Let’s take women’s health. Last year the ‘yoni egg’ blew up in popularity thanks to renowned wellness brand Goop selling it on their website. The eggs are crafted from semiprecious stones such as jade and are designed to be inserted into the vagina for pelvic floor strengthening exercises. However, the yoni egg was slated by medical professionals and gynaecologists for being unsafe (stones are porous, meaning they are impossible to clean and harbour harmful bacteria) and unfounded (there is no clinical research into the efficacy of yoni eggs). Eventually, Goop lost a lawsuit and was forced to pay a six-figure fine. Despite the customers who had spent £60 on the product and the unknown number of users who had adverse health effects, it also cast a dubious light over pelvic floor trainers as a whole.
Goat yoga, semiprecious stones for vagina health, vaginal steaming, bum sunbathing… Nothing shocks us when it comes to wellness pursuits. But the unfortunate reality is that while influencers and brands cash in on the world’s wellness obsession (latest estimations state that the industry is worth over $4 trillion) by pushing dubious practises and unfounded fads, a shadow is cast over the principles that could serve to help millions of people, preventing them from being respected and adopted by modern medicine.
Pelvic floor prolapse is a common health problem among women, and can cause a host of complications including urinary incontinence and loss of sexual sensation. In fact, one in three women will develop a pelvic floor problem following childbirth, so to say a solution is needed would be an understatement. “I was shocked that incontinence and pelvic floor issues affect such a large percentage of women in the UK,” says Tania Boler, founder of smart pelvic floor trainer Elvie. Elvie has not only undergone rigorous safety testing, but it is also scientifically-proven to help women recover from prolapse. For them to be lumped in the same category as jade eggs would be a grave shame and a missed opportunity to help millions of women.
“The faddy type of commercialisation is unsurprisingly depressing,” says Will Williams, founder of Beeja Meditation. Meditation is one wellness pursuit that has been proven to alleviate everything from mental health disorders to helping to ward off dementia – a far cry from some of the more dubious practices being presented under the guise of wellness.
“Harvard neuroscientists did a study that demonstrated how meditation resulted in the growth of the hippocampus which in turn leads to greater recall capabilities,” explains Will. “The left and right frontal lobes become more balanced leaving you feeling better able to make rational healthy choices in a calm state of mind, and also reducing stress levels.” Meditation also helps to improve sleep – a crucial aid to more than one third of Brits who suffer from insomnia. “The resonance of the sounds used, calm down the nervous system, decrease the activation of your brains alarms systems, and resets your body’s circadian rhythms so that it knows when to wake up and when to fall asleep. As a result, it lengthens deep sleep cycles, increases sleep efficiency and maximises total sleep time.”
Such benefits are often dismissed by people who have heard one too many questionable claims by those within the wellness industry. Take the instance of bum sunbathing, otherwise dubbed as “Perineum Sunning”, the ancient Taoist practice. According to advocates, including Instagram’s MetaphysicalMeagan, exposing your bum to the sun can provide “surges of energy almost immediately, better sleep, better connection to my sexual energy and control of my life force.” Spoiler alert – doctors have dismissed these claims.
Wellness began as a ray of hope for people who suffered with conditions that were often overlooked by modern medicine, especially certain plights of women who statistically are still underrepresented in clinical trials. However, the ever-expanding exploitation of wellness has begun to diminish any chance of practices obtaining the recognition much of it deserves.