In this piece for The Cut, Amy Larocca investigates various aspects of the wellness industry, including homeopathy, natural medicine, spiritual exercise classes, and meditation, exploring why these modalities have gained so much popularity.
“Diets, exercise, and various versions of self-care have been around forever: Antecedents are found at an Austrian spa still famous for its enemas and in 1970s L.A., where wheatgrass was just as popular as cocaine. The seeds were in the Jane Fonda workout and the Scarsdale diet, in the EST movement and the yoga craze that brought us Lululemon. In 1978, this magazine ran a cover story on ‘The Physical Elite,’ the new class of people who had quit smoking and devoted themselves to working out. Some were known to make odd food demands, like requesting that an entire onion be concealed in an omelet.
Four decades later, wellness is not only a word you hear every day; it’s a global industry worth billions — one that includes wellness tourism, alternative medicine, and anti-aging treatments. The competition for a hunk of that market is intense: In Manhattan, two for-profit meditation studios are vying to become the SoulCycle of meditation, and Saks Fifth Avenue has temporarily converted its second floor into a ‘Wellery’ where you can experience aroma and light therapy in a glass booth filled with salt, or get plugged into a meditation app during a manicure. Every giant corporation has a wellness program: yoga at Goldman Sachs, communal sleep logs at JPMorgan Chase. A new magazine has debuted out on Long Island this summer, Hamptons Purist. (‘Look around the city,’ says its editor, Cristina Greeven, who came up with the idea on a surfboard in Costa Rica: ‘It used to be a butcher, a baker, and a hardware store. Now it’s SoulCycle, Juice Press, and a meditation place.’) It will have to compete with the Goop magazine, to be edited by Paltrow and published by Condé Nast, which this spring also announced the launch of Condé Nast Pharma, a division that offers ‘brand-safe’ wellness-based content to pharmaceutical advertisers. The advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi has its own wellness division, capitalizing on ‘women’s unmet wellness needs’ in the marketplace.”