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Holistic Holidays

It's the wellness trend of the moment that everyone is talking about, but it's still hard to pinpoint: holistic spas. The idea behind it is as simple as it is old: it's about perceiving the body as a holistic system.

24 November 2021

The whole is more than the sum of its parts", as Aristotle (384-322 BC) already knew. The philosopher thus brought an insight to the point in antiquity that was ignored for far too long. The holistic view of systems - holistic derives from the Greek word "hólos", which means "whole" - was already known to primitive peoples. They saw themselves as part of a larger whole and knew that it can be fatal to consider only one aspect of life. For these people it was vital to understand connections, for example the one between eating a pretty red mushroom with white dots and death shortly afterwards. Even in ancient times, a holistic approach to life prevailed. In the course of time, however, this awareness disappeared.

From part to individual

Man no longer wanted to be seen as part of a collective; every part of life experienced individualization, even the body system. The fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) already defined "health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease" in its 1946 statutes went largely unnoticed. Different disciplines established themselves in medicine, which led to luminaries developing in their respective fields - and becoming blind to other areas or the recognition of broader interrelationships.
With one small exception in the 15th century: "At that time, the Swiss-Austrian physician Paracelsus advocated treating not symptoms but causes and understanding people as thinking, feeling, animate beings," explains spa expert Dagmar Rizzato. She founded her company Rizza-to Spa Consulting in 2003, which aims to professionalize wellness and spa businesses. "The result was that he was called a 'heretic of medicine,'" Rizzato recounts. However, this specialization-which is now considered a weakness of the healthcare system and the reason why more and more people are turning away from mainstream medicine and seeking their salvation in alternative methods like Ayurveda-was also responsible for some of the greatest achievements within medicine. "With the help of specializations, orthodox medicine has accomplished the greatest things," writes, for example, the physician Prof. Dr. Johannes Huber in his book "Der holistische Mensch" (The Holistic Man). He cites the development of antibiotics and painkillers as examples. But mankind itself also strove for greater individualisation - the reasons were increased prosperity, shorter working hours and an increase in education. In short, people had the time and the means to occupy themselves with themselves. This change took place above all during the 1960s. It was no coincidence that fitness studios gained in importance during this period: in 1962 the first gym chain opened in the USA, and three years later Gold's Gym was the first franchising studio to be launched. The world exercised through the decades, each decade had its own trends and icons - just think of the legendary VHS videos with aerobics queen Jane Fonda.

... and back again

The idea of wellness was still relatively new then, because only shortly before, in the 1970s, the young physician John W. Travis opened a wellness center in California. Unlike conventional medicine, he didn't just want to treat symptoms, but to motivate people to do something for their health, to take responsibility and to rethink their lifestyle. The very beginnings of the wellness movement were therefore a first return to holistic thinking: health and well-being were - again - brought into connection with lifestyle. In the 1980s, hotels offering wellness became established and began their triumphal march around the world. In the early 2000s, it was finally realized that "relaxed and not sick" was not enough either - "Holistic Spas" were born.

Transcendence. Spirituality is also lived in holistic spas: at One & Only Palmilla in Mexico, guests can participate in ancient Mayan rituals. © Rupert Peace


Holism in the spa

They do not focus on one aspect of well-being and health, but understand the body as a holistic system, whose parts are in mutual relationship with each other, as well as with the outside world. Man as a wholeness of body, mind and soul is thus again a part of his social, natural and artificial environment. Even spirituality is seen as an essential part of holistic well-being. Now "holistic" is a vaguely defined term; it is difficult to delineate. "Like many terms that pop up in the wellness industry, this one has become inflationary," explains Dagmar Rizzato. "When we talk about holism, it's always about depth and dimension. Just because you have a swimming pool, a sauna and a lounging area in your hotel doesn't mean you offer a holistic experience." So an entire discipline like medicine can be just as holistic as a single treatment, a retreat, a meal, or your entire life. In the spa world, this is usually understood to mean measures that incorporate as many aspects of the human being as possible in their wellness offerings. This is done through nutritional counseling, traditional medicine, alternative healing methods, spiritual rites, stress reduction measures, psychotherapy, manual therapy, animal assisted therapy and sports. Even beauty treatments can be included, as they lead to an improvement in psychological well-being as well as to a radiant appearance. The offer is evolving away from the classic "spa menu", from which wellness seekers select those treatments that they just find enjoyable, towards packages or whole retreats recommended by the expert - in the best case, tailor-made and adapted to individual needs. "Covid is fuelling this trend. People crave social attention, tactile attention, quality therapeutic attention; right down to 'hidden strokes'. It's not about loosening a muscle, it's about looking at what's underneath. That's where holism begins," Rizzato, a renowned spa and wellness expert, knows. "Holism is not a trademarked term, though. As an end user, you have to decide for yourself: What is good for me? How am I being advised? Does the advice go into depth?" Because a lot also happens psychologically, the environment must also be right: Light, ambience, room temperature, design - all these factors play a major role. Holism has not only made its way into the wellness industry, but has also arrived in many areas of daily life. This now also includes medicine: "We are in the world of holism and are entering new territory almost daily. The research surprises us, the connections impress us. Common processes are peppered with 'aha effects'. Familiar substances reveal themselves from hitherto completely unknown sides. It is as if we were sitting in an increasingly dense spider's web, in which a new thread appears with every new discovery," Huber writes.

Holism as a lifestyle

Those who strive for a holistic way of life do not only take care that they themselves are well - they consider their environment, live sustainably, conserve resources, behave fairly towards their fellow human beings and give high priority to mental and physical health. The methods chosen to achieve this vary. They range from regular health checks at the general practitioner to talk therapies, spirituality, sports, mindfulness and stays in holistic wellness facilities. 

Meditation by the sea. In harmony with nature: this is also a holistic approach and can be practiced or lived anywhere. ©Jonas Togo/Pexels

Best of Hotels

Eremito Hotelito Del Alma

The austere simplicity of ancient monasteries allows a view of the essentials and luxuries of the third millennium

How does luxury define itself? A question that is answered at the "Eremito Hotelito Del Alma" simply with "landscape, tranquility and spirituality". In fact, the property only carries one star, but that's by design: the hotel is the ideal place for those in search of inner peace and clarity, because far too often the chaos of daily life shifts priorities. Housed in an early third-century hermitage, "Eremito" has offered a new luxury format for solo travelers since 2013. You sleep in so-called cells ("celluzze"), which are modeled after ancient monastic cells, not in rooms or suites.
These have a queen-size bed and a small bathroom with shower. No technical frills are a distraction; rooms are warmed by antique wood-fired underfloor heating. You'll look in vain for Wi-Fi, telephones and TVs, but you'll find a stone desk with a view of the green valley - and plenty of peace and quiet. Meditation, reflection and contemplation come easily without distractions. The mind and body are to be reconnected with the important things in life.
come into contact with each other. The meals are served in the refectory, with dishes made exclusively from fresh, high-quality raw materials and ingredients. The vegetables and herbs grow directly on the estate. Traditionally, the meal is taken in silence. Here, too, the focus is on simplicity; the dishes come from the culinary tradition of Umbria. In the spa of the "Eremito", those seeking tranquility will find new balance, relaxation and well-being against the backdrop of ancient Gregorian chants and thick stone walls. A yoga room and relaxation area with steam baths, stone seating and walls, and a whirlpool with color therapy and massage are available to guests. Regularly changing retreats are offered. Single room including full board from € 230,- per person.

Eremito Hotelito Del Alma*,
Località Tarina 2, 05010 Parrano TR, Italy
T: +39 0763 891010

Silence, tranquillity and seclusion. True luxury lies in simplicity, Marcello Murzilli, the founder of the "Eremito", is certain. ©Marco Ravasini

Quellenhof Luxury Resort Lazise

Dolce Vita in the midst of olive groves and pine forests with a view of Lake Garda

The wellness and spa offer at the "Quellenhof Luxury Resort Lazise" is unparalleled on Lake Garda. On 2000 m2 guests experience here an adults-only sauna area with Finnish sauna, steam bath and bio sauna, a family and textile sauna area as well as several treatment rooms, private spa suite, a year-round heated ski pool, an
sports pool, a natural swimming lake and children's pool. Culinary delights are provided by the gourmet half-board with breakfast buffet, six-course menu in the evening and dishes from the lunch and afternoon menu. In addition to exceptional service and the beautiful location, the resort also scores points with its modern design, a
enchanting garden and a high-quality in-house cosmetics line. Suite Oliva from € 510,- per night.

Quellenhof Luxury Resort Lazise*****,
Via del Terminon 19, 37017 Lazise VR, Italy
T: +39 045 8531000

Fantastic views. In addition to the pool with a view, guests can choose from a daily changing activity programme. ©Alexander Haiden

One & Only Palmilla

The ancient knowledge and proven techniques of ancient cultures are still upheld by spiritual healers today.

The spa at One & Only Palmilla offers holistic rituals, massages, treatments and retreats. Particularly popular are the immersive healing rituals, which are based on the millennia-old knowledge of indigenous peoples. The wellness therapies and treatments are guided by a spiritual healer and are designed to purify the body and mind. The personalized experience begins with a consultation with Alicia Kanxoc, a Mayan descendant.
Aside from the exceptional spa retreats, the luxury resort in Los Cabos offers plenty of space, privacy, five excellent restaurants, lounges and bars, a beautiful poolscape and adventures on land and sea. Accommodations include spacious rooms, luxurious suites and private villas with butler service. Double room including half board from € 266,- per person.

One & Only Palmilla*****,
Carr. Transpeninsular, Tourist Corridor, 23400 San José del Cabo, B. C.S. Mexico
T: +52 624 1467000

Ancient knowledge and traditions accompany guests at One&Only Palmilla. ©Rupert Peace

Mentalspa - Hotel Fritsch am Berg 

Embedded in the idyllic nature of the Lake Constance region, the family-run hotel helps to improve the quality of life.

While the demands of everyday life are becoming ever higher, the resilience of the individual is simultaneously decreasing - the result is an increasingly stressed society. In the "MentalSpa-Hotel Fritsch am Berg" one dedicates oneself in a founded and holistic health model to the physical and the psychological well-being. Classic wellness and health treatments are combined with psychosocial counselling from various fields, such as mental and systemic coaching, psychological counselling, burn-out prevention and movement training. In addition, health, resilience and regeneration measurements are carried out by means of medical biofeedback. The aim is to sustainably improve the quality of life in the protected setting of a wellness holiday in a relaxed atmosphere with individual and personalised short-term interventions. The business has been owned by the Fritsch family since 1898, and has been expanded and renovated time and again since then. In 2014, the "MentalSpa-Hotel Fritsch am Berg" finally opened its doors in its current form (including mental spa, wellness offer with saunas, pools, gym, treatments, feel-good garden, fine cuisine and an appealing activity program). In the à la carte restaurant and in the hotel restaurant, the motivated team serves regional and seasonal delicacies, the ingredients for which come from our own farm and from selected producers; flavour enhancers are completely dispensed with. The unforgettable view over Lake Constance, the Swiss mountains and the Allgäu hills provide additional pleasure. The hotel's tasteful rooms and suites are modern retreats with magnificent views of the mountains, the island of Lindau, Lake Constance or across the
Rhine valley. All rooms are allergy friendly. The hotel welcomes guests from the age of 16 who are looking for peace and quiet. Double room including half board from € 124,- per person.

MentalSpa-Hotel Fritsch am Berg****,
Buchenberg 10, 6911 Lochau, Vorarlberg, Austria
T: +43 5574 43029

A place for all the senses. The wellness area on two floors is an island of relaxation for those seeking peace and quiet. ©

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue SPA Special 2021.

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