Holistic centres come of New Age
Tucked away at the far end of Hollywood Road, on the first couple of floors of a nondescript building that lies opposite a Chinese temple, and next to a quaint tea store, is the latest addition to Hong Kong's fast-expanding assembly of New Age-cum-holistic centres.
Time & Space is a small two-room unit intended 'for people who need both of these things', says one of its founders, astrologer Roselyne Lee.
Over the past decade the holistic health and personal growth movements have grown in line with Hong Kong's economic prosperity.
Their progress and the rise in the number of people seeking 'alternative' healing methods have engendered a legion of practitioners who work independently and on flexible schedules - yet need a place to work from.
This was the genesis of New Age-inspired healing centres, operated and funded by individual practitioners who share the space and rent - and even, in some cases, their clients.
'This is really a place where people can come to teach, learn, heal and talk about the things that interest them,' says Ms Lee, who has lived in Hong Kong for 30 years.
The variety of events offered by Time & Space is eclectic: fung shui classes begin in early September, followed by crystal channelling seminars, astrology, tarot for beginners, and courses in reiki (a form of astral projection and mind-over-matter healing).
However, these are 'not diploma courses but more for self-knowledge', adds co-founder Robert Juan, a makeup specialist who will be teaching his art and how to use aromatherapy to effect in lessons at Time & Space.
Ms Lee says: 'Here we aim to enhance the quality of life, through showing people how to look good, feel good and make the most of themselves.' Ms Lee and Mr Juan, along with their seven partners, decorated the rooms themselves. Mr Juan painted a sky-blue mural across one wall: the surreal images represent the five senses - motifs Mr Juan describes as 'appropriate for this kind of room'.
'Blue is a very relaxing colour. It makes people dream,' he says.
The walls of the room upstairs were sponge-painted in sunflower yellow and gold 'for a different kind of energy - one that is much more about communication', says Ms Lee.
Both rooms will be used for seminars or be leased out by 'like-minded people who are interested in New Age and its teachings'.
Similar centres seem to have gravitated towards one another: just down the road in Lyndhurst Terrace is Healing Plants Too and its downstairs retail outlet.
Owner Matthew Cheng, a practising Buddhist for the past 20 years, said he was 'just a businessman' until a couple of years ago. He had begun importing French natural hair-care products before discovering his customers needed more than that.
'I gradually expanded to open a holistic centre to provide remedies which are 100 per cent natural.' Practitioners who work with him in the five-room holistic clinic specialise in various bodywork disciplines - including deep-tissue, ayurvedic and Thai massage, reflexology and applied kinesiology.
'This is also a resource centre where people can find books, vitamins and minerals and flower essences. I do not believe in just renting space to practitioners. Instead, we all work together.' Along Wyndham Street is The Healing Touch, set up by neuromuscular pain specialist Marshall Gabin.
The centre is a regular venue for yoga and breathing sessions as well as other holistic-related seminars.
Down the road in Stanley Street is Bodycare, set up last year by trained nurse and physical therapist Suzanne Scott-Chapman, who now specialises in cranio-sacral therapy - an alternative treatment for people with back pains or headaches, or simply those whose bodies feel out of alignment.
Ms Scott-Chapman is joined in her centre - which consists of three treatment rooms - by an acupuncturist, a reflexologist, a Chinese herbal specialist and a shiatsu masseur.
All this recent activity in the area of alternative health does not appear to concern longer-established centres.
'It just brings more publicity to what we do,' says Anita Moorjani, general manager of the New Age Shop in Old Bailey Street, which was set up six years ago.
'Before only a handful of people had heard about what we try to do here but, with a few new places sprouting up, more and more people are becoming interested.' There appears to be more scope for growth still: later this year, Time & Space will organise a series of talks on what New Age really means and how its philosophies can be applied to everyday life.
'The term 'New Age' is so mis-used,' says Mr Juan. 'And it doesn't make any of us look good when people are misled by practitioners who maybe do not know what they are doing.' Healing Plants Too will begin bilingual seminars in an attempt to appeal to a broader cross-section of the local community. Those who are making all this New Age industry so popular also believe that crystal healing and the like have grown beyond the status of fashionably esoteric practice.
'It's not a fad,' says Ms Moorjani, of the New Age Shop. 'It's about getting closer to the truth, to realising that there is more to life than eating, sleeping, earning and shopping.
'The first six months of 1997 were very busy, especially a couple of months before the handover when a lot of people perhaps needed some sort of natural therapy because they were insecure or afraid of changes. More and more, everyone seems to want to find an alternative meaning to their lives.'