Wellness festivals are gaining popularity around the globe

Step aside Lollapalooza, there’s another kind of festival in town. Here’s how wellness festivals are attracting travellers

Anyone who has done a single set of push-ups, crunches or burpees in their adult lives, knows the whole process is much easier with people around you, be it your trainer or a workout buddy.

If the past decade was about music tourism — flying to different countries to watch your favourite band play, a new kind of tourism is in the offing, and it has to do with wellness.

What it takes

What wellness festivals do is simple — bring under one roof, all the exponents of a healthy lifestyle: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social. So you may have a fitness trainer and a yoga practitioner doing sessions along with a chat with a nutritionist and a dermatologist.

However, there is one crucial parameter to what makes a wellness festival, believes Carol Singh, co-founder of the health drink Antidote. “Festivals like these function as opportunities for people to delve deeper into the understanding of their well-being,” she says, meaning that instead of being passive receivers of treatments, festivals empower people to make changes in their own lives. “Participants must be able to take the practices they learn there back home and use it in their daily lives,” says Carol, who along with her sister, Nadia Singh Bahl, organised one of India’s first wellness festivals, Vitality Hours in Delhi.

This take-back is what Jia Singh, a wellness and travel consultant, enjoys. Having travelled to many festivals globally, Jia recommends the Bali Spirit Festival, one of her favourites. Held every year in the town of Ubud in March, the festival has a line-up of programmes under categories such as dance and martial arts; sound healing and breathwork; and yoga. “The highlight for me was the breathwork experience. Since then, I have been reminding myself to come back to my breath a few times a day, particularly when I’m feeling overwhelmed,” she says.

Vitality Hours — the last of which ended in April, the next of which begins in October, “with a change in the season” — included concepts such as nutrigenomics and somatic therapy, apart from yoga. “We wanted to create an experiential space, for people to discover new methods to improve their well-being,” she says. Which is why you’ll find alternative practices like Reiki and sound healing.

For Jia, “A wellness festival is an immersive experience which helps foster a sense of community, and exemplifies the idea that wellness is a journey that should be made inclusive, accessible and available to all.” This is ironical, considering what entry to most wellness festivals costs. Jia’s own favourite, the Bali Spirit Festival, costs $120, or ₹8,200 for a one-day pass.

But few festivals compare to the exorbitance of Gwyneth Paltrow’s In Goop Health. Her annual wellness summit, priced at $4,500 for two days, has been in the middle of a controversy, with a few attendees claiming it was a marketing rip-off.

Wellness festivals are gaining popularity around the globe

Around the globe

Wellness festivals, while still a pregnant possibility in India, is “growing by leaps and bounds worldwide, particularly in Arizona, California, Costa Rica, the UK and Australia, in Byron Bay,” believes Jia. It follows that they bring local customs out into public spaces and onto a global stage. “I love the idea of trying different things from acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, to ecstatic dances and yin yoga all under one roof,” says Jia.

For Carol, it’s about the bringing together of many elements. “I like the Wonderfruit festival which combines music, wellness and sustainability.” The annual programme held in Pattaya, Thailand, places its focus on clean living (side-note: they have dog passes). She believes that it is natural for any wellness festival to prioritise sustainability, with stalls for eco-friendly products. “If you’ve started thinking about your well-being, you naturally start thinking about the planet as well. You examine if your choices are beneficial for everyone, because Nature is an integral part of your wellness.”

Feeding in

In India, a major factor feeding into the rise of wellness fests is Yoga Day, a reason alone for a multitude of yoga-related get-togethers all over the country. It has also brought the famous International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh into focus. “Ayurveda, yoga and meditation are the most dominant themes in India currently,” says Jia. She adds that “a demand for sustainable fashion and cruelty-free cosmetics is slowly on the rise as well”. A movement that is starting to reflect in the stalls at the festivals.

There’s also been inspiration from global fitness fests, such as Balance and LoveFit in the UK and Les Mills in California. People all over the globe attend these to engage in HIIT workouts, spin, Zumba, yoga, strength training and more. Bengaluru had one earlier this year in February, organised by UB City, while Chennai’s FitKits wrapped up their first edition this past weekend. Yet another, called Fitup Fest, held in Chennai, was so successful that it got its own show on Sun TV, named after its hashtag Naanum Fit Dhaan.

In Carol’s experience, more and more younger people have begun taking charge of their health. Her only complaint: “I see mostly women participating, even though wellness is not a gender-related issue.”

It’s also true though, that a number of festivals are either brand extensions of products targeted at women, or individuals trying to build themselves into brands. Gurugram resident Rupinder Kaur, 41, who attended a wellness festival in Delhi recently, was put off by the amount of “self-marketing” done. “It was all rather new-age-y. Tai-chi, traditional yoga, everything half-baked was thrown into a mix, such that we didn’t know what to take back,” she says.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 4:31:15 AM |

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