Whidbey becomes a haven for holistic health practitioners
Surrounded by bowls of different metals, Gail Kronberg hits a note with a mallet on the rim of one of them, causing a reverberation that plunges the listener into a bath of sound.
It’s a sound from another world, a bit like a science fiction movie.
Kronberg specializes in sound therapy, in which a gentle sound and frequency are used to create balance and align energy centers, called chakras, in the body.
To create this effect, she uses Tibetan singing bowls, made from seven different metals. Each has its own frequency of vibration and its own tone which corresponds to a chakra.
A “D” grade, for example, corresponds to the heart chakra, which is the center of love, compassion, and relationships.
“It’s like playing a symphony of sounds,” she observes from her place on the floor, where she plays a different set of bowls, these in crystal and in all colors.
She explained that Tibetan singing bowls have many uses. As well as being involved in different types of therapies – such as relaxation therapy – they can also be incorporated into massage and acupuncture, or can be used as part of meditation.
Bowls are often played on a person, sending vibrations deep into the body. Specific therapies are based on the model in which the bowls are played. A mallet is used to strike or rub the bowl, the latter method causing deeper frequencies.
And sound therapy isn’t just for two-legged people. Kronberg’s 12-year-old black lab Dodger also loves singing bowls when played on him.
The sound makes him drowsy, which is not uncommon. Kronberg explained that sound vibrations act on theta waves in the brain, which occur most often during sleep but are also dominant in deep meditation.
A change in practice
Kronberg is one of the new healers to call Whidbey home. The island has a variety of holistic healing practitioners, from naturopaths and hypnotherapists to energy healers and physiotherapists who are diversifying and using new technologies.
The Whidbey Island Holistic Health Association lists 54 providers on their website, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Lynne Donnelly, president of the association, estimated that there may be as many as 250 holistic practitioners currently on Whidbey.
Donnelly created the practitioner network almost a decade ago in order to connect with other healers. Until about a year ago, members of the organization were giving presentations in libraries in Sno-Isle.
But with COVID-19 restrictions severely limiting the size of gatherings, practitioners have had to get creative. Elizabeth Johnson, whose healing methods focus on treating horses and dogs, gave a TED talk in partnership with the Library System that draws parallels between aging dogs and aging humans.
In his presentation, Johnson referred to an ongoing study, called the Dog Aging Project, conducted by the University of Washington and Texas A&M University.
The project aims to understand how genes, lifestyle and environment influence aging in dogs.
Johnson spoke about supporting healthier aging in adults, speaking about her own experience caring for her mother, who suffered from dementia.
She is writing a book on the same subject.
Giving the TED Talk came at a particularly difficult time in her life last year, but Johnson said she was glad she did.
“I knew I had to be brave enough to say it, because I knew it would help so many people,” she said.
Since childhood, Johnson has always been drawn to animals.
“I had the impression that they were less understood. Humans can vocalize anything they want. These guys are a little more mysterious sometimes, ”she said, as she leaned down to pet her new rescue dog, a yellow lab named Wilbur.
For many years, she has helped heal animals through a variety of modalities, including massage, herbal and homeopathic remedies, and dentistry.
Now Johnson is making the transition from hands-on work to teaching others how to care for their animals using the same techniques she practiced.
“What I really realized is that there are many ways to heal animals or people,” she said. “And when you heal an animal, you often heal a person too, because animals reflect so much what people have in them, emotionally, physically, mentally.”
Johnson has previously taught classes online, but said she preferred being able to teach in person.
“It’s hard to do in this climate,” she said. “You can do it online, but it’s easier to do when you can do it with someone and you can say, ‘See, feel that.’ ”
Other healers, however, are finding that online classes have become a way of teaching people they’ve never interacted with before.
Donnelly has taught tai chi classes to people all over the world.
“I miss people here,” Donnelly said.
“Teaching in an empty room and trying to keep energy is a challenge to keep people interested,” she said.
She is also able to continue her practice, which includes techniques such as allergy removal and acupressure, a form of very light touch.
With acupressure, she explained that only about five grams of touch, or the weight of a nickel, is applied at one point.
“People are often surprised by this kind of light touch that I can achieve profound changes because their bodies just can’t resist,” Donnelly said.
A renewed interest
For the many holistic healers in Whidbey, the last year has changed the services they provide. For some, this is a sharp drop in the number of customers. But for others, the increase has been dramatic.
At the onset of the pandemic, teletherapy became a popular option for practitioners. But since then, many have been able to maintain in-person dates while still following masking protocols and other safety guidelines put in place to fight the virus.
Wedolyn Rue, a physiotherapist, has noticed an increase in the number of clients coming to her Oak Harbor practice.
“With COVID, people are more willing to look inside and they have more time to start connecting with their bodies again,” she said.
She has been working on the switch to movement-based physical therapy for years, but has made more recent changes to her practice by adding mindfulness meditation and deep tissue lasers to the mix.
The laser, she explained, provides light therapy that is good for inflammation, muscles, bones, and sprains, among others.
“There really isn’t any tissue that it doesn’t affect, because it affects tissue at the cellular level,” Rue said.
It might not be for everyone, she said, but sessions with the laser can provide healing effects that can last for up to 24 hours. It takes about 10 minutes on each part of the body and several sessions will make its effects last longer.
Physiotherapists are not the only ones whose services have been in demand.
Jenna Alexander, a certified hypnotherapist at Freeland, has also noticed an increase in clientele. People who suffer from anxiety and isolation from the pandemic have recently turned to his services.
Hypnotherapy, she explained, is also good for dealing with bad habits and fears. The process may involve guided meditation and is definitely different from the image Hollywood has created of the practice.
“There’s this old stigma from the movies that you’re not going to control yourself, which is completely wrong,” Alexander said, adding that hypnotherapy is really designed to give you more control over your life, not less. .
“As long as you’re willing to be receptive to it, it really works,” she said. “The therapy part is really personal and adapted to their needs.”
A unique place
No one is sure how Whidbey attracts such a density and variety of healers, but some have ventured to guess.
Susan Averett, who teaches reiki, a healing technique using touch, attributed it to the creative types and open-mindedness of the island.
Johnson said she believes the beauty, peace, nature and most importantly the water of Whidbey attracts holistic healers. This is what prompted her to leave Montana for the Pacific Northwest.
“The ocean is incredibly powerful,” she said. “It’s this great tub of mystery that hasn’t really been discovered. We know more about space than what is underwater.
Charlene Ray, who provides consulting services, summed it up this way.
“There is something about this place,” she said. “It is a place of healing.”
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication of The Herald.