Focus on one point of the room. When I count from one to three, start counting backward from 50 to zero. When I snap my fingers go up one number and carry on the reverse count. Slowly close your eyes when you get to zero.”
That was how Tazim Elkington, a hypnotist started my hypnosis session in her Nairobi clinic.
For weeks, I had been sceptical about trying out the therapy that is gaining popularity in Kenya albeit slowly, to help patients heal from past emotional turmoil or deal with pain or lose weight.
Hypnotherapy, which means “sleep” in Greek, makes a person go into a state of daydreaming. Then a patient gets to remember emotions in their subconscious and deal with them through talking.
“Hypnosis is something that is little understood by many. It is misrepresented in film and by stage hypnotists who further distort what it really is. Hypnosis is actually a state that is reached just before one falls into a deep sleep,” Tazim says.
During hypnosis, a person is consciously aware. Every patient is unique, and hence a hypnotist is unlikely to predict the experience.
“The hypnotist guides the client into a trance. The client then experiences a series of body changes such as the breathing growing deeper, mouth and throat dryness, and a little fluttering of the closed eyelids,” says Tazim.
“Once a client experiences these body changes, the hypnotist will then help him or her mentally access the deeper part of the subconscious mind.”
Patients are turning to hypnosis to tackle wellness issues like anxiety, phobia, substance abuse including tobacco, sexual dysfunction and undesirable spontaneous behaviours. Others seek help to sleep better, address learning disorders, communication, and relationship issues.
It can also help in pain management or resolve digestive disorders and teeth grinding.
Before beginning the hypnosis, Tazim offered me food as we started our two-hour talking session. She dwelt on my past and my feelings as these helped me relive earlier experiences, which cause present complaints, conditions and symptoms. I lay on a couch, covered with a light blanket.
She helped me enter a trance-like state by inducing deep relaxation. It was hard getting into it at first, but I finally eased into it and let my feelings take course.
Then, she helped me remember exactly when the problem first began in my subconscious mind. I then had to explain how truly I felt about the people I had talked about. After what felt like 20 minutes, the session ended. On looking at the clock, the session had actually taken one hour and 15 minutes.
I felt lighter and free.
A hypnotherapy session costs about Sh16,000 to Sh24,000, depending on whether it will take two or three hours.
Tazim says the number of sessions will depend on how committed one is to the path of healing but the ideal should be about 12 to 15 sessions which could cost about Sh360,000. “This is an investment that is life-changing and enhancing. One can opt to do intensive sessions that are between three to five days and more impactful. A full-day session, which is preferred by my out-of-town or country clients, costs Sh100,000,” she says.
Besides hypnotherapy, other unconventional mind and body healing therapies that are picking up in Kenya include Ayurveda, quantum healing, acupuncture and Reiki.
At Natural Ayurved Care, a clinic in Nairobi’s Parklands, their therapies are nothing like the normal massages; the Swedish, Shiatsu, deep tissue or the aromatherapy.
At this clinic, they offer traditional ayurveda massage, which has been in existence for over 3,000 years ago.
In Kenya, the take-up among locals may have been slow but more people are turning to Ayurveda clinics.
Ayurveda helps one become more relaxed, eases stress and helps one regain energy.
Dr Dinesh Varsani, the clinic’s founder says it involves massaging the body’s energy points, done with the use of essential oils, helping one to free emotional burden. He says this kind of therapy promotes healing and wellness.
“I am in this business because of my own personal experience. When I was young, I had acne vulgaris, which I tried to get rid of with all modalities. Initially, I had wanted to become a surgeon, architect or engineer, but this experience led me to practicing Ayurveda,” he says, adding that he does Ayuveda, naturopathy, acupuncture, quantum healing and traditional therapy.
He started the clinic in Kenya over 22 years ago and has seen more than 10,000 clients.
The number of Ayurveda sessions varies on different patients.
“For example, we don’t recommend body massages to clients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In the case that we do, we offer massages which does not involve touching the muscles, tendons and ligaments so that there is no further damage to the fibres of the muscle,” he says.
In naturopathy, he teaches his patients to effectively prevent or treat diseases using diet, exercise, and massage.
Acupuncture, on the other hand, involves inserting fine needles at specific points in the skin, and along what are considered to be lines of energy. This is used to treat various physical and mental conditions.
For the traditional Ayurverdic massage, it includes a full body massage, rice potli, steam and a foot massage with brass.
“The massage reduces dryness in the body, relaxes the muscles and improves lymphatic node circulation. It is also way of re-educating your muscles to relax. Day-to-day stressful activities normally tend to make the muscles forget how to relax themselves,” he says.
The steam, on the other hand, disinfects the skin. It opens up the small capillaries in the skin so that circulation becomes better.
He also does quantum healing, which is a form of mind-body medicine costs about Sh6,500 while a traditional massage ranges from Sh5,500 to Sh11,000 for two hours.
I lay down on the bed and the massage started from the feet upward. They used sesame oil that smelled nutty and somewhat musky.
Calming, meditative music was playing, which also helped me to relax that I actually drifted in and out of sleep.
There are three types of movements: active or strong pressure, passive or delicate stroking and persuasive, or the pinching or kneading the small muscles with the thumb and forefinger.
The body massage, which included a relaxing head massage as well, took about one hour and 20 minutes. Afterwards, I the foot massage with brass and rice potli took close to 20 minutes.
The foot massage, he says, helps to draw out excess heat, leaving the entire body cool, refreshed and relaxed, while the potli, a perspiration-triggering body scrub, helps to relax the body muscles and ligaments.
This was followed by a 15-minute session in the steam machine. The temperatures were at a high of 42 degrees. I felt a little light-headed, but I was told that it was normal.
I immediately felt unburdened and lighter, and had such a good eight-hour sleep.
Being one of the very few Ayurveda practitioners in Kenya, Dr Dinesh says that he aims to take the treatment to its highest position in the world.
“My mission is to save as many as I can, and use the little knowledge I have to change their lives with the help of Ayurveda, which I believe is an alternate science.”
“I get to learn new things every day in this line of work. I have different experiences with all of my clients,” he said.