Ice Baths. Cryo-Chambers. Hikes at Dawn. Why Spa-Goers Want Hardcore Wellness Now.

I HAD SECOND THOUGHTS awaiting my turn for the (then very rare) cryotherapy tank at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort in 2019. I watched, pale-faced and quivering, as a few brave souls rotated upright in that tank like Sam’s Club rotisserie chickens. I’d white-knuckled it through a colonic at Deer Lake Lodge in Montgomery, Texas, years earlier but 3.5 minutes in a minus-160 degree container for a restorative boost felt extreme.

That was then. For 2023, spa enthusiasts are seeking out such grueling treatments almost routinely, and paying handsomely for them, all in the name of wellness. It’s no longer about being pampered but going all in to get healthy.

Luxury retreats and medical-spas have responded with hardcore wellness menus to satisfy that urge. In addition to the “touchless wellness” of the sort of cryo chamber I endured, you can splurge on medically-supervised colonics, brain biofeedback and wheatgrass enemas, one of the tempting components of a holistic detox at the Farm at San Benito, a medical-wellness retreat in Lipa, Batangas, south of Manila in the Philippines. New Yorkers can indulge in $350 multivitamin IV drips and $50 ice baths at the Remedy Place, a “social wellness club” in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, while Carillon treats resort guests and day trippers ($140 day pass) who have signed up for the thermal hydrotherapy circuit to an “experiential rain” shower simulating a Caribbean monsoon. Because, why not?

“There’s been a return to extreme effort for extreme benefit,” said Beth McGroarty, vice president of research for the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit in Miami focused on preventative health. “People coming out of the pandemic wanted a radical reset of their bodies and their brains.” Tammy Pahel, Carillon’s vice president of spa and wellness operations notes a sea change in the info guests seek and the treatments booked. “People are looking for a deep dive into their personal health,” said Ms Patel. “In 2019, ‘wellness’ was laying on the beach and drinking piña coladas.”

Sometimes extreme effort simply means putting in the work—eating healthy vegan meals and hiking for hours—a philosophy guiding the Ashram in Calabasas, Calif., since 1974. Not a whole lot has changed over the 44 years that Houston resident Judy Tate has been visiting the legendary spa in the Santa Monica mountains. Same ultra-spartan, dormitory-style lodging with shared bathroom, same pared-down vegan menu, same grueling, 11-mile hikes at dawn.

“The Ashram is not glamorous,” Ms. Tate said. But it gets results, said Kyle Ericksen, a New York City photographer, who said she slimmed down so quickly during a week there her fanny pack slid off her waist during a hike.


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