Follow the Rose-Quartz Road: A Sceptic’s Journey to Track Down London’s Wellness Wizards

Wellness is a buzzword that has infiltrated city living – you no longer need to fly to India or traipse around Venice Beach.

This article first appeared in Vol. 30:

don’t want to get up at 6am for yoga, running aggravates my
arthritis, and sitting cross-legged for 20 minutes of
transcendental meditation makes my face itch. In short: I have no
chill. I certainly have no Zen. However, on a recent assignment
programming a wellbeing conference, I spent several weeks of
zigzagging around town in hot pursuit of an elusive coven of
breathworkers, reiki masters, crystal healers and bodyworkers –
London’s wellness A-list.

“Lucky you!” friends exclaimed. “Mmmmm,” I vampirically smiled
back. Inwardly, I was dreading it. Not the meeting of people, which
I love, but the potential for vulnerability. I had spent years with
my Pandora’s box of emotional baggage firmly bolted shut, part of
the ranks of the smugly stoic. A year living in
Los Angeles
– a city whose crown jewel is rose quartz and call
to prayer is “namaste” – hadn’t dented my emotional
impenetrability. Back then, I figured that breathwork was just… you
know, breathing. And so the hunt began, with only the slow erosion
of my treasured scepticism for company.

Dipping a toe in the exploding dam of current-day wellness in
any city is daunting. However, finding the true healers through
whispered recommendations is too often the road not taken. During
my personal search for enlightenment, I discovered that you don’t
need to fly to
or traipse around Venice Beach to experience ancient
wisdom and genuine healing. Instead, the A to Z of wellbeing is
waiting to be found on London’s doorsteps. The characters that
follow are but a few highlights from my growing little black book.
As they say in LA: namaste.

The Earth Mother

Fiona Arrigo, founder of The Arrigo
and A Place to Heal

I figured a retreat would break me in, but I had my
reservations. Would there be coffee? Would people cry? These
thoughts nervously fizzed through my crowded cerebrum while
preparing for biodynamic psychotherapist Fiona Arrigo’s four-day
Back to Nurture experience. Given my loathing of forced fun, how
would I fare with forced Zen?

As it turned out, there was coffee, people did cry, and I didn’t
starve. Back to Nurture is about reconnecting with the earthy, wild
woman within through crafting, singing and meditation around a
blazing fire. Wise women forming circles is a practice as ancient
as us. My fingers prove surprisingly nimble at stretching slippery
deer hide to assemble my drum, which I beat enthusiastically while
other retreaters sob their sorrows into the fire.

Despite my best efforts, I sob too. My legendary ability to
repress public displays of emotion is fading fast. However, I’m no
easy convert. Sure, the knotted muscles in my chest feel looser
under the watchful, ridiculously glamourous eye of Arrigo and her
cohorts, and I can take a full breath again – but I also spend most
of the meditations dreaming of roast chicken and a double gin. Yet,
as Arrigo would say, “the healing has begun”.

The Crystal Clairvoyants

Emma Lucy Knowles, clairvoyant, and Estelle
, crystal healer

Clairvoyant wunderkind Emma Lucy Knowles issues just two
instructions before our session: “avoid alcohol and aim for a solid
night’s sleep.” Naturally, I obey neither. In place of abstaining,
I spend the night before drinking too much sake. Water? Negative.
Hours of sleep: four. Technically, I’ve already messed this up.
Like a schoolgirl who hasn’t finished her homework, I frantically
think up excuses. Then comes the irrepressibly cheerful Knowles.
Once she tells me to lie down, I know it – whatever “it” is – is
going to be okay.

Obediently clenching a crystal in each fist, what transpires
could have lasted 40 minutes or two hours. I can’t remember,
because I was floating. While she wafts her magic hands over my
body performing reiki, the crystals vibrate to the point that I’m
convinced my fingers are visibly shaking. My stomach – not my heart
– pounds. According to Knowles, my heart is in fact in my stomach.
This is not good. I’m thoroughly shaken and instantly enamoured.
Knowles unravels the inner machinations of my mind and recites them
back to me as fact. She reads me like a book. I’m nervous.
Rebellious. I have pink energy.

Next up: Charlotte Tilbury’s reported crystal healer, the
famously hard-to-pin-down Estelle Bingham, who uses cards, guided
meditations and, of course, gems to calm frazzled minds. Bingham is
the mischievous guest you hope you get seated next to at dinner. We
nestle into a café window with our herbal brews and start nattering
like old friends – until Estelle puts her tea down and bores two
holes into my eyes with hers. “Let’s talk about you.” She launches
into her take on my family history, my love life, my heart that’s
in my stomach (that again) – and she’s right about everything. I
keep batting her away, an excuse for everything and everyone.

I leave promising to make a mood board and holding back the
tears that flow as soon as I jump in a black cab to my next
appointment. I have approximately 30 minutes to get a grip, so I
call the one person who I think might understand: a Los Angeleno
friend who gets colonics in a Hungarian nurse’s bathroom and allows
estheticians to electrocute her face. “See a therapist, sweetie,
and make that mood board,” she trills cheerily down the phone.

The Breathworker

Stuart Sandeman, founder of Breathpod

After narrowly avoiding a crystal-induced nervous breakdown, I
thought that breathwork would be a breeze. Surely it’s just a
supervised version of my favorite self-care activity: snoozing.
Nope. Cue 90 minutes spent hyperventilating on the floor (to build
up carbon dioxide) with a funnel in my mouth, interspersed with
breaks of foot and hand stomping and shouting (to expunge the CO2
and enhance mental clarity).

Scotsman Stuart Sandeman is impossible to dislike. Endearingly
friendly and hyper honest, his story of trading suits and the City
to found Breathpod in Dalston is a sad tale involving sickness and
grief. For Sandeman, the high vibrational frequency achieved with
his method releases low energy and negativity trapped in our cells.
After an hour of frenzied panting, I concur.

Perched in a nearby wine bar afterwards, I let my subconscious
dribble and then gush onto the crinkled pages of my journal. Cloudy
thoughts become clear and I feel an immense urge to deal with
unresolved issues. My energy is insane. I can’t explain it, but
Sandeman probably can.

The Body Whisperer

Amberin Fur, osteopath

Amberin Fur’s name is whispered person-to-person, lip-to-ear, as
I traverse the creamy consultation rooms of West London. Her merits
are substantial: she’s an osteopath and an acupuncturist, and was
on the medical team for the British Gymnastics squad during the
2012 Olympics. After expecting to be heaved and cracked like in the
osteopathy videos I watch on YouTube before bed – my own personal
ASMR arsenal – I realise that Fur is instead draining shock from my
body like thick sludge.

My eyelids flutter uncontrollably, a psychosomatic nervous-
system reaction. Legs and arms that had felt heavy start to feel
light as Fur’s visualisation techniques take hold. Careful
questions about past losses and injuries accompany acupuncture
needles piercing the base of my skull and my creaky shoulder. And
just as I start to relax – crack. Fur adjusts my neck when I least
expect it, knowing my defiant body would have resisted. I cry
afterwards. Later I nearly break my ankle on a loose flagstone on
the corner of Saville Row. I cry harder. My insides are unspooling,
and that’s the point. Without addressing the trauma buried within
our cells and bound to our muscles, something would always