Spas and wellness retreats have a new audience: the pandemic-weary
After two years of isolation and the anxiety that comes with it, many of us need a head-to-toe realignment. “There has been so much disconnection over the past two years that there is now a mental health epidemic,” says Anna Bjurstam, who leads the wellness program at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas. Fortunately, spas and retreats are expanding far beyond massage to focus on new treatments to de-stress and restore.
My story was similar to many in this pandemic era: sleep deprivation, sluggishness from hunching over my laptop, and dry, dull skin. At the Well at Mayflower Inn & Spa in Litchfield County, Connecticut, a health coach suggested the full body reboot (dry brushing, clay body wrap, lymphatic massage), followed by energy work light, more specifically from craniosacral therapy. As my therapist gently touched different points on my body, my right leg began to shake involuntarily and there was tingling in my feet. I soon fell into a light nap, my first in years. At Six Senses Ibiza, better sleep starts with a diary; each guest receives one to write down their worries before going to bed. “The main obstacle to good sleep is stress,” says Bjurstam. “If you write it down, maybe you can let it go.” The resort is known for delving into the subject with multi-day retreats, like the five-day Solving Your Sleep Mystery with Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist Michael Breus.
Jodie Webber, Creative Director and Head of Healing Arts at Shou Sugi Ban House, a Japanese-inspired wellness sanctuary in Water Mill, Long Island, says, “Sound can reach you at the cellular level. The Sacred Sound Journey weaves together the vibrational frequencies of Himalayan and crystal tuning forks, gongs and singing bowls (instruments with a resonance your body can feel) for a grounded experience. Guests tilt their heads back in a pool inches underwater so their ears are covered and listen to sounds like musical chirping and dolphin whistles as part of the Float Your Troubles Away treatment at the Six Senses property in the Douro Valley in Portugal.
Breathwork, used in yoga to release stress, has been around for thousands of years and has recently become a popular offering at wellness retreats. Mark Gerow, a trauma-sensitive spiritual coach, has created a series of breathwork classes at Miraval Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts, for clients “seeking deeper healing.” His Syncing Breath and Sound: A Neurodynamic Breathwork Journey begins with dynamic breath cycles. In tandem, participants listen to a selection of music as Gerow guides them through a guided meditation. “When people start focusing on their breath, they can slow down their body and open up the unconscious,” he says. At Sensei Lanai, a partnership between Sensei, the wellness company founded by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and physician David Agus, and Four Seasons, practitioners use data to optimize client health outcomes. In their private Mindset 1:1 with Biomarkers sessions, a biofeedback device is used to measure a guest’s heart rate variability throughout the event to show how emotions influence things like heart rate. and the nervous system.
This article originally appeared in the April 2022 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR, which hits newsstands April 5.
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