The New Dawn of Integrated Wellness in China
By Michael Koethner Wellness & Healing Consultant, Michael Koethner | December 22, 2013
Quote: "The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness." – Abraham Maslow
As we all know by now, everything changes pretty much every nanosecond, and the scriptures from multiple past and present resources verify that everything is in constant motion, at all times. The industry of health and wellness is very much consumed by change these days in order to keep track and adapt to a this changing environment, and it seems like that it is currently only reacting to the exterior demands of larger companies and individual investors, instead of setting a mark for the far and distant future.
Looking at some images and articles of spas, bathing houses, and health clinics from a few centuries ago through to the recent past and present time, it becomes obvious that the industry has had an interesting journey of adaptation, development and change. Some sources suggest that the spa and wellness industry, as it is known today, started back in ancient Egypt, or in the small town of spa in Belgium. Other sources say the spa has its origin in ancient China, Russia, and Japan or with the natives in America and Australia. But all sources recognize one common key factor; it has its origin in the cleansing of the body, be it by washing of the dirt on the skin or the internal cleansing through water or meditation. The evolution of hygiene and the discovery of the healing qualities of water were part of a worldwide social development and led to the realization that it was very important to keep the human body healthy, for a manifold of reasons; as the healthy body is capable of evolving better and achieving much more than a ill or deformed body. In the old times bathing facilities were rare and people had to take turns washing themselves every other day or even only once a week for that matter. Then came the infamous black plaque in medieval times and spread across greater Europe into parts of Asia, and the fear of illness scared people, but it also forced them to think about alternatives to overcome the disastrous and unhealthy living conditions. This unfortunate period also forced people to become more conscious of the fact that their bodies needed support and assistance to protect them from further harm, in order to survive. It increased the awareness of the importance of cleansing and hygiene, stronger than ever before.
History has shown many times over, that human beings unfortunately only learn and evolve if they find themselves in harmful or distressful circumstances and situations. The news of the black plaque from far Europe traveled fast to the east and set a momentum for rethinking and development. The positive side effect of this era was, that in some countries like Japan or China, for example, washing and cleansing became a must for every citizen. Soon sacred bathing and healing ceremonies were born out of the need to feel and look clean and healthy. They then extended into long and exciting habitual rituals that captured the awareness and interest of the general public and businessmen alike. In Japan, the onsen baths developed and were soon to be found in various mountainous areas, surrounded by lush natural forest and fresh air, providing and incredible beautiful environment for all visitors and guests. The Chinese started with the simple common public bathhouse in major cities in each of the provinces, to accommodate its large population. These bathing temples usually included traditional Chinese massage accompanied by traditional Chinese medicine consultations. On the other side of the globe in countries located in the Middle East governments and businessmen build large bathhouses, today well-known and respected as Hamam, were body-cleansing ceremonies were performed for the public in order to enhance their inner and outer body strength. These techniques made people feel and look clean and energized. In Germany the very early type healing centers were build, named Sanatoriums, were highly qualified doctors practiced the art of natural medicine, such as Homeopathy, Naturopathy, physiotherapy techniques, and water treatments that actually healed patients without the use of manufactured medicine. These developments allowed new industries to flourish and provided new business opportunities that did not exist until then.
In the course of this development the Chinese even discovered and created unique techniques and a philosophy of how to heal and treat the body with different types of Water applied to cure certain ailments and/or conditions. For example: rainwater collected in springtime was suitable for a tonifying decoction. Rainwater collected in winter was suitable to get rid of parasites. Drinking stream water helped to relieve abdominal discomfort. Bathing in hot spring water was beneficial for spasms, skin diseases, hair loss and muscular and joint problems. Rice steam would have a lubricating effect. The discovery of the different healing features of water was later also discovered by the late Sebastian Kneipp in Bavaria, Germany. He later developed a healing technique and provided similar prescriptions as the Chinese did a few years earlier.
As with every new development, there was a need, then a requirement of a more in-depth education with which to overcome setbacks, accommodate rapid growth, and cautiousness, also the curiosity about the discovery of health and hygiene. This new industry was a discovery indeed. The more bathhouses were built the better the quality would turn out to be; with more artistic features to enhance its exterior and interior look. Bathing and healing eventually became a fashionable pastime as it moved into the awareness of the upper class in the key metropolitan cities of that time; before it really opened up a market for the general public who could later enjoy a relaxing cleaning ceremony in a bathhouse near their home. The drawback was, the demand of new bathhouses to be built increased, forcing some operators to think about new strategies to provide more space, to employ more qualified doctors, therapists and staff. The people eventually could not keep up with the fast growing industry and somehow lost control due to lack of foresight, knowledge, experience and regulation, Therefore, they failed to deliver. Soon most of the bathhouses were compromised and neglected because of carelessness on behalf of the public, false promises given by the operator or developer, too many fancy ideas, and a lack of financial support.
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