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10 Crazy Facts Behind New Age Practices

by Gregory Myers
fact checked by Jamie Frater

In the past several decades, we have seen various groups of people try to create their own spiritual philosophies or medical phenomena. Most of them also claimed to be drawing from ancient traditions—usually a patchwork of pagan beliefs or a misunderstood application of Eastern philosophy and Eastern traditional medicine. Despite the bizarre and often misleading history behind them, these practices have become full-blown fads in many parts of the world.

10 Meditation Is About Focus Rather Than Clearing Your Mind


Meditation has become incredibly popular throughout the world. In the US, it enjoys a kind of fad status. Many people who romanticize Japanese culture say that meditation is great or that they practice it on a daily basis.

But many of them are confused about the point of meditation. They think that it’s supposed to “clear your mind,” which only shows how much they misunderstand the process.

Although meditation does confer benefits like helping you to breathe better, it was never meant to completely empty your mind. The point was to better focus your mind on what you needed to think about.

In general, meditation is about mindfulness. Religious people meditate to reflect on a specific religious doctrine. But you can choose to focus on anything. Of course, some who are practiced in meditation feel that this explanation is too simplistic.

While focusing your mind, the mind is also trained to wander and keep track of many different things in your surroundings. A true master of meditation can concentrate on something of primary importance to him while keeping a much lower level of focus on his surroundings.

9 Acupuncture May Be Unproven But Is State-Sanctioned In China


Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that the average person thinks of as pure quackery. Even if it did work, you would be hard-pressed to persuade the average American to allow a doctor to stick them full of needles to “make them feel better.”

In the US, many clinical trials have been done to prove or disprove claims about acupuncture by those people in Asian countries who swear by it. So far, none of these trials have produced conclusive results. Some studies suggest that acupuncture does help people to cope with pain, but there is no solid evidence that this is more than a placebo effect.

For these reasons, many people might expect that this form of medicine has gone the way of the four humors. Although it never caught on in the Western world, it has remained a popular and serious form of medicine in China, especially for pain relief.

In fact, some studies from China have claimed that acupuncture has been successfully used in lieu of traditional anesthesia in patients undergoing open-heart surgery. If true, this would certainly make acupuncture useful.

8 Yoga Can Be Extremely Dangerous


Many yoga practitioners believe that they are following an ancient tradition when they bend themselves into pretzels on a rented gym floor. However, yoga’s actual age isn’t clear-cut.

Although the philosophies of yoga, such as spiritual wellness, were recorded thousands of years ago and have been evolving ever since, the records of actual yoga poses and physical moves only began about 200 years ago. In fact, the vast majority of yoga poses were dreamed up recently by modern yoga instructors.

Some yoga instructors have pointed out that it is important to have a good understanding of anatomy if you’re going to teach yoga. That’s because the poses from older days were designed before we knew as much about health and the human body as we do today.

Although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with yoga, it can easily cause serious and lasting health problems if certain moves are done incorrectly, too quickly, or simply at all. Even experts and teachers often fall victim to these mishaps.

In the US, there are no regulations for certifying yoga instructors. So anyone can attempt to stand you on your neck and twist you into a pretzel.

7 Wicca Is Not An Ancient Religion


Many people think of Wicca as an ancient pagan religion. Young people are especially excited about the ancient revival tradition that they are following. However, like L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology, Wicca is a made-up religion. The idea that it is a revival of old pagan religions is complete bunk.

Modern Wicca—as well as witchcraft in general—was created and popularized by a man named Gerald Gardner. Born in 1884, Gardner came up with just about everything associated with modern Wicca. Almost none of it came from ancient texts.

When devising his order, Gardner took inspiration from the writings of Aleister Crowley, the Golden Dawn, and other odd groups. But Gardner didn’t take much from actual traditions. He created his calendar of pagan holidays by taking important events from various pagan religions and trying to knit them together into one faith.

Gardner was also known for saying bizarre things and encouraging people who joined Wicca to say sensational things about themselves to get attention. He likely felt that the best way to spread his religion was to get people talking about it in the first place.

Although this may seem like an absurd strategy, it appears to have worked out nicely. Wicca has become quite popular, and most people, including those involved in Wicca, are blissfully unaware that this new religion is far removed from actual pagan traditions.

6 The Founder Of Chiropractic Had Insane Ideas


Many people around the world have gone to or regularly go to a chiropractor to “be adjusted.” However, there is an ongoing debate about whether chiropractic is junk medicine or a legitimate practice.

Its defenders argue that chiropractic can help to manage the symptoms of certain conditions, especially those with chronic pain. Although there may be some benefits to the practice, there are also legitimate reasons for people to be skeptical of chiropractic and look at it as sheer quackery.

The founder of chiropractic was a man named D.D. Palmer. He believed that 95 percent of the problems with the human body could be fixed with a chiropractic adjustment. Of course, this is ridiculous. Imagine thinking that cancer, allergies, or heart disease could be fixed by adjusting your spine.

However, Palmer believed wholeheartedly in his approach and did his best to pass it on to as many people as possible. Since he’s long dead, people might think that his beliefs have been repudiated by now. But that is simply not the case.

A large number of licensed chiropractors still believe in the insane theories of D.D. Palmer. Many of them also use chiropractic treatments on children, even if the child isn’t complaining about issues with his spine or posture. In the UK, modern chiropractors have treated many children for problems as simple as colds.

5 People Are Fully Aware Under Hypnosis


When most people think of hypnosis, they recall movies where someone swings a shiny object in front of another person’s face while repeating a mantra. Before long, the hypnotized person is in a semiconscious or mostly unconscious state in which they are willing do the bidding of the person hypnotizing them.

Of course, the hypnotized person remembers none of this when they are awakened. Scores of television and movie plots have depicted hypnosis like this, but it doesn’t really work that way.

Although hypnotism does put you into a strangely relaxed state of suggestion, it is more self-suggestion than anything else. Even with another person assisting you, hypnosis will never cause you to do something that you wouldn’t normally do. It would simply break the suggestion.

Depending on the given suggestions, some people do willingly forget after hypnosis. However, there is no reason that this would normally happen because people are fully aware during hypnosis. They are not in a comatose state.

There is still much to learn about hypnosis in general. Although the roots of the word may come from ancient Greece, the original theory of hypnosis began in the mid- to late 1700s. It didn’t become a full-fledged practice until closer to the days of Sigmund Freud.

4 Reiki Is Fantastic Nonsense That Does More Harm Than Good


Reiki is also known as therapeutic touch or energy healing. Those who believe in Reiki think that placing their hands in the air over someone’s body and holding those positions for several minutes can direct “life energy” to the person who needs to be healed.

Some of these mystics believe that those who are truly skilled at Reiki can heal someone from a long distance, which sounds like something out of a fantasy novel.

Reiki is largely based on the idea of chi (aka ki), which is present in both Japanese and Chinese mysticism. But like many new age practices, the true depth of the system is exaggerated. Most people believe that Reiki is based on ancient Japanese healing methods. But it was actually developed by a Japanese spiritualist in the 1920s.

In recent years, scientists have scrutinized Reiki and its practitioners have not come out looking good. In one test, actual and fake Reiki “healers” were instructed to make cancer patients feel better. By the end of the test, both types of Reiki practitioners had made the cancer patients feel marginally better.

Some people took this as proof that Reiki was real. Of course, most people came to the opposite conclusion. If the sham version of Reiki achieves the same results as regular Reiki, then any type of Reiki is clearly just a placebo.

3 Divining Rods Were Used For Bizarre Purposes


A divining rod (aka a dowsing rod) is a forked stick or sticklike object that is used by a person wishing to perform divination. As the person holds the stick in front of him and walks around, the divining rod is supposed to vibrate when the person has found what he is looking for.

Traditionally, a divining rod was believed to be a magical device that could find water, precious metals, and other ores underground. However, as its popularity increased, the divining rod was used for even crazier purposes.

In France in the 1600s, the divining rod was used to identify people who were heretics or lawbreakers. This quickly led to abusive practices and false convictions. Of course, personal bias likely decided most cases. Before long, the Catholic Church banned the divining rod’s use for such purposes.

2 Modern Astrology Is Incomplete And Misleading


Although astrology is widely known, its practice is almost completely and laughably dismissed by most people. On the other hand, you will always meet those people who have to tell you their sign, want to know yours, and then nod sagely like they knew it all along.

Of course, astrology was not always as much of a joke as it is now. Astrology evolved hand in hand with astronomy. Although ancient people may have believed that the stars determined their fates, they had incredibly complex calculations and systems to govern it all. It was also quite personal.

However, the biggest mistake of modern astrology isn’t its lack of complexity or understanding of the ancient systems. The biggest problem is that modern astrologists probably have the signs completely wrong.

Modern research has shown that ancient practitioners of astrology based their predictions on the current constellation and star positions at that time. Since then, the constellations have shifted their relative positions in the sky.

The old astrological chart no longer makes any sense. Many people would need to move over an entire month to properly fit with the current constellations. Also, a new star sign called Ophiuchus has entered the zodiac due to the shifting skyscape.

1 Feng Shui Has Become Fraudulent Big Business In China


Most people know of feng shui as the spiritual practice of rearranging objects around the house to achieve the best energy flow. This energy flow is supposed to help your physical comfort and strength as well as your luck and prosperity.

In China, feng shui is far more than interior decorating. It is big business in which “experts” are often consulted before buildings, roads, or other structures are built. Any major changes to the environment or landscape usually require consultation with a feng shui expert.

Many people who believe in feng shui as part of their spiritual heritage have become frustrated and upset by this perversion of feng shui. A lot of people, including con artists, have entered the profession as feng shui “masters” because there is little to no certification process.

As a result, many Chinese have become distrustful of a group that was once honored. Even more bizarrely, Chinese law dictates that villagers must be compensated by the government if any major construction or changes to infrastructure disrupt the village’s feng shui. Some of these claims have been challenged due to suspected fraud, but it is surprising that the law still exists.

fact checked by Jamie Frater