26 wellness trends to try now

A glossary of treatments, regimens and movements sweeping Asia Pacific

Photo by Franz Navarrete

It goes without saying that an increasingly stressed out world will inspire a world of stress-busters, from new forms of exercise to herbal supplements. Enter adaptogens, a family of herbs — like ginseng and reishi mushrooms — that have been known to help manage physical stress by calming the nerves and boosting the immune system. These natural substances were allegedly the tonic of choice among soldiers of ancient China and India, and now they’re making a comeback in hip juice bars as super-ingredients in power smoothies, and in the form of supplements available at online natural food retailers like iHerb. The physical toll of traveling is well-documented — from lugging heavy backpacks, to negotiating airport crowds and queues at airports, to sitting in a pressurized cabin for hours. If you’re looking at a busy calendar of ticking destinations off your bucket list, look into adaptogens and see what the buzz is about.

Bodyweight training
The Singapore Calisthenics Academy, one of the first gyms in Singapore to focus on bodyweight training (strength training exercises which use one’s own weight as a form of resistance, like lunges), might have been a forerunner in the trend when it opened in 2014. Lead instructor Jasen Teoh says he has seen a spike in interest in the equipment-free exercises this year. “Many people adjust these exercises to meet their chosen levels of intensity or difficulty.””

Cold-pressed coconut oil
The new darling of the wellness world, cold-pressed virgin coconut oil (produced in many coconut-growing Asian countries), is beloved for its healing properties. Fabian M. Dayrit of the Department of Chemistry at Ateneo de Manila University confirms that the oil’s lauric acid content, which supports hormone and cellular health, makes it easy for the body to absorb. While it’s not for every hair or skin type, the oil is acknowledged to be beneficial for most when used topically — a few drops, warmed between the hands, is adequate. Opt for the cold-pressed oil offered by Filipino specialist Santa Maria (at lazada.com.ph).

Dry bars

In July, about 20,000 people in Sydney pledged to abstain from alcohol for a month as part of the city’s 10th annual Dry July campaign. Held to raise funds for cancer patients, it also highlighted the importance of having healthier drinking habits. First seen in the UK — they began as social enterprises that supported recovering alcoholics — dry bars have started opening up in cities like Dublin and Paris. If you missed out on going dry in Sydney, look forward to Ocsober and Febfast; or visit Wild Kombucha, a non-alcoholic bar offering creative kombucha concoctions.

Energy drinks
An increasing number of people are looking to healthier alternatives to the traditionally synthetic and calorie-laden energy drinks. Market insiders say we’re likely to see a spike in demand for unsweetened, non-artificially caffeinated drinks that offer the energy-giving effects of natural ingredients. One such product is Steaz Energy, the world’s first Fair Trade Certified organic drink that consists of guarana berries, a potent source of caffeine, and yerba mate, a plant of the holly family that’s rich in antioxidants.

Fitness festivals
Wellness tourism already accounts for 15.6% of global tourism revenue as a growing number of people travel for yoga and running events. Large-scale outdoor gatherings like Singapore’s FitnessFest, held for the first time this year, will likely up that figure. Looking for a festival to attend? Sign up for Thailand Yoga, Art and Dance 2017, happening in Krabi (October 6 to 10), featuring 18 types of classes a day.

Goji berries

Goji berries or Chinese wolfberries are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine and are the most potent antioxidant according to the Oxygen Radical Absorbency Capacity chart of fruits, vegetables and essential oils. Antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage caused by free radicals in the environment and those naturally produced by the body. While relatively new in the Philippine market, goji berries are becoming increasingly in demand, according to Jannah Abueza, owner of online store Kombucha Philippines, which sells them. “Google searches for ‘goji berries’ rose 60% from May 2016 to May 2017,” she says. “This means people are doing research on it.”

High-intensity interval training
If your Instagram feed is turning into an ab-fest of #workoutgoals, that’s thanks in part to the growing popularity of HIIT, workouts that involve alternating very intense, short-duration exercises with varied recovery periods. The appeal is fairly obvious — it delivers the muscle-building and cardio workouts people need, in a fraction of the time. “You can do it in a studio that offers it, or conveniently at home,” says Manila-based certified HIIT coach Asha Macam-Velasco, who teaches at Life Yoga and Surya Fitness and Yoga.

Infusion therapy
The vitamin shot is getting a big boost. “Those who are frequently changing time zones or those who have insomnia need a bit of support,” says Dr Marian Alonzo, medical director at The Farm at San Benito in Lipa City. “That’s where the IV infusion comes in.” The infusion is a drip comprising water soluble B vitamins, vitamin C, glutathione and minerals such as magnesium, selenium and others. The composition is adjusted according to the individual’s nutritional requirements.

Cold pressed juices — extracted by first crushing then pressing fruits and vegetables using a juicer that doesn’t produce much heat and retains the healthy enzymes — have gained a large following in recent years, and many more are expected to turn to them for body cleanses.


Kombucha — a tonic made of black or green tea fermented with bacteria and yeast — is relatively new in the Philippines, but widely popular in the US, says Janna of Kombucha Philippines. It has been made famous by celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Gwyneth Paltrow. “I gauge the popularity of Kombucha through the inquiries I get from people online and off, and sales growth,” she says. Credit the steady interest to its benefits. The drink is rich in probiotics — the good bacteria that is great for cleaning your gut. Camelia sinensis, which is the main ingredient in making kombucha tea, is rich in polyphenol, an antioxidant that boosts the immune system.

Liver detox
Liver detoxification at The Farm flushes out toxins from the liver through a 20-hour process that involves periods of fasting, drinking green juice and Epsom salts, and, finally, a glass of olive oil. “The liver is the main detoxifying organ so anything that will help the liver will help the entire body,” Dr. Alonzo says. She adds that those who usually go out drinking to entertain clients avail of this program. The Farm needs the results of a liver ultrasound before performing a cleanse. “Many clients inquire about liver detoxification even before they come here,” says Dr. Sigfried Galang of The Farm. “And we’re expecting more clients to avail of it.”


Moxibustion or moxa is a TCM technique of heat therapy that involves the burning of dried wormword leaves — the herb is said to have properties that are anti-fungal, antibacterial, expectorative and antiasthmatic. “It’s usually applied over acupuncture points by heating the handles of acupuncture needles,” says Manila-based Dr Ann Calo Alvarez, who runs the Healing Leaves Medical Clinic and Wellness Center in Poblacion, Makati. The idea is to unblock a particular area in the body where, in TCM terms, there might be “stagnation”, “dampness” or “cold” to restore the flow of qi. Moxa is often used to treat arthritic conditions, frozen shoulders, sports related injuries, digestive conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, menstrual cramps, ovarian cysts, infertility and impotence. Up for a prick? Visit the Healing Leaves Medical Clinic and Wellness Center in Poblacion, Makati City.

Natural beauty
The case for adopting plant-based lifestyles — animal rights, environmental protection and organic health — has entered the personal care and cosmetics market under the banner term “natural beauty”. Specialist online retailers like Lococo carry local and international brands including Pacifica, a popular vegan makeup brand that makes a range of lipsticks and blushes, and local brand RRAW, which makes lip and cheek tints, coconut- and coffee-based body scrubs and a bestselling bamboo eyelash serum.

Onsen baths
Japan’s onsen, or hot spring baths, are public baths with separate sections for men and women that locals frequent for the soothing and healing properties of the mineral-rich waters. Yosuke Irie of Prince Hotels & Resorts, the company that runs the award-winning onsen at the Manza Prince Hotel, says, “The Japanese have long believed in toji, or ‘cure in onsen’ — the change in temperature from hot to cold leaves the bather refreshed; the thermal effect improves blood circulation and improves the skin.”

The favorite body-transforming exercise takes flight, literally. Studios around the network are adding aerial Pilates as a mainstay offering, as growing numbers of followers feel the stress-relieving benefits of working out upside down.

Quiet rooms
If you need quiet to get some shuteye, look for the Quiet Room label on your next trip. It’s the first and only objective certificate for quiet hotel rooms that are insulated against noise pollution. A polysomnographic technologist at N2Sleep Diagnostics, Michelle Kristine Chu provides evaluation and treatment for sleep disorders and related issues. “Noise is most disruptive during the light stages of sleep,”she says. “It hinders some from moving on to deeper sleep.” There are more than 150 hotels around the world with certified Quiet Rooms. And Kuala Lumpur International Airport now also provides a Silent Room for travelers looking for some peace and tranquillity.

Real food
The rise of the farm-to-table movement — and perhaps all those Netflix foodie shows you can’t help but binge-watch — have spurred the demand for real food, or natural and organic food products grown by boutique farms, by reminding us that we are what we eat.

Spa holidays

There’s no arguing with the curative powers of a do-nothing holiday by the sea, and few understand the need as much as destination retreats like Mandala Residences and Resort Villas in Boracay and Lotus Shores in Siargao. Mandala offers award-winning spa treatments, while Lotus Shores conducts meditation sessions and yoga classes. Both offer luxe accommodations in peaceful and green surroundings, as well as healthy meals.

Tone therapy
Using specific sound frequencies, tone therapy allows the body to absorb sound vibrations that activate cells to restore harmony to the body, mind and spirit. As Rosan Cruz, a sound healer who regularly holds gong bath sessions at Third Eye Wellness Center in BGC, Taguig explains, “The sound sessions can be for a specific healing need of an individual, or for a group of people. The latter is called a gong bath, where participants lie comfortably on the floor with eyes closed, and listen as he or she is bathed in soothing sound waves for 45 minutes.”

Usui reiki
Commonly referred to as reiki, the natural healing method uses spiritual energy to treat ailments through the laying of hands. Reiki was first developed in Japan in 1922 by Buddhist, Dr Mikao Usui, and has steadily built a following since then. “More people have been joining the classes now, compared to 10 years ago,” says Sarah Salcedo-Rubin, a reiki master at Mysterium Philippines, “and reiki is slowly being incorporated with medical care especially in the US and UK. It provides stress reduction and relaxation, and also boosts existing energy levels,” says Sarah. She is quick to add that reiki is more than a healing therapy, “It is also used as a spiritual path towards conscious awareness and mindful living.”

Vegan cuisine

There was a time when it was hard to imagine a meat-free plate in the Philippines, but the plant-based diet, as a way of keeping healthy, is taking root. Manila-based certified vegan cook Mabi David says proof of veganism’s rising popularity can be found in the product supply chain. “There is a rise because of a growing number of vegan suppliers and producers — as well as marketing geared towards this segment — they have purchasing power, are quite vocal and also supportive of the community,” she says. “For example, restaurants have started to identify vegan dishes or options to veganize dishes, without anyone blinking.”

White light meditation
Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey credit part of their success to a daily habit of meditation. Derived from ancient yogic meditation, white light healing chakra meditation sees practitioners imagining white light entering and cleansing the seven chakras, or centers of spiritual energy along the body.

Xhale breathing
It’s hard to believe, but the fact is not everyone is breathing the way we should be. “Attentive breathing trains you to be more perceptive of what’s going on in the body,” says certified yoga instructor Chinggay Labrador. The Xhale app assists with this by providing a breathing visualization that guides you in syncing your breath, leading you to improve your mental and physical well-being. Find it in the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

The Zen app offers a range of features that include guided meditations and a mood monitor. “The app reminds people to enjoy each moment,” says Clarity West-Ordonez, who teaches the breathing-focused Hatha yoga. She describes the zen state as being unattached to circumstances, good or bad. Find Zen on the Apple App Store.

This article first appeared in the August 2017 issue of Smile magazine.



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Louie-An Pilapil

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Tata Mapa

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Kimberley Koo

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Kamei Chong

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