These days, the wellness industry knows no bounds. Whether it's speeding up injury recovery or calming audition-related anxiety, trendy wellness practices promise remedies for all kinds of dancer ailments. But are these treatments effective—or safe for dancers? Here's what you should know about five popular wellness trends before getting your goop on.
Infrared saunas, which use dry heat and light color therapy, promise a host of benefits, including detoxification, improved immunity, pain relief, and stress reduction. "The basic principle of infrared is that you're using a light spectrum instead of heat, and the light spectrum creates heat within the body without it being unbearably hot in the room," says former dancer, certified athletic trainer, and acupuncturist Megan Richardson.
There isn't much research to support all of the alleged benefits. While light therapy supposedly "detoxes" deep levels of tissue, "I don't know if your skin is doing that much detoxing—that's not its purpose," said Richardson. That said, infrared saunas might help dancers relax and ease their muscle and joint pain recovery.
Vitamin IV Drips
Intravenous therapy is a staple in hospitals, but "drip bars" brand themselves as cures for dehydration and jet lag, with a bonus instant healthy glow. "IVs on demand" make house calls, and usually cost $155-185 per "vitamin cocktail."
For most dancers, vitamin IV drips probably aren't a great idea. Richardson cautions that piercing blood vessels with external instruments puts dancers at risk of infection. Plus, she notes, a high dosage of vitamins can be toxic. Richardson frames IV therapy as appropriate only for dancers with gut absorption issues, which must be diagnosed by a doctor.
Tuning Fork Therapy
In tuning fork therapy, tuning forks are tapped and their vibrations are applied to the body to improve circulation in certain targeted areas. Often paired with massage or acupuncture, tuning forks could be helpful for dancers who are "unconsciously but actively holding tension in their muscles," Richardson says. "I do believe in sound therapy. There are certain frequencies that are supposed to be a little bit more aligned to nature and to our body." And there's little chance that the relatively gentle vibrations will do your dancing body any harm.
Adaptogens—edible herbs that help the body resist and recover from physical and mental stress—are part of both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicinal traditions. Commonly used adaptogens include ginseng, turmeric, ashwaganda, rhiodolia, schisandra, and reishi. And there is some evidence to back up their effectiveness.
Richardson says dancers can try adaptogens for 30 days if they're eating and sleeping properly and yet "their tank feels empty." However, "We shouldn't be living on adaptogens," she cautions. The goal is to create and maintain balance.
Breathwork involves using conscious breath patterns that direct the brain to adjust the release of stress hormones like cortisol. The practice is believed to reduce anxiety, increase alertness, and boost the immune system. "We know that when we're in pain, for example, we change our breath patterns," Richardson says.
Richardson highly recommends breathwork to improve dance performance, injury recovery, digestion, and even sleep. It's free and accessible, and beginners can start with podcasts and YouTube for guidance. "I think breathwork is incredibly powerful because it's one of the only ways we can control our autonomic nervous system," Richardson says.