Why Australia has an obsession with wellness

I bought a shakti mat during Black Friday sales because if you dangle the words “deep relaxation” and “stress relief” over a tired toddler-mum on the verge of Christmas, she’ll jump, like a cat to catnip. My Instagram had me all worked out, throwing ads at me daily: attractive, yogi-looking people lying in total blissed-out states, all nurturing their mind-body connection.

For those of you who haven’t joined the bandwagon, it’s basically a yoga mat with plastic spikes for some amateur acupuncture — kind of like lying on a bed of nails but without tetanus. I mean, it could be anything, really, and I would have bought it. You could sell me a DIY coffee colonic kit if you told me it would make me more chilled (oh wait, Gwyneth Paltrow already tried).

Wellmania can be a bed of nails.Credit:Karl Hilzinger

I am the embodied target market for most wellness fads: mid-30s, busy, 21st-century mum. I can see a bunch of slick executives sitting around a table devising new ways to grab my attention and money (“Yes! We need a woman with a sore, achy neck in the ad! With kids hanging off her legs!” ) I’m really not that hard to access; all you need to open with is “are you tired?” and you’ve got me.

My shakti mat arrives, and brimming with hope, I lay down. I suddenly realise the word “shakti” must be Sanskrit for “pain”. I wonder if it’s the sharp pain that keeps your mind from wandering. I roll off the mat; my back is red and covered in tiny spots, like I’ve been violently attacked by angry ants.

I’ve tried it all. I did a salt float and spent most of the time thrashing around in a less-than-zen-like state because a bit of salt-water condensation dropped into my eye. I have sleepy tea every night. Any herbal pill with the word ‘stress’ on the bottle is probably in my cupboard. I downloaded all the meditation apps that compete for space on my phone with pictures of my babies.

Netflix is set to release a TV show of Brigid Delaney’s Wellmania, starring Celeste Barber, which Annabel Crabb described as an “entertaining semi-colonic”, just in time for all our New Year’s resolutions. Delaney volunteered herself for a range of treatments and experiences to find out why we’re so obsessed with this idea of wellness (even the word sounds like a marketing executive’s invention).

Matt Golding

Matt GoldingCredit:Fairfax

According to the Global Wellness Institute, the Australian wellness industry is ranked 10th in the world with a total spending of $US84 million. 

We get all sorts of scammers pimping out the only product you’ll ever need again. And why wouldn’t they, with such a plentiful market? Wellness scammers have been operating since the dawn of time, ever since the fountain of eternal youth (which Paltrow tried to bottle: gel water, anyone?)


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