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Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Mind and Body Practices

An overview of complementary and integrative medicine including history, branches of practice, professionals, and research methods.

What Are Mind and Body Practices?

Mind and body practices are used to improved hearth and well-being or help manage symptoms of health problem. This is achieved through techniques such as mental focus, controlled breathing, and body movements/manipulation. Practices can include psychological, expressive, social, behavioral, and spiritual approaches.

A yoga class practices the "Hands at Heart" or "Anjali Mudra" gesture 

Public Domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons


One of the most widely used complementary practices in the United States, yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. There are many reasons while someone begin the practice of yoga including musculoskeletal conditions, on the recommendation of a doctor of primary care physician, and to maintain health and well-being.  


Describing a family of procedures involving the stimulation of points on the body using a variety of techniques, acupuncture has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. The technique most studied and used involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are then manipulated by the hands or electrical stimulation. Chronic pain is the number one reason a person in the United States would begin acupuncture treatment. 

Relaxation Techniques

Progressive relaxation, guided imagery, biofeedback, self-hypnosis, deep breathing exercises, and meditation all fall under the category of relaxation techniques. The goal in any practice is slower breathing, lower blood pressure, and a feeling of increased well-being all characteristic of the body's natural relaxation response. Researchers have been studying how techniques can be used to manage various health conditions including depression, anxiety, insomnia, hearth disease, high blood pressure, and fibromyalgia.