Wellness travel means horse yoga, forest bathing, and soaking in hot tubs.
“Wellness travel,” once viewed as an esoteric or even quirky focus for trips has gone mainstream.
As they stroll through New York State’s Adirondack Park, people pause to listen for the sounds of the forest and inhale the scent of wildflowers.
The setting is equally tranquil in North Carolina, where visitors relax in tubs set outside overlooking a placid lake and the Smoky Mountains.
Other folks prefer to stand as they adopt a variety of yoga positions. What makes their poses unusual is that they’re taking place on the back of a horse.
These people are enjoying “wellness travel.” Once viewed as an esoteric or even quirky focus for trips, this kind of outing has become mainstream.
The Wellness Tourism Association says the practice “allows the traveler to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of well-being.” More people than ever are traveling to get, or stay, healthy, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic slowly recedes.
In the past, “wellness travel” often was associated with the spa experience. Today, it covers a broad spectrum that includes procedures like nature immersion, spiritual healing, and lessons about ways to incorporate healthy habits into our daily lives. Researching this story, I saw references to contrast therapy, intention seeding, and cellular healing, terms new to me that probably will remain so.
Forest Bathing and River Walking in Adirondack Park, New York
Those visitors to Adirondack Park were following in the footsteps of tuberculosis patients who, from the 1870s until the mid-20th century, were prescribed time outdoors in the fresh mountain air. They were taking part in Forest Bathing, which was pioneered by Japan’s Ministry of Health as a way to connect with Mother Nature through one’s senses.
Studies have suggested that it can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and relieve depression. Similar benefits are attributed to River Walking, which takes advantage of a scenic waterway in Adirondack Park.
Participants wearing waterproof waders and boots move slowly through a gentle river, focusing on the feel of the water and its soft gurgling sounds. Their senses are heightened to the surroundings and, as the guides suggest, they “Let the river do the rest.”
Soaking tub with a view at Lakeview at Fontana, North Carolina
Water in a soaking tub in North Carolina is enhanced by therapeutic Himalayan and Epson salts that have been blended with aromatic essential oils. This experience takes place in a treetop cabana perched on a mountainside with a view of Fontana Lake.
A sign along the driveway into Lakeview at Fontana reads “Relaxation Ahead,” and soothing soaks are just one way in which the resort fulfills that claim. It also helps guests to disconnect from everyday life and reconnect with the environment by eliminating television and Wi-Fi from the accommodations.
Natural springs in Florida are the setting for another relaxing and rejuvenating experience using the emotional, physical, and therapeutic benefits of water. Professional Mermaid Diving instructors teach students wearing a monofin how to swim gracefully, then move to dry land to lead hypnotherapy, yoga, and other classes.
Horseback Yoga is a staple at a stable in Lexington, Kentucky
Callers at a facility in Lexington, Kentucky are surprised to see horses adopting traditional yoga poses, along with others which are called Downward Horse, Nieghasana, and Vajrahoove. Swampy, Applejack, and Vanilla Ice. They not only practice this discipline, which originated in ancient India but are the world’s first yoga teaching horses. Instructors translate the animals’ movements into positions that guests mimic.
Among the benefits of yoga noted by Johns Hopkins University are managing stress, increased energy, and brighter moods. It’s fitting that these yoga retreats were launched by Hallway Feeds, an equine-only feed mill that offers superior nutrition and holistic wellness for horses.
Horses also participate in Equine-Facilitated Psychotherapy offered by a stable in Greater Palm Springs, California. Nine desert communities occupy former tribal land where Cahuilla Native Americans enjoyed the benefits of soaking in hot mineral-rich waters that spring from an underground aquifer.
Another health-enhancing opportunity there is a Vanilla Bourbon Sensory Journey at the St. Somewhere Spa. It employs warm body oil accented with cocoa seed butter and Madagascar vanilla topped off with a dash of bourbon.
Some resort destinations offer a long list of wellness programs. Hilton Head Health on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina conducts more than 30 daily fitness classes, wellness lectures, and other activities.
Yoga also is offered at a number of spas in Breckenridge, Colorado. One has multi-modality packages that incorporate reiki energy, intention seeding, and ear acupuncture.
Serenity is sublime at The Spa at Inns of Aurora, New York
Meditation is one focus at The Spa at the Inns of Aurora, a luxurious boutique resort in the Finger Lakes region of New York. How could one not relax at a retreat where guests are welcomed by a Director of Serenity? In addition to a number of the usual activities, relaxation-inducing options include painting, lantern-led forest walks, and calming classes in blending spices and organic teas.
While silence is the focus of many wellness experiences, sound takes center stage at The Integratron in Landers, California. People who enter a large wooden dome hear first the music of quartz crystal singing bowls followed by ambient music filling a room. This “sound bath” is touted as providing a “cellular healing response.”