NEW YORK – With a growing number of women approaching the age of hormonal changes – by 2025, about 1.1 billion women worldwide will have experienced menopause – the travel industry is catering to a new niche: Women who want help dealing with everything from hot flashes to mood swings, with perhaps some classic spa treatments thrown in.
Menopause-centred offerings vary widely, from mindfulness techniques and herbal remedies to nutritional guidance and exercise.
Sometimes, the most important activity is just the chance to bond with other women facing the same issues, experts say.
“There’s a great healing and discovery when a group of people are going through a similar circumstance,” says Ms Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and chief executive of Indagare, a membership-based travel company that recently announced its first midlife and menopause retreat.
At the Six Senses Hotel & Spa in Portugal’s Douro Valley, I recently took part in a three-day bespoke menopause retreat (rooms starting at €850 or S$1,240) to deal with my night sweats, migraines, joint pain and mood swings, and to get a greater understanding of the hormonal roller coaster I have been on.
After a health screening, I was given a tailored agenda to nurture and balance my ageing, changing body.
First up was a personalised strength-training session – squats, lunges, planks and resistance band exercises – to remedy my joint pain and build bone.
For my excessively dry skin, I was given a collagen-boosting facial – collagen production decreases with the loss of oestrogen that accompanies menopause – replete with serums and a mask for hydration.
To reduce inflammation, I trembled during a daily cold plunge, followed by 15 minutes in an infrared sauna.
The finale consisted of a 30-minute bio-hacking treatment, during which I wore thigh-high compression boots – think pulsating, vibrating currents moving up and down your legs – to enhance lymphatic drainage and relax sore muscles; listened to a guided meditation through headphones while wearing an eye mask; and experienced infrared light stimulation on my face, which is said to heal the cell renewal process and, again, stimulate collagen.
At the end, my entire body felt relaxed, but what it all added up to is hard to say.
Dr Lauren Streicher, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Northwestern University and host of the Menopause Podcast, is sceptical when it comes to claims that spa treatments will reduce the symptoms of menopause.
She warns women to beware of medical claims made by spas.
“It’s okay if you want to talk to other menopausal women, share information and get support,” she says. “The problem is when information is presented as if it’s scientific.”
If you are seeking medical advice about your symptoms – which some destinations offer – Dr Streicher advises knowing what specifically you are seeking to address, and recommends consulting with a licensed physician if you are considering long-term solutions, such as hormone replacement therapy.
Ms Biggs Bradley says she decided to offer a menopause retreat because “so many conversations on our trips have steered to the physical changes of the 40s and 50s and how to navigate them. Women were starved for information”.
Here are a few getaways with specific perimenopause and menopause programmes. What they all have in common is a focus on facing the inevitable hormonal changes that come with the ageing female body.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
The Stockbridge, Massachusetts, space will host its first menopause-focused retreat from Friday to Sunday, called “Unearthing the Wisdom of Menopause Rituals for Self-Care and Discovery”.
The weekend – guided by two members of Kripalu’s lead faculty – will focus less on symptoms and more on adjusting to overall bodily change.
There will be a combination of discussion, sharing circles, yoga, breath practices and tools from Ayurveda (the holistic approach of India’s ancient medical system).
The retreat includes meals and access to the centre’s grounds (US$299 or S$408 plus accommodation; rooms start at US$145).
Javvu Spa at the Amilla Maldives Resort
The four-day Pause menopause retreat is offered three times in September. Led by Ms Claire O’Sullivan, a women’s health and nutrition coach, this retreat is structured around four themes – balance, move, relax and evolve.
In addition to one-on-one coaching, the retreat includes treatments such as reflexology and light therapy. There are yoga and meditation sessions, and seminars on intuitive movement, stress reduction and hormone balancing (US$5,915, including room, meals and treatments).
Canyon Ranch Berkshires
Indagare’s Wise Women retreat at Canyon Ranch Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts, is the company’s first to focus on midlife and menopause.
The retreat from Oct 29 to Nov 2 will be hosted by Dr Robin Noble, an obstetrician-gynaecologist specialising in the menopausal transition.
There will be private consultations and daily group sessions addressing the impact of hormonal shifts on sleep, mood, bone and heart health, metabolism, fitness and sexual activity.
Each morning, guests can choose among the resort’s offerings, such as yoga and hiking. Afternoons and evenings are reserved for cooking classes and workshops on topics such as how to become your own health advocate (starts at US$4,500, including room, meals and activities).
Raj Ayurveda Health Spa
The spa in Fairfield, Iowa, offers a menopause programme using Ayurvedic treatments.
A five-day programme, offered year-round, begins with a private wellness consultation, including a pulse assessment from which a treatment plan is created.
Guests spend several hours a day in herbal body treatments to restore balance and remove impurities.
There is time for yoga and meditation, and personalised sessions with resident experts to monitor progress and devise a take-home plan to help maintain daily routines for nutrition, herbal therapies, yoga and meditation.
The Raj offers the choice of eating at a table with other guests or dining alone (starts at US$3,900, including room, meals and treatments).
Lake Nona Wave Hotel
Targeted at “active, performance-minded women in and beyond the menopause transition”, the weekend-long Feisty Menopause retreat – from Nov 16 to 18 – will take place at Lake Nona Wave Hotel in Orlando, Florida.
Led by a fitness coach-trainer and an orthopaedic surgeon, it will welcome two dozen women seeking to address the health and fitness goals that shift during menopause so they can stay active and avoid injury.
It will focus on exercise, strength training and nutrition, and includes a full body musculoskeletal analysis to look at movement patterns and areas of weakness.
Activities also include suspension yoga, resistance and barbell training, and even time for dancing (starts at US$2,500, including accommodation and some meals).
The boutique hotel in Alet-les-Bains in south-western France offers a five-day retreat facilitated by a nurse and a therapist, who aim to change the narrative around perimenopause and menopause – not just the hormonal changes, but also how they impact women’s lives and relationships.
Capped at six women, the retreat will include workshops and coaching sessions, plant-based meals to build oestrogen, meditation, massage, tincture-making with a herbalist and yoga.
Retreats will be held in November, and in April and September 2024 (starting at £1,350 or S$2,300, including room and meals).
The spa hotel in South Tyrol, Italy, has a week-long menopause-wellness retreat offered during February, March, June and September.
The programme includes 22 treatments – ranging from massages and acupuncture to deep breathing and holistic coaching sessions. There are also medical wellness sessions, dance and voice classes, forest bathing and many outdoor trails nearby to check out (€1,987, not including room and meals; room and meals start at €212).
The wellness resort located an hour from Barcelona, Spain, will offer its five-day Renew and Harmonize Retreat in March.
Each day focuses on a theme. For example, Reconnect highlights the body-mind connection, while Recover concentrates on mindfulness and stress reduction.
The retreat is led by a fitness specialist, a physician and a nutritionist, and includes treatments such as cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (starts at €2,128, including room and meals). NYTIMES
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