Cupping Your Way Into The New Year

Cupping therapy has been on the rise over the past few years. Modern techniques have reinvigorated an ancient practice, and discovered even more benefits. Karin from Bellabaci demystified the practice for us and made us eager to include it in our regular wellness routines!


Cupping Therapy is an ancient treatment method of creating healing in the body through negative pressure by means of suction. It stems from China, Egypt and Greece.

The main principle is to create a surge of blood flow underneath the cup, to an area of disease. This action stimulates white blood cells, pain relief receptors and localized healing takes place. The “cup” during the ancient times were animal horns, which then progressed to bamboo and eventually glass cups. The negative pressure is created by dipping a piece of cotton wool, held by long tweezer, into alcohol. When it catches alight, the practitioner puts it into the cup for a few seconds as this “sucks” out the air. It is then placed on the skin immediately to create suction.

The negative pressure and suction reaches up to 10cm into the soft tissue, attachments and organs. It pulls out toxins and inflammation from the body to the surface of the skin where the lymphatic system eliminates them. Once an adhesion or congestion is pulled away from its source, fresh blood, energy and fluids rush in to expedite healing.


Wet cupping is only performed by trained physicians. The skin in the area of concern is scraped with a sharp object, and the cup is placed over the scrapes. The cup then fills with blood. The blood is dark and almost “sticky” as the toxins, mucous and de-oxygenated blood is pulled into the cup. After 10-20min, the doctor will remove the cups and wipe away the excreted fluids. Please note that wet cupping should not be performed by anyone that is not trained and has the necessary credentials.

Dry Cupping, also known as static cupping, is where the cup is placed on the skin for 2-10 min on an area of concern. The cups are removed afterwards and there is no scraping or bleeding.


Bellabaci Int is the original creator of the hand-squeezable silicone cups for face and body. The system is used by professionals and at home around the globe and is currently available in 25 countries in many luxury spas and resorts. Oil is applied to the skin which serves as the medium that the cup gently glides on the body or face. The treatment offers from superficial to deep muscular therapy, and is a wonderful and natural solution for anyone needing from pain relief to anti-aging.


There are few conditions cupping cannot treat. Examples are pain, stiffness, spasms, headaches and migraines, fluid retention, digestive issues, sprains, strains, skin ageing, cellulite, insomnia, and the list goes on!

Regular cupping treatments should be the go-to to provide relief for anything from bloating to headaches. Cupping also works on the nervous system to calm and relax those suffering from stress or anxiety. Increased blood flow to the brain can help boost serotonin production, which is your much needed “happy hormone”, aiding those who suffer from depression.


Facial cupping is becoming increasingly popular as the negative pressure massage addresses many concerns with one action. The cups are never used for stationary cupping on the face unless used by a practiotioner for bell’s palsy or other medical concerns. The cups provide a deep cleanse by dislodging dead skin cells and congestion, provides collagen stimulation for wrinkles and reduces fluid retention to kiss away eye bags.


Mechanical manipulation is probably the most effective method to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Just a 10min massage at home while watching TV or having a professional course with your local spa will provide jaw-dropping results in just 2 weeks. From the very first treatment, a result will be seen and felt, and cumulative results will be on the cards if you are consistent in your treatments. It is much like exercise, the more you do, the better your results.


The cup will leave a “cup-kiss” which may be misconstrued as a bruise. The mark has no sensation of pain and is purely an indication of the high level of toxins present in the blood. Relief can be felt immediately after the cups are removed.


Cupping massage is versatile in the fact that it can be combined with basically any form of massage to increase on results.

Cupping massage can leave the client feeling like what we call a “Bellabaci Zombie”. This is because cupping provides the deepest sense of relaxation and It may take the client a bit longer to get changed after the massage! It is normal to feel thirsty after the session due to the massage being highly detoxifying. A fantastic feeling of release can be experienced on a physical, emotional and mental level.

If the suction is too much, there may be a pulling sensation as the upper layers are not prepared yet. Do tell your therapist to use less suction, it should never feel painful.

Massage cupping treatments are available at Sediko Bush Spa, One and Only Spa, Life Day Spa.


Home care for cupping is essential to assist with acute bouts of pain and to build cumulative results.

The Bellabaci 3 Step Rituals contains everything you need to perform a professional treatment at home. In the box you will find a set of cups in 2 strengths, which are soft and hard. The soft cup is used for the first month to treat the body gently, from the outside in. The upper layers of skin will need strengthening first, before you move on to the hard cup. If you begin with the hard cup and work to deep, it may be painful and lead to bruising. After one month, the hard cup is used on the firmer parts of the body and the soft cup for the more sensitive areas such as the inside of the upper arms and thighs. The massage oil should be applied liberally to aid the cup for smooth gliding.

10min a day, 2-3 times per week is more effective than a longer session once a week. Do consume 8 glasses of water per day to help the detoxification process along. It should never hurt or feel uncomfortable. Just adjust the suction to achieve a comfortable depth. Consistency is key, as with everything in life in order to achieve results!

Bellabaci home kits are available from Faithful to Nature, Yemaya Spa & Vitasoul.


International is a leader in modernised Cupping Massage Therapy and handcrafted health and wellness products. Bellabaci uses the latest in technology, science and eastern medicine to create superior quality products for luxury Spas and health-conscious consumers in USA, UK, Europe, Brazil, The Baltics, The East, Africa and more.

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Fixing My Broken Vajayjay Part 2

We continue with our second instalment regarding cures for Vaginismus. The first part can be found here.


What keeps on coming up is the need to address the psychological aspect of vagnismus, and not just the physical. I know what you thinking, it’s just going to be a lot of talking and how is that going to help?

First step is to book with the right professional. It needs to be with a sex therapist or a psychologist that has a strong focus in sexual therapy. The psychological fear response of having sex can be so strong that it can make penetration absolutely impossible. The fear needs to be unpacked for you to understand what is driving the fear and then overcome it.

It could be anything, the fear of losing control, a negative sexual experience, anticipating pain due to conditioning. Also, religious beliefs, sexual abuse, a medical trauma, relationship issues and the list goes on.

The therapy will also give you more insight into yourself and break the belief that Vaginismus is “all in your head”. It helps you to discover a deep connection with your pelvis and teaches you that penetration is ok.

Team Beauty Warriors strongly suggests that you include your partner in these sessions when you are comfortable. The impact of you withdrawing in intimacy often leaves your partner feeling like they have done something wrong. This can lead to more relationship issues.


This is an option to help overregulated muscle contractions. Botulinum toxin was first used as a purely medical treatment for migraines, teeth grinding, neck spams, overactive bladder etc. It would make sense to use it in the treatment of Vaginismus. The vaginal muscles are in a constant state of tightness and varying degrees of spasm.

The right dosage of botulinum toxin would assist in relaxing the muscle and deregulating the stress response to the area. This makes penetration easier, reducing the fear and helping with the pain cycle. This can be done by an aesthetic medical practitioner, a doctor who specialises in woman’s sexual health or a fertility doctor.

Other medical interventions which could be incorporated are anti-anxiety and muscle relaxant medication.

WarningWe never recommend vaginal botulinum toxin done in isolation. Vaginismus needs a multi-disciplinary approach for effective treatment and results.


“Hypnotherapy is an altered state of consciousness similar to relaxation, meditation, and prayer. Once in these altered states, access is provided to deeper levels of the psyche,” explains Dr Elmari Mulder Craig. Dr Mulder Craig is a European-Certified Sexologist and Relationship Expert, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist. She is also a part of the My Sexual Health team.

She is one of South Africa’s best-known sexologists. A globally recognized authority in the fields of sexuality and relationships and has 25 years’ experience in private practice. Dr Mulder Craig goes on to say, “Trauma can also induce powerful biochemical responses in the brain. The brain becomes habituated to these same biochemical responses. The body-mind is set to maintain a state of vigilance to protect from further assault.”

This would certainly be the case for woman you suffer from Vaginismus. The cellular memory of a sexual abuse or trauma related to the pelvic floor region unconsciously reacts in a protective state. The muscles go into an involuntary spam just thinking about penetration.

Dr Mulder Craig explains, “For many childhood sexual abuse survivors, sexuality has become associated with a very negative and humiliating experience. The body and sexual pleasure, is seen as dirty and disgusting.”

“Sexual activity can trigger flashbacks in which one experiences the emergence of old traumatic memories. It can also evoke feelings of pain, fear, betrayal, guilt, shame, revulsion, and helplessness. Aversion to sexuality may cause some to completely shut down.”


In the therapeutic process of deep healing and release of past traumas, the three most important elements are:

  1. The Energetic Somatic release of the painful emotions which in turn releases the shock and body armouring. This is embedded in the body’s musculature and nervous system.
  2. Containment of the process and the client’s energy. The hypnotic trance is induced, managed and terminated all in an orderly way. The therapist titrate the emotions through the extinguishing process and to help the client create a safe resource state. With anchors that they can always return to and use as a refuge when they feel overwhelmed. Ego strengthening is begun before the therapeutic part of the session, and continued throughout the corrective experiences of empowerment.
  3. The Corrective Experience. Whether there is an abreaction or not the adult part comes in to express for the child. Being in a hypnotherapy state creates a safe space to release childhood trauma. This is what the child could not express at the time of the trauma thus overcoming early inhibitions. The child’s experience is legitimized in. The client learns to attribute the abusive behaviour to the abuser, not accepting blame themselves. This in turn helps to discriminate between self-identity and introjected qualities taken on from others. They reconnect memories and emotions to events, giving meaning to past events that were traumatic. Neural integration is being achieved.


“When we reach our clients in their physical and emotional experience, as well as their cognitive and mental understanding shifts can take place.” Dr Mulder Craig stresses “Talking alone is not sufficient to heal trauma. The memories are carried deep in the unconscious embedded in the body. Recording ‘fears set down at a young age’ in the amygdala, the one part of the brain that never forgets. That’s why therapy is seldom successfully done in one or two sessions.”

She adds, “The beauty of hypnotherapy is that we can follow the bridge that takes us through the life of a person. It helps us get right to the sources of dysfunctional patterns and anxiety. Hypnotherapy treats the complete mind, body and emotions as one complete package, and we can do that all at the same time.”

Team Beauty Warriors had to give clinical hypnotherapy a bash. We would definitely say that is works. It leaves you feeling extremely liberated once you have off loaded. However we must admit that you need to be open to it. Like any therapy it is something that you can doubt or resist. Or else it simply won’t work. Promise you are not going to cluck like a chicken or do hands stands and not remember. You are fully aware of what is going on around you; you are just in a very relaxed state.


It is all about getting your pelvis in a state of relaxation. Getting to know what works for you and then find the combination that yields best results. So the other treatments that you may want to investigate are:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates to strength your core. Ensure that you breath to relax the pelvic floor muscles in the exercise
  • Stretch therapy
  • Trauma release therapy
  • Connective tissue massage
  • Cranial sacral therapy

Our parting words – Become aware of the emotional stresses in your life. Listen to how your body reacts and which stresses trigger pelvic floor pain. Use the above therapies to help regulate your negative responses to these stresses. Massage, extended foreplay can help relaxation before sex. Your position during sexual activity is important; explore what works for you to enjoy free pain sex.

How to Help Someone With Depression?

It seems 2020 was the year that broke everyone. Whether it was fears of the pandemic, isolation, financial struggles or uncertainty about the future, mental health took a toll.

According to statistics from the South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG), 1 in 5 South Africans will experience a depressive episode in their lives. Tragically, two-thirds of these people will not receive treatment.


SADAG indicates that someone suffering from a depressive episode may suffer from the following:

  • Feeling sad, anxious or “empty” most of the time
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed
  • Feeling hopeless about life
  • Feeling helpless or guilty
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Loss of energy, feeling “slow” or fatigued
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability, anger
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions
  • Physical symptoms that don’t respond to treatment, such as headaches, stomach pain, back pain, chest pain, despite being checked by a doctor

A person with depression may suffer from a few of these indicators or many. Depression takes many forms.

With so many people who suffer from a mental illness, therefore it’s very possible someone you may know does too. How do you even begin to help them?


The best way to help your loved one is to try and understand what they are going through. Try and research their mental illness. There is a lot of stigma and misinformation about mental illnesses, so being informed will be beneficial. It will also make the your friend feel seen and understood. Depression is very isolating and treating it like the case of “the blues” can be disheartening for the person suffering. This will only make them create emotional walls around them. Avoid using phrases like “Pull yourself together” or “Get over it”.

If they are on medication, take the time to understand the side effects which also might affect their behaviour.


Depression can convince a person that they are a burden whom no one wants to deal with. Therefore as a friend, you need to show that you care.

It is vital to listen, rather than speak and also not to take up space talking about your own experiences. Depression makes it hard for people to open up, so when they do, allow them that space. Let them tell you what they need and how you can assist, rather than assuming you know best.

They may withdraw in their depression. Let them know you are thinking of them by text and phone call. Continue to include them in invites to do things.

It is important to remember that depression is an illness, therefore try not to judge or blame them for their actions. However, persistent toxic behaviour should be called out if it is hurting the people and relationships around them. It is common for a depressed person to lash out at those around them – don’t take it personally!


You cannot change feeling depressed but you can change how you cope with it. Someone who suffers from depression may feel unmotivated to do anything, however this will contribute to them feeling “useless”. Therefore it would help to gently encourage them to do daily tasks – nothing too big though, as they may become overwhelmed. Start off with “workable tasks”:

  1. Something they can control (i.e., it doesn’t depend on others)
  2. Manageable (i.e., not overwhelming)
  3. Realistic for them (not for someone else)
  4. Measurable (i.e., they know whether or not it is done or getting done)

Light exercise helps too. Adding endorphins will always be a good pick-me-up.

Maintaining a good sleep schedule is also a key factor. Sleeping too little or too much will negatively impact your mental health.

It is important to also practice mindfulness and self-compassion during these times. Dr Kirstin Neff of says, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”. Dr Neff has included several exercises on her website that may help your loved one.

Should there be little or no improvement or episodes become more frequent, consider encouraging therapy. So many people see psychologists nowadays for all manner of things – there is no shame in needing some outside input. SADAG has many resources on getting the help needed as well as talking to trained counsellors.


Unfortunately caring for a person with a mental illness may start taking it’s toll. It is important to set up boundaries and give time and energy when you have the capacity to do so. It is possible to help, while putting yourself first.

When things feel hard, take a step back and re-evaluate. Know when you have reached the limit on what you can handle and when to hand the reins over to a professional. Your need for assistance in the matter is valid.

If you feel like your loved one is at risk of harming themselves, please contact the South African Depression & Anxiety Group 24-hour suicide prevention line on 0800 567 567.

Does Alkaline Water Actually Work?

When water claims to be anti-aging, then you know it’s going to sell by the gallon. It is said that drinking alkaline water helps slow down the aging process, prevents chronic diseases and regulates your body’s pH levels. The reasoning is that alkaline water assists to neutralise acid levels in the body, which normal water can’t do.

Here’s the elevator pitch: We ingest far too many foods that are high in acid. Meat, fish, sugars, processed grains, fizzy drinks, alcohol and coffee are among the culprits. Hence we need to neutralise the effect of these foods in our body. Water that is ‘alkalised’ with a higher pH does the counterbalances these acidic foods.


It is all about the pH, alkaline water is water that has been ionized, which means the pH level of water is higher. Normal drinking water generally has a neutral pH of 7. A substance with a pH under 7 is more acidic and higher would be alkaline.

Typically alkaline water has a pH of 8-9. Alkaline water must also contain alkaline minerals and negative oxidation reduction potential (ORP). ORP gives the alkaline water its anti-oxidant value.


Well celebrities have done the big uptake – Beyoncé and Miranda Kerr are reportedly hooked. The likes of Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Wahlberg, who endorses a brand with a higher pH, have all been spotted drinking it.

Alkaline water brands claims together with celebrity marketing make it seem like miracle water.  Here are some of the manufacturers’ claims:

  • Anti-aging properties (via liquid antioxidants that absorb more quickly into the human body)
  • Improves the appearance of skin, hair and nails
  • Can help with weight loss
  • Immune system support
  • Detoxifying properties
  • Superior hydration
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Cancer resistant
  • Increased energy levels
  • Colon cleansing properties


Alkaline water has caused a huge amount of controversy. Most medical experts believe that there is not enough research and scientific evidence to support all the health claims. There are also differences in findings due to various brands having varied pH levels.

The one claim that has sound value is that alkaline water can treat acid reflux. Makes sense if you think about it, as the water hits the stomach it should neutralise the excessive acid. A study published in the Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology found that water with a pH of 8.8 deactivates pepsin, a digestive enzyme found in the stomach. Pepsin is the main enzyme that causes acid reflux.

Another study of 100 people found a noteworthy difference in the blood viscosity after consuming alkaline water. This was compared to regular water after strenuous exercise. Viscosity is the direct measurement of how efficiently blood flows through the vessels. The researchers proposed having thinner blood could help people get oxygen more efficiently after exercise.

According to a study published in the Shanghai Journal of Preventive Medicine, drinking alkaline water may be beneficial for people who suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.


Our body’s blood pH levels are regulated at 7.35 to 7.45, which is already slightly alkaline, similar to tap water. Ingesting a higher pH in large quantities may cause complications.

It could have the reverse effect to the acid reflux benefit and have a negative effect on your digestive system. Significantly lowering your natural stomach acid, which kills bacteria could lead to other complications. This may also lead to gastrointestinal and skin issues.


If you are jumping on this trend, ensure that you are drinking naturally filtered alkaline water without contaminants. This is considered as safe as it is infused with natural minerals. However artificially sourced alkaline water is advised against as it may not contain many minerals. This could affect your digestive system and cause mineral loss.

Beauty Warriors conclusion is that, it not necessarily better or unsafe. The issue is the extensive health claims that the manufactures proclaim. This is what most medical professionals will tell you as well.

You can purchase alkaline water at some supermarkets, online or at health stores. You can also purchase water ionizers for home use or make your own. Use baking soda which is alkaline and has a pH level of 9.

You will need about four litres of water, mix in a half tablespoon of baking soda. Shake until the baking soda dissolves completely. Once dissolved, and then have a glass. You can also add a bit of lemon juice to it as this becomes alkaline when ingested.

Fixing My Broken Vajayjay! Part 1

There is no need to live with sexual pain in the 21st century. In our first installment we explained what Vaginismus is, a condition associated with sexual anxiety and pain. Now we are taking a look at the cure.

We live in such a technological advanced world that will soon have door-to-door drone pizza delivery. So why is there so little written and spoken about women’s sexual pain in South Africa?

“30 percent of women reported some difficulty with pain the last time they had sex”, according to an article in Psychology Today.

Our focus in this article is to cover what can be done about it and the different treatment modalities available. Because guess what? There is a lot you can do!


We are excited to say that Beauty Warriors research uncovered a multitude of options that can assist with Vaginismus. Clinical hypnotherapy to Botox and all the in between. On a more serious note, our investigation revealed that a visit to a specialist physiotherapist or a session with a sexual psychologist does wonders. Sounds a little extreme?

In actual fact, Vaginismus is a condition that more often than not needs a multi-disciplinary approach. The key point being that you need to figure out what works for you. The psychological role of the fear response is real and does need to be addressed when looking at a treatment program.

South Africa has finally caught up with the world and women now have varied options to consider. A proper diagnosis is the first step – this condition is often not properly diagnosed.

The best option is a gynaecologist that has sexual dysfunction training, a woman’s health physiotherapist or book an appointment at My Sexual Health. There are so many conditions associated with painful intercourse that correct diagnosis is important.


Often confused with Vaginisumus, the most common condition associated with painful intercourse is Dyspareunia.

Dyspareunia can be superficial or deep. Superficial dyspareunia occurs in or around the vaginal entrance. Common symptoms include superficial vulval pain, itching, burning and stinging. Pain may be constant but can also be triggered by nonsexual activities such as exercise.

Common causes may be inadequate lubrication, vaginal infection, topical irritants, urethral problems, radiotherapy or sexual trauma. Deep dyspareunia, pain resulting from pelvic thrusting during intercourse, is common. It may be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, local surgery, endometriosis, genital or pelvic tumors, irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections or ovarian cysts.


Once you have your diagnosis that it is Vaginismus, we would strongly advise seeing someone like Hester Van Aswegen, a woman’s health physiotherapist. She deals with pelvic floor dysfunction as well as ante- and post-natal physio. The main area of focus is to break the cycle of pain.

“Vaginismus is curable, 100% curable.” says Van Aswegen, “It takes time and guidance and it takes an approach that addresses the issues that contribute to this. You cannot begin to treat vaginismus unless you address the physical, psychological and the social problems associated with it.”


They are like a hammock or a sling, and they support the bladder, uterus, prostate and rectum. They also wrap around your urethra, rectum, and vagina (in women). These muscles must be able to contract to maintain continence, and to relax allowing for urination and bowel movements, and in women, sexual intercourse. With Vaginismus, these muscles go into an involuntary spasm from fear of pain.

“The goal is to achieve good relaxation of the pelvic floor to allow for pain-free sex and also normal function of the pelvic floor so that there are no other problems with the bladder or bowels either”,  Van Aswegen explains. “We want to teach a woman to have control over her body and give her the tools to manage the condition. For some it is once off and for others they might need to manage it for the rest of their lives.”


– Pelvic floor physical therapy can include manual therapy techniques e.g. myofascial and trigger point release. Scar tissue mobilisation as well as neural mobilisation to reduce tension and muscle spasm.

– Breathing techniques to increase relaxation of the muscles in this area. Van Aswegen empathises, “It is essential to teach correct breathing and mindfulness/awareness of tension patterns in the body and what is happening in pelvic floor muscles during everyday life.”

– Rehabilitation and exercises to normalise the muscles are part of the treatment. Often includes stretching and relaxation type exercises as well as postural and core exercises as needed.

– Women can use vaginal dilators to stretch the muscles physically, which help desensitise the area. They also help you become less fearful of touch and more comfortable to insert something into the vagina.

– Machines used can include biofeedback – to down train or strengthen the muscles if necessary and also other methods like dry needling / tens / electrotherapy.

Aswegen concludes by saying that, “Home exercises include lots of breathing techniques, relaxation, stretches and dilator use. Then eventually following a sensate focus programme and reintroducing sexual intercourse once it is pain-free to insert a dilator into the vagina.”

Look out for Part 2, coming in out in a few days where we look at other cures such as psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and botox!

Stretch Therapy: The Low Down

Imagine waking after a long, restful sleep. Half-awake, you reach your arms overhead and extend legs, lengthening fingertips and toe tips in opposite directions as far as possible, taking a deep breath (or yawn) as you s-t-r-e-t-c-h… it’s natural, instinctive, and it feels amazing right? So why don’t we stretch more?

In my experience, most people have similar thoughts on stretching:

  • They don’t do enough of it 
  • If they did more, they would feel better and be less prone to injury
  • But it takes time they don’t have
  • They wish someone else could do it for them


Whether you are active, or forced to sit for long periods of time at a desk, you may develop strength imbalances, muscle and joint tightness and a loss of range of motion leading to poor posture, ineffective breathing, pain and risk of injury.

Stretch Therapy is a table-based assisted stretch offering a full body assessment; targeted, pain-free stretches that focus on fascia (connective tissue found throughout the body), muscles, joints and the nervous system to restore natural movement to the body.

The use of comfortable straps helps to stabilize the client to the treatment table to facilitate complete relaxation which enhances the effectiveness of the stretches. We often have clients falling asleep during a session, relaxation is an important layer to what we do, down-regulating the nervous system as many of the factors that lead to unhealthy muscle tone are stress induced. We coordinate our movements to the client’s breath, allowing the body to switch from the sympathetic “fight or flight” mode that we are all too often stuck in, to the parasympathetic “rest digest” mode where healing begins.


What is causing the issues in the tissues? Poor posture can be caused by years of habitual physical patterns (sitting, computer gaze, text neck, previous injury to name a few) but just as influential is the emotional state of the person. When we are stressed, feel threatened or sad, we curl inwards to protect our most vulnerable center, our heart. The shoulders round forward, the breastbone collapses and breathing is limited. Even when the emotional vulnerability has passed, the physical posture may remain, this can convince the nervous system that we are still in distress. Posture and ease of movement are so critical to our overall wellbeing.

 In a trained Stretch Therapists hands, you can relax completely. You are encouraged to close your eyes and let us do all the work. We are specially trained to recognize the healthy and safe limit of each muscle, taking it into a new range of movement in small increments, never holding the stretch for long periods of time. This dynamic style of stretching warms and lubricates the joints and sliding surfaces of all of the tissues, allowing the nervous system to accept the new range of movement as healthy.


Stretch Therapy is dance-like, the therapist moving the client’s body in waves, spirals, circles and swoops. With the addition of traction, the stretches become fluid, dynamic and most importantly, pain-free. Movements are coordinated with breath so that the body releases into the new range without struggle or pain. We often have clients who have had some history of assisted stretching with a bio / trainer / physio, and all remark how completely different Stretch Therapy feels.

A client comment I hear often, “I never knew stretching could feel so good, it’s exactly what my body wanted but never knew it needed”.

The entire session is an assessment by the therapist who identifies areas of restriction of natural movement. Instead of focusing on individual muscles, this style of stretch asses and addresses the entire fascia line that connects chains of muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, nerves and blood vessels via connective tissue. For example, we do not address just the tight hamstring, but rather the entire fascia line (superficial back line) that they sit in, that connects the bottom of the foot, all the way up the back body, ending just above the eyebrows. By assessing and stretching the entire line, the hamstrings are better able to lengthen safely.


Stretch Therapy is valuable to every modern body that finds they are forced to remain stationary for long periods of time, has too little time or motivation to include stretching into their routine, from the athlete, to the weekend warrior, to the workaholic, to the stay at home parent who has little time to treat themselves to an hour of bliss. Human touch is healing, movement is medicine, Stretch Therapy offers an insight into the wonderful potential of each and every body to move freely and joyfully.

For those who are very restricted, a weekly session is recommended, and as the range of movement improves, we scale back to more of a maintenance regime of once every two weeks or once a month.


Although the Stretch Therapy addresses many tension imbalances in the body, often there is a long history of dysfunction that needs more tools to correct the pattern. For those who suffer from reoccurring injury or tightness that will not relent, I include Be Activated Muscle Testing and Activations. Here were test various muscle groups for under or overactivity, we activate or switch on neural drive to under-active muscles and make reciprocal-partner muscles work better together to stabilise a joint. This is an amazing tool to combine with the Stretch Therapy, particularly for those who take their physical training seriously. Should the activations work well on a client, homework activations are taught to the client to continue their gains. 

Currently there are only four certified Fascia Stretch Therapists™ in South Africa, and only two of those are Level 2 FST™ certified. Training is done in either Arizona, USA or Toronto, Canada. This style of assisted stretch is massively popular overseas and is set to follow suit in South Africa as more and more people recognize the importance of flexibility and mobility in maintaining a healthy and happy body.

Carly Bowden is based in Sandton – bookings can be made here.

In Linden, bookings can be made with Adele van der Walt here.

Photo credit: Chloe O’Dogherty from Kiss Kiss Photography. Model: 

Is My Vajayjay Broken?

Vaginismus. Not a dinner time topic, and one not often discussed, yet it is thought to affect about 17% of woman. “We have done over 10 000 sexual pain consultations at My Sexual Health”, says Dr Rudolph. This is a staggering number!

You may have recently heard term as Netflix has had two series broach the subject of vaginismus. ‘Sex Education’ and ‘Unorthodox’ both have pushed the envelope in highlighting women’s sexual health and opened the discussion.

“One in five women have pain during sex” states Dr Rudolph, “this is not normal“. Shocking right? “Vaginismus is sexual pain, associated with muscle spasms and a fear of penetration”. 

We wanted to give you holistic perspectives on the topic, as most articles on the subject are very clinical. We brought in experts to help from a medical background, providing a two part series on this topic. Covering the why, what and how in this article.


We asked advice of women, who are experts in the field, to bring you the most comprehensive and up-to-date information.

Dr Elna Rudolph, clinical head at My Sexual Health (the largest team of sexual healthcare providers in South Africa). She is both a medical doctor specialising in woman’s sexual health and a sexologist. Hester Aswegen physiotherapist whose speciality is pelvic floor dysfunction and ante- and postnatal physio.

One of the main reasons why women suffer with sexual pain for as long as they do is because doctors don’t get the training needed to even diagnose or refer woman on for treatment. Sadly, a huge percentage of women never get diagnosed. Dr Rudolph reiterates “I always tell doctors that if they don’t have the knowledge about what is causing a woman’s sexual pain in their head, don’t tell her that it is in her head!”

And honestly that is what women frequently get told. The other option often given is a hymenectomy – surgery to make the vaginal opening larger! Often there is nothing wrong with the vaginal opening. Tragically, this story is not uncommon.


At 24 years old, I got married. I could never insert a tampon and never knew why. I was assured by my mother that it would get easier when I got married. Penetration was impossible! Our marriage was eventually consummated through great difficulty and immense pain. To say the honeymoon was a disaster would be an understatement. My husband felt rejected, while I felt guilty at being unable to satisfy him. It placed a huge burden and strain on both of us.

I had become emotionally worn to a point where I would cringe every time my husband came near me, anticipating the pain. I was determined to resolve this. Our GP was clueless as to where to start with all this. Her advise was, ‘Just try and relax’.

Deflated, I then went to a gynecologist thinking that she would have all the answers, being a woman in this field. She booked me in for a hymenectomy which I did not need. The pain continued, making me feel like a complete failure.

Years later I found the courage to try seek help again after realising that my marriage was hanging in the balance and I could not take the weight of mentally preparing myself for the pain I had to go through to satisfy my husband.

“It can be very hard on relationships as the woman will often avoid sex due to the pain and the partner often doesn’t understand this.” Aswegen says. “Some women are too ashamed to talk to their partners. They feel it’s their fault, especially if they have been misdiagnosed, or they haven’t found the right doctor to help them and have been told they must just relax.”


After the hymenectomy, I attempted to get a second opinion from a renowned Gynaecologist, but sadly the outcome was the same. Another surgery, no answers, more pain and more strain on my psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing. I came to the point of such desperation that I thought that it would be easier if my husband just went and had an affair.

As tragic as this is, it is not uncommon. “Many women continue to have sex, although it is painful, for years and years. They don’t know that there is help or they have asked for help and it did not work.  We do a lot to try and get the message out that there is help!” says Dr Rodolph.

“We often recommend counselling both for the individual as well as the couple to help them”, Aswegen adds.


There are unfortunately many misconceptions around Vaginismus, because it never spoken about. Aswegen stresses, “People don’t admit to sexual problems and therefore feel very alone and that nothing can be done about it. This can lead to a huge amount of emotional and psychological trauma.”

Here are some of the misconceptions:

  • The problem is in your head
  • All you need to do is relax
  • You too uptight or stressed – have some wine to loosen up
  • Change you position, you are doing it wrong
  • Is it that you don’t find me attractive sexually as a partner?

But here is the thing: women who suffer from vaginismus do get sexually aroused. They have normal wants and needs. Aswegen adds, “It is so important to explain to women that this is a physical condition where the muscles are too tight and they often have an unregulated nervous system or other factors like stress.”

Dr Rudolph goes on to add, “The most common cause is actually a strict religious upbringing.  Of course, one always has to ask about sexual abuse, but in our clinic it is less than in the general population.  Exposure to a traumatic examination or procedure, such as getting a urinary catheter inserted as a child, or a gynaecological examination of a young woman, might cause it.  There is a genetic link also and then medical conditions like provoked vestibulodynia or many other medical causes of sexual pain can cause vaginismus, including going into menopause or having gynaecological surgery.”


I asked Dr Roudolph why is there such a lack of knowledge in the medical field, regarding vaginismus.

 “We just didn’t have good training in sexual pain in South Africa up until now.  Everything I know about it I learned overseas.  I have 6 hour training program in sexual pain that doctors can do online now – that will help them diagnose and treat almost all forms of sexual pain.”

The different classes of Vaginismus according to Lamont Classification of Degrees (1976)

  • 1st degree vaginismus slight tightness of the pelvic floor, with reassurance and the patient could relax for her examination.
  • 2nd degree vaginismus, generalized tightness of the pelvic floor, the patient cannot relax but allows examination.
  • 3rd degree vaginismus, the pelvic floor spasm is severe that the patient lifts her buttocks off the bed and cannot be examined.
  • 4th degree vaginismus, the most severe tightness and fear, patient tightly closing the knees to prevent any examination.
  • 5th degree vaginismus a complete physical, psychological and physiological reaction -Increased heart rate, palpitations, hyperventilation, trembling, shaking, nausea or vomiting, crying uncontrollably, a feeling of light headedness and fainting, a desire to jump off the table, run away.


If we could get one message across in this article, it’s that there is so much that can be done about sexual pain and that woman are not alone. Aswegen says, “The goal is to achieve good relaxation of the pelvic floor to allow for pain free sex. Additionally, normal function of the pelvic floor so that there are no other problems with the bladder or bowel either.” She goes on to say, “We want to teach women to have control over their bodies and give them the tools to manage the condition. For some it is once-off and for others they might need to manage it for the rest of their lives.”

Team Beauty Warriors had to ask the big question. Can woman who suffer from Vaginismus achieve a healthy sex life?

“Yes absolutely. Vaginismus can be overcome completely with the correct management and normal pain-free intercourse can be achieved,” Aswegen replied with great confidence. She went on to say “Vaginismus is curable. 100 % curable.”

Dr Rudloph ended off by saying, “Women have to see themselves as being equal to men and claim their right to sexual pleasure. It is theirs for the taking!”

Don’t miss our next article on vaginismus, it will include different treatment modalities, at home interventions and medical aesthetics.

Stop the Clock with Good Nutrition

As I hit the “Big 4-0” today, I might as well embrace it in the best way possible: by discussing optimum nutrition & lifestyle choices.

Ageing is inevitable, but the speed at which we age is not. There is so much you can do to slow the ageing process. We need to consider not only adding years to our life, but how to add life to our years! The decisions we make from our 40s onwards can directly influence our quality of life in later year. For many of us, optimum nutrition can add 10 healthy years to our lives. Genes account for a quarter of how we manage the ageing process – the rest is down to diet and lifestyle.

Incorporating exercise and optimum nutrition into your everyday lifestyle slows down aging. You will enjoy clearer skin, glossy hair, a firm, toned and fit body, and an agile mind. This can help boost your immunity which helps to protect yourself from physical and mental degenerative diseases and enjoy a healthier, longer life.

Avoid or reduce stress

Sleep well. Avoiding or reducing stress may prove to be an important life extension factor. Prolonged stress causes depletion of the adrenal hormone DHEA. Low DHEA levels are associated with an increased risk of many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease, and of ageing in general.

Include the omega-3 and -6 essential fats in your diet

An important component of a healthy ageing diet are the omega-3 and -6 essential fats. Not only do essential fats keep cell membranes smooth and soft, they also help the membranes to do a better job of controlling what goes in and out of cells. Without enough fats in the cell membranes, they are not able to retain water and lose their plumpness. So include plenty of healthy fatty foods in your diet, such as fish, coconut oil, butter, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Have seeds in salads, as snacks, or ground up and on granola, yoghurt or soup.

Eat whole grains

Given the importance of keeping our digestive tract and liver in good working order, it is important to have a diet that includes unprocessed foods naturally high in fibre, such as whole grains, vegetables, lentils and beans.

Eat more raw food

Cooking destroys enzymes and vitamins, and minerals may be thrown out with the cooking liquid. Overcooking leads to free radical formation and poor absorption of nutrients and any process that turns food brown produces carcinogenic compounds. So cut down on the microwave, cooker, grill oven and toaster, and start eating more salads, fresh juices and blended foods.

Eat more antioxidant foods

The deeper the pigment, the more antioxidants a fruit or vegetable contains. Carrots and tomatoes contain beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, vitamin C is found in fruit and veg and vitamin E is found in seeds, nuts and fish. Anthocyanidins are high in blue and purple foods, such as berries and red grapes.

Exercise 30 mins daily

Cardio exercise is an all-natural way to lift your mood, improve your memory, and protect your brain against age-related cognitive decline. In other words, it’s the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have. A wealth of research suggests that any type of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period of time has a significant and beneficial effect on the brain as well as your heart.

Following a blood sugar balancing lifestyle

It often seems like there can’t be a single best diet for your health. But a growing body of research suggests that a meal plan focusing on vegetables, protein, and healthy fats has key benefits for losing weight, keeping the mind sharp, and protecting the heart and brain as you age.

Never smoke

No other habit has been so strongly tied to death. In addition to cancer, smoking causes heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis

Sticking to a healthy body weight

When it comes to quickly assessing the health of large groups of people, a measure called body mass index, or BMI, can be helpful. Generally speaking, a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered within the “healthy range” for healthy adults over age 20. Because of this, it makes sense that the latest study used this BMI range to define what they considered an “optimal” body weight. Essentially, they found that people who fell within that BMI range tended to outlive people who fell outside of it and were either overweight or underweight.

Drink lots of water as water makes up 67% of the body

For more information on ShazEats, visit her website and Instagram, or else see author panel below.

Bliss: Ease Your Pregnancy with Massage

Pregnancy massage has been valued as an effective therapy in nearly all cultures around the world for thousands of years.  Dating back to India as part of their Ayurvedic culture just over 3000 years ago as well as documentation found in the early Greek and Minoan civilizations dating back 5000 years ago, all state the benefits of regular pregnancy massage for mom and baby.

Pregnancy massage is a fast-growing must-have! A recent survey conducted revealed that 8 out of 10 pregnant women would love to receive regular pregnancy massages. More and more health care providers are recognizing the benefits their patients receive during pre-natal massages. Some hospitals now offer massage in their pre-natal units worldwide.


The nine months of pregnancy can be a rollercoaster of emotions for mom-to-be, from exhilaration to anxiety, stress, and happiness, you name it, you will experience it.  Not only are your emotions highly charged, but physically your body will undergo massive changes to sustain and help develop your little bundle of Joy!

The biggest cause hereof, are your massive hormonal changes. Although these hormones are essential for a healthy pregnancy, they can leave you feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. The escalation in progesterone and estrogen can cause you to experience extreme mood changes. The hormones can also cause pregnancy depression or anxiety, this should always be monitored by your physician.


Numerous anatomical and physiological changes occur during pregnancy that strain the muscles and skeleton, particularly the pelvis, which in turn may lead to discomfort and pain in the lower back, leg cramps and hip pain.

The pelvis goes through a tilting process, whereby room is made for your growing baby and your uterus. As the pelvis tilts the spine also arches inward. This causes a change in the center of gravity and in the later pregnancy stages causes the pregnancy waddle, your body is trying to accommodate skeletal changes. This change in center of gravity now also places a lot of strain on the muscles – particularly the lower back region. Some expectant moms experience sciatic pain which is a sharp shooting pain from either lower back or buttocks down to your lower legs, this is aggravated by muscle strain that irritate the sciatic nerve.

Progesterone is one of the hormones that loosens all the smooth muscles & ligaments in the body allowing for the big 9 months stretch. This is an important effect needed for the growth of the baby, but the negative side is that, this is one of the major causes for your muscular discomfort.


Let us take an in-depth look at the numerous benefits regular pregnancy massage can offer you whether at home or at your nearest spa.

Massage is known to stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s built-in pain relief and mood enhancing neurotransmitters, you undoubtedly are familiar with the sensation the release of these hormones bring; they are behind the rush you get after a good exercise session or a good laughing fit to name a few.

In terms of enhancing mood and aiding anxiety and depression, Dr Tiffany Field pioneered the way for pregnancy massage studies. She is a director of the Touch Medical Institute in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Miami, School of Medicine.  She is a renowned expert in the field of pregnancy massage based on data collected from many pregnant women. She carefully divided the women into two test groups. One group had regular pregnancy massage therapy sessions prior to birth and the other not. She had carefully questioned the woman during the stages of their pregnancy to analyze their mental state.

She concluded that woman who went for regular pregnancy massage had decreased depression, anxiety, leg & back pain. She also concluded that their Cortisol levels were decreased. Cortisol is what we refer to as the stress hormone that is released in your body and aggravates things like depression and anxiety. Not only does Pregnancy Massage elevate endorphins, but it also increases the release of serotonin, which aids in better sleep as well as increased release of dopamine which is another “feel good” hormone.

The pregnancy hormone Relaxin lives up to its name. Many pregnant women experience hip pains in their second or third trimester, which is usually caused by the loosening of the ligaments holding together the sacroiliac joints, which connect your spine to your pelvis. While this joint-and-ligament relaxation helps with the birthing process, it can cause pain in your hips, lower back, and legs as the weight of your uterus bears down on your newly mobile bones and joints. It can result in inflammation, misalignment or bones grinding against bones.

By using specialized pregnancy massage techniques, we can drastically reduce a pregnant mom’s discomfort in the hip area.

As your beautiful bump grows, the lower spine will curve inward to support your baby’s weight and the top of your spine will curve slightly outward to support the growth of your breasts. This change in posture causes the muscles along your spine and particularly on the lower back to take strain. This strain induces lactic acid release which causes the muscles in your back to become rigid and stiff and is accompanied by pain. Massaging this area with specialized and pregnancy safe massage techniques will help to stretch and smooth the rigid muscles as well as improve lymphatics and circulation in order to help release the toxic build up, allowing for fresh oxygenated blood to fill the area and heal. Not to mention how amazing and pain free you feel after a good massage!


A pregnant woman’s circulatory system takes a big toll. Your body produces 50% more blood volume, so your circulatory system is working twice as hard to circulate blood through it. Massage activates the nervous system, which in turn causes the blood to circulate more freely, enhanced circulation improves oxygen in the blood, heart and arteries and allows her blood to flow more freely, preventing and minimizing the risk of swelling. For your baby, massage during pregnancy increases systemic blood circulation, so oxygen and nutrients can reach the fetal cells, providing greater nourishment and a better health index for the growing baby.  By stimulating and draining lymph, you will also experience an improvement in the feeling of fatigue and tiredness.

Swelling is a normal part of pregnancy that is caused by the additional blood volume. Normal swelling, which is also called Oedema, is experienced in the hands, face, legs, ankles, and feet. This extra retention of fluid is needed to soften the body, which enables it to expand as the baby develops.  Swelling may be experienced at any point during pregnancy, but it tends to be noticed around the fifth month and can increase drastically in the third trimester.

Factors that can increase Oedema are summertime heat, standing for long periods of time, long days of activity, diet low in potassium, high level of caffeine consumption and high level of sodium intake.  To relieve Oedema, you must get fluid moving through and out the body, gentle pregnancy massage drainage techniques is ideal for this. A study published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice found that pregnant women, who were given 20min foot massages daily had significantly less Oedema than those who did not.

Headaches may occur at any time of your pregnancy, but they tend to be most common during the 1st and 3rd trimesters. During the 1st trimester, your pregnant body experiences a surge of hormones and an immediate increase in blood volume, these two changes can cause more frequent headaches. Headaches may be further aggravated by stress, poor posture, or changes in your vision.  Headaches during the 3rd trimester tend to be more related to poor posture and tension from carrying the extra weight.  Regular pregnancy massage can help alleviate tension and stress in your back muscles which could offer instant relief after a pregnancy massage session.

We now know that stress plays a major factor in the risk of preterm labor, we have also established that regular pregnancy massage can reduce our stress hormones and elevate our happy ones. As per the study done by Dr Tiffany Field, the findings in her study groups was that the women who had regular pregnancy massages reduced the risk of preterm labor drastically as well as experiencing significantly less labor pain and the study revealed that their labors were 3hrs shorter on average.

With all these benefits, we believe that a pregnant woman should have massage at the top of her nine-months-bucket list!  You can either request your trained therapist to book for @ Home Massages or why not get your partner to skill up and get their hands massaging!

The Massage You Desperately NEED

CBD is all the rage at the moment and in times these, it’s no wonder. So you have heard about CBD oil and you may have heard about the vapes and the skincare benefits, but did you know you could have a CBD massage?

Team Beauty Warriors was invited to have one just before corona lockdown, lucky me, it was much needed and well-timed. If you are a bit hesitant after hearing all sorts of information – not sure if CBD is brain-altering and you just want to try a milder version of it, or if you are in desperate need to reduce anxiety or chronic pain, here is our insider take on the CBD massage.

Prior to the massage we spoke to head trainer and CBD expert from Goodleaf Amy Paterson, and asked her why we should try a massage incorporating CBD oil.

“For those with chronic pain and muscle soreness, CBD will change the way you manage daily living.” When asked how, Amy went on to say, “As an anti-inflammatory, CBD helps to manage neuropathic pain and provides relief of muscle tension without adverse side effects.”

The massage was booked at Urban Bliss Wellness Spa. Massage specialist Gugulethu began the treatment with myrrh and CBD roller on the temples to ease head tension and headaches, then she asked me to inhale the scent three times. Six drops of CBD oil were mixed with grapeseed carrier oil and another 4-6 drops were used neat on areas of concern either for pain or inflammation.

The massage was conducted with long flowing strokes aimed to ease tension. Specific focus was paid on sore and tight muscles, pain or injuries, and the pressure was adjusted to work out muscle tension. It felt like a stress release massage that was deeply relaxing. For days thereafter, I was left with a sense of calm and ease and would highly recommend it if you are coping with stress, anxiety, chronic pain, inflammatory conditions, tension, emotional strain or are unable to calm an overactive mind. For those who have suffered from burn-out or heading that way, regular CBD massages are a must.

Beauty Warriors Tip: book the massage for a late afternoon session or on a weekend as I had a desire to go to bed after the treatment and give my body the downtime it needed after the massage. Also and this one is vital, if you are taking CBD drops internally half the dosage the day you have the massage.

Urban Bliss Wellness Spa informed me that they have also treated clients who suffer from Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, and arthritis, and their clients have had great benefit from regular treatments.

It all sounds wonderful I know, but I did have a few questions as to how effective the CBD massage is on its own? Also if I have been using the drops daily and whether I should combine the two? I sat down with Director and head of marketing of Elixir Africa, Zaheera Bham Ismail to shed some light on the above, and here is what she had to say.

“CBD is known to aid with anxiety and have a calming effect. It assists with pain relief and also works as an anti-inflammatory. CBD can be absorbed into the body sublingually (placed under the tongue), ingestion, topically, or via inhalation. When CBD is applied to the skin, it doesn’t reach the bloodstream but can be absorbed through the skin’s surface to interact with the nearby cannabinoid receptors. CBD is also permeable to the skin through the pores when applied liberally during the massages. Research published in the European Journal of Pain (2015) found that “topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviors and inflammation without evident side-effects.” I think it’s imperative to be aware of the quality of the CBD products being used. When purchasing any products, always look for the following: is it a reputable brand or company? Do they have associated COAS (independent lab tests)? And are they SAHPRA compliant? Companies like Elixir thrive on providing premium grade products to its consumers by ensuring all these boxes are ticked.”

On the question about combining both the drops and massage, Zaheera went on to explain, “The SA legislation allows for a maximum dosage of 20mg per day. It’s imperative that you monitor the dosage. In addition to premium-grade CBD, Elixir also offers effect-based oils that can be matched with the massage oils and we have calculated this to ensure that you don’t exceed the daily recommended allowances. Numerous studies suggest that CBD interacts with receptors throughout the body to create balancing and healing effects. Combining both, the topical and the oral ingestion will provide a more enhanced effect for the client.”

So there you have it, we give CBD massage a huge thumbs up!