The mindfulness megatrend in today’s culture: the pandemic has made it more relevant than ever
Yoga, meditation, breathing exercises: mindfulness and related athletic disciplines are finding their way into living rooms, smartphones and fitness studios. Some examples and opinions on how the global COVID-19 crisis is strengthening this phenomenon and which services work well here.
Matthias Horx has been a futurologist for over 20 years which means that he has been dealing with the most important trends in the fields of technology, humanism, digitalisation, ecology and much else besides.
According to Horx, mindfulness is the most important cultural megatrend of our times: “Although essentially low-key by nature, the concept of mindfulness has been making unprecedented waves. Today, mindfulness training is offered in even the biggest companies, while an entire mindfulness industry has sprung up to encompass everything from yoga and nutrition to slow food and spiritual design.”
Sports also have a significant role to play for mindfulness. According to the futurologists at Horx’ ‘Zukunftsinstitut’ (Future Institute), in future there will be less focus in the field of sports on breaking records, and more on integrating a new spirit into everyday life: ‘Sportivity’. “The yoga boom clearly laid the groundwork – but mindfulness is more than just sitting still and relaxing. The mindfulness movement centres around an active and reflective moment: a need to contemplate one’s place in the world and to move consciously within it.
In recent months in particular, since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, many trainees have seen their focus change from physical fitness to physical and mental health and well-being. No longer is it only about keeping one’s body healthy – now people are looking to clear their minds as well. To forget about the crisis and all its consequences for a few moments, and to slow down their lives. Healthy nutrition with super foods and high quality products are part of this. Activities like yoga and meditation are in great demand, yet there has also been a trend towards outdoor activities such as hiking and stand-up paddleboarding. In fact, the Zukunftsinstitut has reported that doctors in Scotland have been giving prescriptions for hiking to combat diabetes and depression.
Ever greater portions of people's lives have migrated inside the home since the first lockdowns were imposed in spring 2020. Work, school, eating and training – everything is taking place inside their own four walls. It is a fact that has been particularly beneficial for mindfulness programmes online. The result: app downloads pertaining to mental health have increased tremendously during the coronavirus crisis, and their user figures are rising to match. Headspace is one of the pioneers in the field. From 2016 to 2020, the number of people using this meditation app grew from six million to over 65 million people in 190 countries worldwide. In April 2020 alone, the ten most successful apps – including ‘Calm’ and ‘Headspace’ – were downloaded ten million times, nearly 25 percent more than they had been in January 2020.
In the world of fitness, holistic digital programmes are in particular demand. Since early 2020, German fitness app start-up Freeletics has been offering not only AI-based training and nutrition plans, but also mindset coaching and meditation aimed at achieving a healthy lifestyle for the long-term. In a survey of 1,500 German adults conducted by Freeletics in summer 2020, 67 percent of those surveyed claimed that mental health had become more important since the start of the pandemic.
Fitness giants Fitness First and Holmes Place also see mindfulness as a logical complement to a holistic training approach. Veronika Pfeffer, National Group Fitness Manager ‘Group Exercise & Fitness Product & Innovation’ at Fitness First, explains: “For years now, our motto at Fitness First has been ‘Training, nutrition and recuperation’ – now it is ‘Training, nutrition and inspiration‘.”
With over 90 clubs in eight countries, Holmes Place is one of the leading international providers of holistic health, wellness and fitness programmes and services. According to Yasmin Markert, Press Spokesperson for Holmes Place Germany, their online course programme has been crafted in response to the increase in people working from home and the growing demand for relaxation. For example, they now have yoga, sun salutations and Pilates in early-morning online courses. Holmes Place is currently offering a free 30-day booster programme to help people remain balanced and healthy as they get through the lockdown.
Fitness First has taken a similar approach with their online programmes. As Veronika Pfeffer explains: “We offer an amazing number of yoga courses online, are partnering with a meditation app, and provide our members with lots of helpful tips in our newsletter to help them work out mindfully at home. It may take a bit, but mindfulness is set to become a permanent part of a holistic training regimen. By way of comparison, it was not all that long ago that yoga was just a niche course in fitness clubs that many people did not take seriously. Today, it is a fundamental part of our course plans.”
Benjamin Roth is the CEO and Co-Founder of Urban Sports Club, and he has not been at all surprised that, of all the courses being live streamed from Urban Sports Club partner studios during the pandemic, yoga, Pilates and meditation have generated the biggest viewing figures: “Since March 2020, more than 165,000 online courses have been offered, and these include yoga and meditation courses. Over 35 percent of our members are currently taking advantage of our online programmes to keep themselves mentally and physically fit. Quite a high figure when you consider the fact that we offer more than 50 different sports and wellness offerings on our platform – and only a few of these are suitable for the online course format. Our figures make it clear that – in spite of the lockdown and the closure of our partner locations – our members’ desire for athletic activity is undiminished.”
Yasmin Markert from Holmes Place is convinced that in future, the mindfulness trend will result not only in relaxation courses, but also in the development of targeted workshops such as ‘Less stress’: “With increasing digitisation, it will be imperative that we find ways to integrate regular relaxation opportunities into everyone’s lives on a lasting basis.”
Benjamin Roth from Urban Sports Club is certain that flexibility will be the watchword in future, and that strength and endurance training will increasingly be coupled with meditation, wellness and relaxation courses: “In the sports and fitness industry, the future will belong to the new hybrid model – comprising courses on location in the studio, outside in the park and via live stream. Fitness courses and functional training will increasingly be combined with meditation, yoga and wellness. This means that flexible sports programmes are more important than ever. The trend at our partners is towards new and versatile concepts, and this is giving rise to exciting new combinations, such as HIIT and yoga.”