History of Wellness Retreats

Rising Trend Has Deep Roots

Wellness retreats are popular places for travelers seeking to escape daily stressors and rejuvenate their souls. While this practice may seem like a modern indulgence, the concept has ancient roots that go back thousands of years.

Way back to BC

Many scholars believe Ayurveda to be the oldest healing science. Originating in India more than 5,000 years ago, this holistic practice is based on the concept that an imbalance or stress causes disease in a person’s consciousness. It’s believed to be possible to maintain balance in the body, mind, and consciousness with the proper diet, lifestyle, and herbal remedies as needed.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) reaches back to 3,000 – 2,000 BC. Practices still used today, such as tai chi, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qi gong, evolved out of TCM in an effort to achieve good health and well-being.

Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – 370 BC) is credited as the first physician. He worked to prevent illness by promoting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Ancient Romans in 50 BC adopted many Greek health beliefs and, to help prevent the spread of germs, created sewers, aqueducts, and public baths. These practices were implemented to help maintain a healthier population.

More modern medicinal movements

The term “wellness,” meaning the opposite of “illness,” was included in the Oxford English Dictionary defined as a “state of being well or in good health” during the 1650s. By the 1790s, homeopathy approaches were developed by German physician Christian Hahnemann. He believed natural substances could restore health and promote the body’s self-healing response.

In response to unhealthy conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution, such as working 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, on June 6, 1844, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in London, England. In addition to a focus on saving souls, the goal was “The improvement of the spiritual, mental, social and physical condition of young men.”

By the turn of the century, John Harvey Kellogg, then-director of the Battle Creek, Michigan Sanitorium and later the inventor of breakfast cereals, was providing opportunities for people who were “learning to stay well.” He advocated for a healthy diet, exercise, fresh air, and hydrotherapy. Such an establishment was very much the first step toward today’s spas.

When homemakers became inundated with new appliances and products that made life a little easier in the late 1950s, a shift began toward healthier ways of living. Health spas were luxurious destinations for upscale clientele. Television programs introduced middle Americans to the ancient practice of yoga in the 1960s. And with a rising interest in spirituality and physical fitness, there was an exercise boom in the U.S. during the 1970s and ’80s that has evolved into a multi-billion-dollar business today. Experts predict that between now and 2028, the fitness industry will grow 171.75% to $434.74 billion.

Start your own history

Interested in a wellness retreat? Why not make history for yourself? At Thrive Souljourns, we know the benefit of travel on one’s mind, body, and soul. Our boutique agency keeps the staff-to-participant ratio small, allowing for individualized attention and maximum attention to your wellness. Find a wellness retreat that helps regenerate your spirit.  


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