How To Vacation Your Way To A Better You

How To Vacation Your Way To A Better You
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Do something good for yourself on your next getaway. Book a trip that will have a lasting impact on your health and well-being. Maybe it's a yoga retreat in the Costa Rican rainforest or a beachside boot camp in Santa Barbara that celebrities love. This roundup of wellness travel reveals trends on the rise (floatation therapy and antigravity fitness classes included) and where to experience them.

Yoga Retreat

Trend: Getting into the habit of mindful living at yoga retreats.

According to the latest Spafinder Wellness 365 trends report, the simple act of mindful living is one of the most pervasive wellness trends in 2014. Yoga retreats and hybrids (SUP yoga, yoga on horseback, etc.) are cropping up around the globe to teach us to stay present, focusing on the here and now of every movement and breath. They cater to the growing masses of overstimulated, overscheduled, and overstressed souls longing to learn the practice of living in the moment … with the hope that it will stick back at home.

Where to Go: Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is among the country's most established yoga retreats. At Shreyas in Bangalore, India, yoga is taught in traditional ashram style with daily practice, meditation, chanting, community service, and a strict vegetarian diet. The new Nepal Yoga Retreat & Spa Centre in Kathmandu combines yoga with volunteering and daily hikes. Costa Rica's Anamaya Resort yoga retreat and eco-lodge sits in the lush rainforest overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Antigravity Fitness and Floatation Therapy

Trend: Suspending gravity to disconnect from the "weight" of the world.

Perhaps there's no better way to truly let it all go than to feel the effects of weightlessness. The floating trend is on the rise, especially in Sweden—the unofficial capitol of the world's float-focused centers—where you can float effortlessly (with Dead Sea-like buoyancy) in isolation in a dark, warm pod filled with Epsom salt-infused water that perfectly matches your body temperature. Research shows that float therapy improves creativity, problem solving, self-visualization, relaxation, and pain relief. For weightlessness on the fitness front, aerial and antigravity classes suspend participants from the ceiling with silk fabric slings, Cirque du Soleil-style, allowing a greater range of motion and ability to hold stretches longer.

Where to Go: You'll find float centers and aerial and antigravity classes in major cities around the world. Try the luxurious Aman Spa at Amangiri resort in Utah with a chamber built into a canyon cave. Or head to Six Senses Spa at The Alpina Gstaad in Switzerland. Aerial and antigravity yoga is new at MarBella Corfu hotel in Greece and at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru. Take an in-water spinning class at NYC's Aqua Studio.

Hotel-Chain Wellness

Trend: Hotels rebranding with comprehensive wellness programs.

Major chains are on a health kick in 2014, rolling out new wellness programs that stretch beyond the standard pool or fitness room. Rooftop fitness classes, in-room equipment, and free workout apps are among the most popular additions. According to Wellness Tourism Worldwide research, you'll also start to see more Vitamin C-infused showers, dawn-simulating alarm clocks, and melatonin-producing lighting. This year, Intercontinental Hotels Group unveiled EVEN, a new hotel chain dedicated to wellness. The New York City property is the first of 100 planned.

Where to Go: W Hotels partnered with the industry's yoga rebel, Tara Stiles, for an exclusive in-room FIT workout video and tip cards. Westin did the same with Charlotte Dodson for its Westin Well-Being Movement campaign, which includes a mindful meditation app and running gear you can borrow. Omni Hotels has treadmills in some guest rooms. Kimpton Hotels sport free loaner bikes and personal trainers. Try a rooftop dry-surfing fitness class at Revere Hotel Boston Common or rooftop yoga at Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa.

Agritourism and Farm Stays

Trend: Food tourism intersecting with wellness travel.

Spend a vacation at an organic farm, tasting fresh-from-the-earth flavor, and see if it doesn't inspire your quest to eat whole foods that aren't processed, genetically modified, or loaded with additives. A farm stay, where you can plant or forage and learn cooking secrets, will bring you back to sustainable aspects of well-being. Stress dissolves when you settle into the simplicity of life on the farm and feel gratification in completing daily chores. Work with the horses and learn volumes about self-awareness and communication.

Where to Go: When you stay at Greece's Eumelia Organic Agrotourism Farm & Guesthouse, you can help out in the olive grove and herb fields. At autumn's annual knife-in-hand course at La Tavola Marche in Italy, you'll learn how to forage for mushrooms, slaughter and butcher a hen, and then butcher a whole pig. Closer to home, try the equine experiences at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson or at Old Stone Farm in the Hudson Valley.

Outdoor Boot Camp and Extreme Fitness

Trend: Working up a sweat with extreme fitness in gorgeous outdoor spaces.

Around the globe, destinations are beginning to fully leverage their landscapes for outdoor adventure and fitness. It's in response to a growing segment of travelers who want to combat stress, improve fitness, and lose weight outdoors by pushing themselves to the extreme, according to Wellness Tourism Worldwide. What does it look like? Think circuit training in exotic natural spaces with expert coaches. One example: The hardcore Tough Mudder obstacle courses and boot camps. They draw hardcore competitors to destinations in North America and Europe for grueling slogs through mud.

Where to Go: At Four Seasons Whistler's Triathlon Training Camp, you get a professional coach, performance diagnostics, and a nutrition plan. Try a women-only Surf Goddess Retreat in Bali, or combine surfing with jungle hiking and whitewater rafting. Run up sand dunes or box in a coconut grove with Wildfitness transformative holidays. For outdoor boot camps, the GI Jane in England, Tuscany's Castiglion del Bosco, Santa Barbara's Sky Ranch Fitness at Bacara Resort & Spa (a Julia Louis-Dreyfus favorite), and Peter Island Resort in the British Virgin Islands offer interesting programs.

Meditation and Stillness Retreats

Trend: Seeking healing and purpose through stillness and spiritual practices.

Instead of blasting through a checklist of must-see tourist sites, an increasing number of travelers are opting to spend vacation time in quiet meditation. These spiritual seekers are finding healing and purpose in meditative pilgrimages, retreats, temple stays, and workshops around the world. The benefits are sublime. Studies have shown that meditation can minimize the release of the stress hormone cortisol and boost self-awareness and body awareness. Another bonus: You'll learn you really can survive a digital detox.

Where to Go: The Mindful Stillness Retreat at Alila Villas Soori in Bali leads participants in meditative excursions and exercises that are followed by individual consultations. Head to New York's Finger Lakes region for meditation retreats at the Springwater Center. The Golden Door in Escondido, California, has daily meditation sessions, chakra meditation, self-hypnosis, and a labyrinth for walking meditation.

Holistic Health Retreats

Trend: Restoring the natural balance of mind, body, and spirit.

In search of optimal wellness, travelers are spending their hard-earned vacation time at holistic health retreats to explore the benefits of alternative medicine. Here, teams of holistic providers develop your treatment plan, combining modern medical advancements with ancient medical techniques and therapies. Wake up and start your day with guided yoga or meditation, then move on to individualized sessions for acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, or psychotherapy.

Where to Go: In the Swiss Alps, a doctor-led team at the Lonhea Alpine Clinic customizes seven-day plans for everything from weight loss to sleeping problems. Soukya international holistic medical center in India has treated Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, and dignitaries from around the world. Weeklong Cancer Help Program retreats at California's Commonweal retreat center include support sessions, lectures, massage, and meditation. In Arizona, the Waldorf Astoria Spa at the Boulders Resort runs brain-fitness neurobics programs to help with arthritis and other range-of-motion challenges.

Weight-Loss Resorts

Trend: Memorable, life-changing weight-loss experiences in supportive, social environments.

When the doctor orders a lifestyle change and you know "going it alone" isn't going to work, it's time to book a weight-loss resort trip. Immerse yourself in a program with fitness, nutrition, education, relaxation, and camaraderie to get you started on the journey—without the tempting bag of chips in the kitchen pantry. Past participants say the secret to their success in the resort programs lies in the accountability, structure, and time dedicated for new habits to take root.

Where to Go: An offshoot of the TV series, The Biggest Loser Resorts (Chicago, Malibu, Niagara, Amelia Island) run group-oriented workouts, serve calorie-controlled spa cuisine, and present an enlightening educational series. At Hilton Head Health, personal training, massages, private consultations, and hands-on cooking lessons are part of the program.

Cleansing and Detox Retreats

Trend: Purging the body of contaminants, allowing it to self-repair and regain balance.

Environmental pollutants and chemicals in our food can wreak havoc on our bodies, causing allergies, digestive problems, and immune system suppression. Find out your toxicity level at one of a growing number of detox retreats around the world, where a specialist will customize a safe cleanse for your specific needs and body type. Take the traditional Eastern approach with an Ayurvedic program that incorporates massage and meditation, or go for the Westernized programs that introduce you to juice fasting.

Where to Go: In Iowa, The Raj's Ayurvedic cleansing program begins with the ancient technique of pulse diagnosis and includes herbalized steam and oil relaxation treatments as well as gentle enema treatments. At the six-day Perfect Health workshop at the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California, you'll have a mind-body consultation with an M.D. before your Ayurvedic treatments and cleanse. Book a juice-cleanse package at Kimpton's Topaz Hotel in D.C. and at Kimpton's Hotel Palomar in San Francisco.

Hot Springs and Thermal Baths

Trend: Soaking in the health benefits and social experience of natural hot springs.

Some trends never go out of style. Bathing in hot springs, the world's oldest spa experience, is one such trend—it even predates Roman times. Spafinder research points to a marked rise in people seeking out social experiences, and hot springs continue to be popular places to relax and connect. Several new developments and major refurbishments of traditional hot springs are happening around the world. It's no wonder. A study presented at last year's Global Hot Springs Forum showed that thermal mineral waters with at least one gram per liter of minerals resulted in 100 percent positive outcomes for pain improvement and quality of life.

Where to Go: Next summer, at the edge of Yellowstone National Park in Paradise Valley, the Royal Teton Ranch Hot Springs is set to open with geothermal pools, a spa, and rustic cabins. In the meantime, check out our list of great hidden hot springs.

Read the original story: Wellness Travel 101: Vacation Your Way to a Better You by Jamie Moore, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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