A better alternative

It is easy to dismiss healers, but Alice Hart-Davis meets one practitioner who has impressed even conventional doctors

At this time of year a subconscious urge to spring-clean creeps upon us. And if you ask the energy practitioner and healer Alla Svirinskaya, that urge should not be confined to the kitchen cupboards, but should extend to an overhaul of your body, health and lifestyle.

Although this sounds like a major detox, the word makes Svirinskaya sigh with exasperation. In her opinion, people have got the whole concept of detoxing quite wrong. "You can't live a life full of toxins for years and years, then expect the body to magically cure itself by doing a three-day juice-fast," she says. "There are no quick fixes for health. You have to look at the whole of your life and try to bring different aspects of it into balance."

For Svirinskaya, the point of detoxing is to improve our "energy" and its flow, balance and quality in our lives. When things are good, energy is light and free-flowing; when things are bad, it becomes dense and stagnant, and that is when it needs work.

This could sound like so much blarney but Svirinskaya is utterly serious about what she does, and, crucially, her ideas and methods are taken seriously by the conventional medical fraternity. Yes, she has the celebrity A-list clientele (the Duchess of York wrote the foreword to her recent book), but she also has a stream of referrals from top London doctors. These are for conditions such as infertility and sports injuries, as well as for patients whose ailments have flummoxed doctors, as in the case of the man with inexplicably persistent hiccups (yes, she fixed him). Her client list has been closed for a good while since she is too busy to take on new patients, but her book (see footnote) is designed to bring her healing techniques to a wider audience.

Svirinskaya grew up in Russia, where the women in her family have been healers for five generations. She trained as a conventional doctor in Moscow before submitting to the family calling.

Nonetheless, talking in terms of "energy" and "energy healing" tends to make most people react with cynical disbelief, even though, thanks to the increasing popularity of practices such as acupuncture and feng shui, many of us are comfortable with the concept of intangible forms of energy.

"There is nothing wrong with a healthy scepticism," says Svirinskaya. "But you don't have to believe in what I do to see results. After all, you don't have to believe in aspirin for it to work. My suggestion would be not to reject a new approach out of ignorance."

Svirinskaya's own detox plan is a serious, month-long affair, which begins with improving the energies of your immediate environment (by clearing cluttered blackspots). This is followed by cleansing the body (internally, with healthy foods and externally, with salt-scrub showers and steam-room sessions) and improving mental and emotional states-of-being with exercises in meditation and tricks for overcoming negative self-talk (such as the habitual British practice of telling yourself that you'll never amount to anything).

What all this does, she says, is to help to retune your system, and it's not something that can be done in a rush. "Many people have such a fast pace of life and such low levels of self-awareness that they rarely stop to reflect on what is happening," she says. "They end up in survival mode, just coping with life. Once they have been in that state for a while, they start thinking that it is 'normal'; that the way they feel is as good as it gets. They simply don't know how well they should, or might, feel."

Sylvia Roger, Daily Telegraph