7 Game Changers In The Wellness Industry

By Elaine Kelly

Let me say from the outset that this article is based on my person opinion, experience and discussions with clients, doctors and businesses I work with.

I am writing this article from Kripalu, the largest not for profit yoga based retreat center in North America which annually attracts over 50,000 guests.  Their curriculum of courses is aimed to help people heal, transform and grow. As I look to 2017 and the game changers that will shape the wellness industry I see a change of focus to treating the whole person rather than just the symptoms. As the rates of diabetes and heart disease continue to rise, doctors realise that allopathic medicine is only one part of the cure. Education and prevention will take center stage, all great news for people like me who specialize in helping transform lives through practices like yoga.

So here are my top 7. I’d love to hear your thoughts on them.

1. Prevention Over Medication

As health care costs become the responsibility of corporate employers in the UAE, companies will start to examine these costs and look at ways to lower them.  Prevention is much more cost effective than treatment for chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are at epidemic levels in the UAE.  I received a call from an insurance provider last week who wants me to meet a client whose physiotherapy costs are soaring due to poor posture in the workplace. It makes sense to address the core issue where it begins.

2. Treating the Patient Not the Disease

As we more fully understand the effects of stress on the physical body we realize the importance of looking at the whole person, from a both psychologically and physically. There is a new form of medicine, Functional Medicine, which is a much more holistic approach. There are clinics like Eternity and DNA healthcorp which offer comprehensive health screenings including vitamins and minerals as well as main indicators like Vitamin D, B spectrum and magnesium, all very important for anyone who is suffering from insomnia or excessive weight that just will not shift. By assessing the body’s bank of necessary nutrients and vitamins first, doctors can take a full view of the patient’s health and address nutritional deficiencies before or along with any supplements or medication. The phrase “We are what we think we are”, is so true. Thoughts manifest into actions. I see a rise in cognitive behavioural therapy and yoga therapy referrals as doctors and patients, look for non-medicated ways to deal with stress.

3. Growth in plant based, Ethical Eating products and services

When I moved to Dubai as a vegetarian in 1994, the only vegetarian food was Indian in Karama. In the past 2 years, 3 raw and vegan restaurants have opened and there are more on the way. The Famous Pret a Manger UK chain, has finally opened at Dubai airport and during a recent visit to London, I visited their first Veggie Pret restaurant. The response has been so successful, they plan to convert 1 in 6 of their cafes to vegetarian. There is a growth in lactose free foods with companies like Coco Yogo, in Dubai.  Owner and Founder, Turner was working a day job and her dairy free business on the side.  But she has been so successful that this year she moved full time to support her business and has expanded her range of products to include vegan cheeses and launched an online shop. On a recent visit to London, my son took me to the first non-dairy ice cream parlour, Yorica. Even the marshmallows and oreo cookie toppings are vegan. The place was packed!

4. Yoga Therapy for specialized groups

With yoga studios popping up everywhere and more and more students attending teacher trainings, the market is getting saturated with classes. Everyone, it seems these days is doing yoga. I see a greater specialization for groups with special needs who cannot attend your typical Vinyasa style class. These include yoga for diabetes, obesity and breast cancer to name but a few. Yoga isn’t just for the fit and flexible, it is a method of treating the whole person and is wonderful for particular groups with specific conditions.  This is the area I am now focusing on in my business.

5. Growth in Wearable fitness aps

The Apple watch and other devices will be used more and more to monitor more and more aspects of our fitness. I recently ran a fitness seminar at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and they had purchased fit bits for all their staff to monitor their progress during their annual fitness challenge. Companies know that happy, fit employees are more productive and stay longer.

6. Mindfulness for Stress release in the Workplace

More companies will introduce mindfulness programmes in 2017. Companies like The Workplace Yogi set up last year by Emma Carberry, are seeing a much greater demand for stress reduction programmes to help employees learn simple breathing techniques and meditation including yoga nidra to reduce stress. It’s no longer a nice to have but a ‘must have’ in the stressful work environment in the UAE.

7. Specialised Holidays focused around wellness

I ran my first detox and yoga retreat in the Austrian alps this summer at a Bio hotel and it was sold out within one month. Either I priced it too low or I hit a market trend that I believe will grow in 2017. Not only do people want holidays where they can combine yoga, healthy food and outdoor activities but they want to bring their kids with them and have them do similar things.  This year at Yogafest, two new companies launched; Sugarcane Elephants, who specialize in yoga holidays and Yoga Trippie, who organize yoga holidays for yoga teachers as a one stop service. I will be organizing a trip to Bali Spirit Fest in Ubud in March, Romania in June, and Austria in August.

Looking for a specialised wellness holiday or event, feel free to contact me on hello@yogafest.me


Elaine Kelly founded Yogafest ME, the largest and only sustainable wellness event in the Middle East,  in 2010 when she became a certified yoga teacher while working for Microsoft.  With 30 years experience in the fitness industry, she wanted to support her fellow employees with their work life balance, and the idea for Yogafest was born.


Posted on 05 December 2016 by Elaine Kelly