Whether you’re after a luxury spin on ’70s spirituality or a high-tech approach to tradition, the biggest wellness trends of 2018 require an open mind and a healthy dose of skepticism.

“Wellness” is a divisive concept. Is it a much-needed escape hatch from an age of constant digital noise, or – as actress Hari Nef memorably quipped – “a thing that upper-class white women in their 30s invented in order to battle invisible demons that don’t exist”? Whatever your position, the world of wellness accounts for a very visible $3.7 trillion global industry, with wellness tourism growing more than twice as fast as tourism in general. According to industry body the Global Wellness Institute, a great deal of that expansion is happening in alternative therapies. “Things that felt so hippy-ish and ’70s are now absolutely the number one wellness trend in the West,” says the institute’s director of research and PR, Beth McGroarty. “The more kooky or whacky the treatment, the bigger it is.” Here’s a teaser.

Salt Therapy

Let’s get this out of the way: there is no scientific evidence that sitting in a room built from salt blocks will improve symptoms of asthma, arthritis, eczema or any other ailment – except, perhaps, an electrolyte deficiency, in which case licking the walls may help. That being said, one look at the salt chamber in the spa at Sirene Luxury Hotel Bodrum along Turkey’s idyllic Aegean coast will have you checking any reservations at the door.

Crystal Light Bed Therapy

Forget a balanced diet, these days it’s all about balanced chakras – or is it energy fields? Don’t get too hung up on the details because everyone from Adele to Victoria Beckham is embracing the pleasing aesthetic and suspect healing properties of precious gems and stones. Crystal Light Bed Therapy involves the afflicted party lying on a massage table beneath seven glowing rainbow-coloured Vogel-cut quartz crystals (one for each chakra) and first emerged in the John of God healing community of Brazil. More recently, however, it’s captured the attention of So-Cal yogis and East Coast fashionistas who will gladly pay US$120 a pop for a restorative session.

According to Modrn Sanctuary, a Manhattan luxury wellness centre that specialises in the practice, crystals will “shine on and off in healing rhythms to cleanse, balance and align energies”. And, if nothing else, they’ll look very nice on your Instagram feed.

Infrared Saunas 

The oldest known sauna is just a pit of stones in Finland, but over the past two millennia this ancient tradition has undergone multiple face-lifts. The latest – and trendiest – incarnation is the infrared sauna, which uses infrared light waves to create heat in the body instead of the air. The lower temperatures mean you can stay in longer, all the better for treating everything from high blood pressure to arthritis, if devotees are to be believed. Miranda Kerr has one installed in her guesthouse, but the rest of us can sweat in style at Nimbus & Co in Sydney’s Bondi Beach.


“The old model of excess, – the party mentality – is not as affordable for people any more,” says McGroarty, citing a new, health-conscious breed of millennial traveller as a changing force within the industry. That said, excess always finds a way, and it doesn’t get more wonderfully excessive than sipping on a glass of wine, while soaking in a bath of wine – you know, for the anti-ageing properties. French beauty brand Caudalie was the first to catch onto the skin-softening benefits of grape seed polyphenols, but these days you can soak in a vat of vino everywhere from Tuscany to Japan. 

The Cult Fitness Class

The latest status workouts are about more than just rock-hard abs – they’re about spirituality and rock-hard abs. Taryn Toomey’s The Class in NYC combines a vigorous workout with “clearing your space” (read: burpees with a side of cathartic screaming) but for the real new-wave experience, spend a day in Runyon Canyon hiking and breathing heavily with The Wildfire Initiative, a fitness club led by four LA gym bros who offer “cutting-edge presence training to usher in a new era of awareness and to manifest the great reality”. Meet-ups are free to attend and happen every Sunday, so there’s no need to feel intimidated. Remember, they’re just your average collection of actors, models and Olympians getting outdoors, enjoying each other’s company and fine-tuning their perfect torsos.

Sound Bathing

Bizarre name aside, sound bathing, which involves relaxing to the sound of Tibetan singing bowls or bowls made of metal or quartz crystals, may actually serve as a useful meditation aid for novices who struggle to reach Nirvana through breath work alone. Think of it as meditating to a soundtrack. The Integratron – a repurposed out-of-this-world domed structure described by its creator as “a time machine for basic research on rejuvenation, anti-gravity and time travel” in California’s Mojave Desert – will transport you to another world before you even shut your eyes.


Vows of silence have long been a religious practice in many faiths, but in recent years they’ve become a popular wellness trend thanks to what McGroarty calls “the endless noise and digital noise” of modern life. Research suggests a period of silence can lower stress hormones and boost overall happiness and endorsements from Gisele Bundchen and Emma Watson don’t go astray either. If all you want is some damn peace and quiet then you’re in luck, because silence is getting supercharged by a new generation of silent hotels, spas, restaurants, gyms, airports and even hair salons. Try Therme Laa Hotel and Spa in Austria, which bills itself as the first comprehensively silent spa experience. 

Wellness architecture

Design that makes you feel better simply by checking in? That’s the goal for many of the travel industry’s most luxurious destination properties, where there’s a growing penchant for everything from air and water purifiers to in-room dawn simulation and circadian lighting. Biophilic design, which encompasses natural materials, vegetation, light, sustainability and regional culture is a focus in all Six Senses hotels, including their Qing Cheng Mountain resort, which works in harmony with its UNESCO listed surroundings to create a sense of relaxation and calm.

SEE ALSO: Exotic Spa and Wellness Experiences

Top image: Crystal light bed therapy.

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