheng to your day-to-day. Two birds killed with one stone!
A therapy that uses a rounded-shaped tool to scrape your skin in order to relieve tension in the muscles of the face and boost blood circulation, Gua Sha is a traditional massage technique that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. All there is to know about Gua Sha can be found here.
One of our favourite Asian rituals at Maison Ito, Gua Sha is, in a way, a form of meditation. A magical and natural remedy, it’s one of the best ways to obtain a plumped, youthful look without the need of injectable cosmetic procedures.
Incorporating Gua Sha into your skincare routine is easy! You can both trust a therapist such as our very own Emilie Celine to have a Gua Sha treatment performed by a professional, and you can also learn the technique to do it at home yourself on a regular basis.
Spending time reconnecting with nature, embracing your imperfections, taking extra care of your skin… Does any of the above Asian wellness rituals sound like something you’d like to try? You can take a first step towards incorporating any of them into your daily life by signing up to a course today or reading further about them. Go for it, say welcome to a healthy and happy life!
BY JULIANA R. & EMILIE CELINE
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