By Mohit Patel
The mental and physical stresses of modern life are not a new phenomenon. Wellness tourism, pre-COVID, was already on a growth trajectory. People are travelling to seek wellness, to seek pause and peace, to find a rhythm that is missing in our life, marked by the whiplashes of modern lifestyle. Wellness is a vast segment covering areas such as personal care and beauty, wellness tourism, physical activities, mental well-being, workplace well-being, healthy eating and nutrition, preventive medicine and public health, wellness real-estate, etc. Post-COVID, we have started to value health and well-being even more. Many studies and industry surveys have shown a consistent increase in tourism that is focused on wellness and health. Destinations, particularly wellness retreats, offering Ayurveda and Yoga approaches are bringing mindful and holistic tourism opportunities.
Lifestyle diseases such as chronic stress, obesity, hypertension, heart diseases, and many more are increasingly responsible for poor quality of life for millions. Myopic and symptomatic ways of dealing with these have resulted in poor outcomes and low satisfaction for many. We need to develop a much broader conception of health and wellbeing to address quality of life issues.
COVID brought along incredible grief for those who lost loved ones and for most who suffered long bouts of physical malaise. Emotional trauma of these in addition to severe curtailing of individual liberty has led to people seeking new travel experiences and explorations.
We have been fed the idea of change, rapid change. Norwegian philosopher Guttorm Floistad wrote that the only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases incessantly. If you want to hang on, you better speed up. That is the message of today’s world, drenched with technological interruptions to our state of being. But it’s usefulto remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated. The need to belong. The need for nearness and care andlove. This is given only through slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal. For kids and adults to really experience this slowness, reflection and togetherness they need to have the temporal sense of nature. Change is seen as a momentary and a certain event. We rarely have the experience of the transient and slow. Wellness tourism and retreats bring this slowness.
While we keep on gaining pace, playing catch up, and running ahead, we lose our existential foothold. In the constant flux that we are thrown into we can’t find our sense of being, our sense of wholeness. While this sounds mushy, even esoteric, there is a spectre of turmoil, pervasive and omnipresent. We seek slowness, we seek togetherness, we seek balance. We seek peace.It is important to differentiate between medical tourism and wellness tourism. Medical tourism is travelling to another place to receive hospital treatment for a clearly identified illness for lower price or better quality, or similar factors. Whereas wellness vacations are generally preventive (but also goal based in many cases) in nature to maintain a healthy lifestyle and enhance well-being in toto, through holistic methods such as Ayurveda and Yoga. Wellness tourism falls on a continuum ranging from Ayurveda hospitals on one end to luxury spas on the other end. Meaningful retreats with an unhurried and authentic approach to well-being in its totality are true wellness institutions (whether they are affordable hospitals or luxury retreats).
The harmony of body, mind and spirit starts with the focus on the body. Authentic Ayurveda and Yoga practices demand that the individual be ready to take responsibility for her own health. Health is not received but is gained by engaging with the right routines, dietary habits and physical & psychological practices.
I believe that the goal of wellness tourism cannot stop at therapeutic relief but rather move towards Eudaimonia, a sense of flourishing; moving from relief of suffering to the cultivation of positive emotional and mental states.
The author is the Co-Founder & CEO, Raga Svara, a learning and healing institution based in Gujarat.
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