Run the New Age Gauntlet

Illustration: Andy Martin

Al Schombs, a 28-year- old investment associate at Merrill Lynch, commutes from Long Island, works twelve-hour days, and is so habitually stressed he hardly knows what normal feels like. We put him through five treatments and had him rank them from least effective to most:

“When I get in there, she went on for 45 minutes telling me what she’s going to do. Finally, she gets to it—says a prayer and does five minutes of weird noises. Then she started to make a noise with her crystal bowl, like running your finger on the rim of a wine glass. Then she had me open my eyes and started asking me about my childhood and I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, shoot me now.’

“He had me lie down and close my eyes and concentrate on his voice. He was like, ‘Think of a wonderful, peaceful place where you are in control.’ I tried to keep from laughing. But when I started to concentrate, sure enough I was in la-la land. As I drifted off, I wondered what was stressing me out. Was it the phone? The people I work with? But did I feel less stressed after? Honestly, no.

“I thought this was a form of massage, but there is literally no effort put into relieving the tension in the muscles. It’s basically just a firm press of the hand—against your chest, your abdomen, your back and shoulders, and so on. It’s kind of spiritual. You really have to focus. I, for one, find the more modern techniques of massage far more beneficial.

“My first time at yoga. I found the meditation relaxing, but the position took so much effort, I was sweating my ass off. There’s this one where you put down a big pillow—I don’t know what they call it—you have one of your legs straight out in the back, while you’re sort of kneeling on this pillow with your other leg crossed, and your arm straight up in the air. I thought my hips were going to dislocate. But after, I did feel refreshed.

“A nice, soothing atmosphere, with candles. They gave me a cup of tea. The acupuncturist focused on the digestive system. She placed needles in my forehead, between my pinkie and index fingers, on my lower abdomen and two in each foot. Then she used vibrational therapy with tuning forks, placing them against my feet and along my body. Then she massaged my feet, shoulders, and lower back. Next day, I felt great. I was alert all day.”

Run the New Age Gauntlet