Your wellness map

How are you? Are you well? A question heard so frequently these days and yet increasingly hard to answer accurately. Wellness or wellbeing is beyond skin deep. Perhaps you are healthy on the outside but maybe inside linger those deep-rooted feelings of stress and anxiety.

Health and wellness have become top priority during these challenging times and despite scientific and technological advancements, there has been a resurgence of ancient healing and preventative medicine. From generational cures, century-old medicinal sciences and even old wives’ tales we are hearing of potions and lotions and healing therapies from distant lands.

But as east meets west in wellness and the ancient blends with the new, allow me to take you on a wellness tour of medicinal destinations around the globe, highlighting tried and trusted time-honoured treatments, natural healing beliefs and indigenous practices.

Chinese medicineTraditional Chinese medicine has evolved over thousands of years and has changed little over the centuries. Its philosophy derives from maintaining the body’s energy flow, essential to good health. One of China’s key practices is acupuncture, a traditional art which identifies impasses in energy points known as qi and uses the stimuli of sterile fine needles to unblock these areas. Amazingly it is believed that there are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body, each lying on an invisible energy channel. As a migraine sufferer, I found this treatment painless, authentic and effective. Other options include prescribed Chinese herb blends to strengthen the body and the graceful controlled exercise of Tai Chi to balance the mind.  

Amongst the folds of spectacular saris and aromas of colourful spices, India is home to Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic systems. This medicinal approach accesses the whole body’s condition and lifestyle to gain balance between body, mind and spirit. Ayurveda encompasses branches of treatments from massages, lifestyle programmes and nutritional plans. During a stay at an Ayurveda resort in Kerala, I can remember having the signature treatment Shirodhara which involves warm herb-infused Ayurvedic oil gently poured over my forehead and across the ‘third eye’. Never have I experienced such calmness and a deep-seated relaxation as I looked over the mountains laced in mist, a breeze caressing my skin and the whisper of silence.

Ayurveda treatmentTreetops and canopies exploding in swaths of delicate pink and white cherry blossom displays is not the only export from Japan. The onsen, a natural hot spring, fuelled by volcanic activity is renowned for its medicinal purposes and submerged in the Japanese culture. If visiting Japan, there are around 2,300 in the country, many of them housed in the traditional inns or ryokans. Japan has also traded Shinrin yoku, the concept of tree-hugging, a pathway to slow down and reconnect with nature while benefitting from the chemical phytoncide, released by trees and plants which is said to boost the immune system. This export has brought new meaning to park visits and the benefit of nature. A time to listen to the rustle of the wind, to inhale the fragrance of the air. The power of stillness

In need of spiritual healing? Arizona is the epicentre of Native American tribes with spiritual healers, traditional medicines, rituals, ceremonies and wellness focussed resorts set deep in the solitude of the desert wilderness. Sedona is rightfully regarded as sacred by Native Americans. Home to 1.8 million acres of national forest and desert land, it is known for the famous “Vortex energy” a special spot in the earth where energy spills out of the earth’s plane lending uplifting power for meditation. Some profess that the vortex in Sedona is powerful enough to heal the spirit.

Mud glorious mud! Who would guess that muddy water would be good for you. The Dead Sea is the deepest and most saline lake on earth and recognised since biblical times for its healing properties. Israel actively promotes the medicinal advantages of mud treatments to treat psoriasis, back pain and inflammation. 

Clinique La Prairie in SwitzerlandIn Poland, it’s all about salt. A salt mine recently highlighted the benefits for long-covid. For decades, sufferers of allergies and respiratory problems have travelled to breathe in the pure air of the Wieliczka mine on the outskirts of Krakow to take advantage of its curative properties. Recently it is staging workouts where participants breathe the humid air of the salt chamber rich in minerals and low in pollutants.

The healthy Swiss mountain climate has attracted a number of well-known medical spas especially for treating respiratory conditions. But Switzerland is also renowned for its ultra-luxury brands such as Clinique La Prairie, a pioneering health & wellness clinic in preventative medicine which practices a holistic approach to wellbeing.

From six-pack bottles in a supermarket to its source in France, the Evian Resort in the heart of the Alps is drenched in the benefits of pure Evian water and used as the basis for its medical spa programme. Here the natural mineral water is pollution-free, pH neutral and has a low-mineral content that contains bicarbonates and little sodium. It owes these unique properties to its origins, a hydrogeological site formed 35,000 years ago.  

Wellness in Greece is at the heart of thalassotherapy and performs a theatre of water therapies using saltwater and seaweed, each designed to cleanse, soothe and revitalise the skin and body, and, in some cases, to improve circulation and muscle tone.

Treasure moments each dayOne of Iceland’s main claims to fame is its Blue Lagoon, a thermal spa where the water’s purity is due to the natural filtration through the lava fields, a process perfected over years of untainted snow melt and rain through the Ölfus Spring. The warm waters are rich in minerals and reputed to help those suffering from skin diseases

The mineral waters of Europe’s hot springs have long been celebrated for their healing properties, many destinations picking up royal patronage. From the Grandhotel Pupp in the Czech Republic to the UK’s own spa towns of Bath and Harrogate, there are many places replete with long-held wellness customs, and grand historical architecture. Throughout Europe there are numerous locations for healing, recuperation and rehabilitation, easing pain and enhancing health.

Wellbeing is also associated with looking and feeling as good as we can. For those of us dreaming of slowing the biological clock, Austria is home to a specialist resort in genetic medicine. On the outskirts of Vienna, La Pura is exclusively for women and applies an integrated holistic approach to health issues.

Tree huggingOur wellbeing is our everyday health and state of mind. The Swedish term, lagom refers to a way of being and achieving balanced happiness. The Dutch use the word gezelligheid which denotes the gladdened feeling when surrounded by people and places that are comforting and warm. And if you are happy and snug within your own indoor culture, then you are already practicing hygge, the Danish concept which signifies taking time away from the daily rush to appreciate the small things that matter.

We are constantly bombarded with a flow of weird and wonderful natural therapies to explore.  How about goat yoga, equine therapy or the new idea of cow cuddling? But whether it’s about chakras, qi, or tree hugging, whatever and wherever wellbeing is to you, I wish you well in following your personal wellness map to health and happiness in mind body and spirit.

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Jane Wilson

Founder & editor of the Wellness Traveller

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