Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. August 2004

3.8. Well Being. Integrating Eastern Knowledge in Western Culture and Western Knowledge in Eastern Culture
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Maurits G.T. Kwee (Buenos Aires/Tokorozawa)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

Sport, meditation & wellness: motivational elements for promoting well-being tourism

Miguel Quintana Santana (University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan)



This treatise deals with the relationships among physical activity, sport, meditation, and wellness within the tourist framework and also illustrates the breadth and scope of this subject area from a Well-being perspective. It also presents an overview of the common beneficial psychological effects attained by exercise and training in eastern and western meditation practices. Multiple interconnected terms and concepts are clarified, particularly the sport-meditation binomial term and the Sport Meditation Model. Sport and Meditation are viewed as body-mind working methods for health promotion. Various questions emerge: Can the Sport Meditation Model become a new body-mind-work discipline? Are Sport activities and Meditation methods valid instruments to promote and design alternative tourist products by emphasizing physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being? Can a Sport Meditation Model for health promotion be embedded in Well-being tourism? Which is the nature of Well-being tourism? What are the elements that define this Tourist sub-sector? This article is an attempt to find some of the answers.



The Congress entitled "The Unifying Aspects of Cultures" and the section group "Well Being: Integrating Eastern Knowledge in Western Culture and Western Knowledge in Eastern Culture" represent the ideal framework to introduce the essence of this current topic. Terms such as quality of life, subjective Well-being, and happiness emphasize the recent focus in hedonic psychology as factors that influence "good life". Cross-cultural influences such as individual and collective values and the financial status of a country possess a predictive value to global life satisfaction. Exercise programs can contribute to a person's quality of life primarily by influencing the contextual and situational variables of affect, perceived stress, physical health, and life satisfaction. There is a strong consensus that habitual physical activity is associated with enhanced subjective Well-being or a sense of "feeling better".

In the past 40 years, the interest in meditation has been increasing. Though the content and nature of meditation can be widely divergent among eastern and western countries, practices called "meditation" gained popularity among the general public. Meditation might become part of the individual's daily life (since meditation's basic elements are intrinsic in everyday activity). It is not an activity that is only formally practiced, but as yet the general public has not recognized that. On the other hand, sport and physical activity seem to be part of daily life. Many individuals identify themselves with a sportive lifestyle rather than with a meditative lifestyle. This conception might change when integrating meditation and sport in one formula, thus bringing a spiritual dimension into the western sport disciplines. Such an avenue would transform corporeal workout into a method of psychological re-structuring, self-regulation, self-fulfilment, and self-actualization.

In this article tourism is involved on top of the foregoing. Tourism is viewed here in the framework of a sociocultural and interrelated model. It is Well-being tourism that reflects an integration of eastern and western cultures by combining and practicing mental and corporeal activities respectively originated in the east and the west.


Enhancing well-being by physical activity and sport

The beneficial physiological and physical effects of regular body exercise are well documented. They are not only known to specialists in the fields of medicine and physical education, but are also acknowledged by the public at large. Physical exercise is one of the most important chances for preventing illness (Abele & Brehm, 1993).

Physical activity, fitness and health: The model and key concepts

The terms athlete, health, wellness, physical fitness, and training are much related to each other (Bouchard & Shepard, 1994). Exercising individuals and athletes (in the broad sense of the term) might pursue different goals. Success in competition, health, wellness, joy, and pleasure are often cited as reasons for entering and sustaining a regimen of rigorous training. Also an important motive for many is the fact that exercise and sport are pathways to personal development, regardless of one's level of skill, intensity or frequency of exercising.

The term wellness is often used wrongly as if interchangeable with fitness and health. Health can be defined as a human condition with physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and psychological dimensions. A model of Greenberg and Pargman (1989) illustrates the health-illness relationship (Pargman, 1998). Wellness as a state of being healthy is achievable regardless of one's personal health status. Thus, wellness is any level of health where the physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual components are balanced, integrated, and coordinated. These five health components need not be preset in equal parts.

The World Health Organization defines "Fitness" as "the ability to perform muscular work satisfactorily". Fitness might focus on two goals: performance and/or health. Habitual physical activity is accepted worldwide as relevant to health, although the optimum pattern - of activity (mode, intensity, frequency, and duration of individual bouts), of interactions with nutritional status, and of the cumulative impact of many years of training - remains to be elucidated (Bouchard & Shepard, 1994). As a form of systematic physical activity, exercise/training can be an effective way to balance and manipulate when arranging health components. The benefits of regular physical activity as exercise/training are well established (American College of Sports Medicine, 1995).

Exercise contributes to quality of life

The interrelationships between physical activity and quality of life are complex. The term "life quality" is similar to subjective Well-being and happiness, and denotes a broad range of components (Berger & Motl, 2001). Depending on context the terms can be different or interchangeable. Quality of life is a global assessment of one's life as a whole. Well-being can be considered as a specific state of feeling healthy and happy (Cambridge International Dictionary of English).

However, there is no need that the exercise is aerobic and has to produce positive cardiovascular activity, respiratory or muscular strength, or endurance improvement in order to have psychological change occur (Pargman, 1998). To facilitate the desirable psychological changes associated with exercise, it is necessary to take three sets of factors into account: (a) enjoyment of the physical activity (it might be adjusted to the individuals' preferences), as a result of skills' mastery, physical achievement, social interactions, body-mind integration, close interactions with the beauty of nature, increased self-awareness, and peak moments; (b) mode characteristics, including rhythmical abdominal breathing or an aerobic quality, a relative absence of interpersonal competition, closed exercise modes, rhythmical and repetitive movements, and (c) the practice factors or training requirements, including a moderate exercise intensity, a duration of at least 20 minutes, and frequent physical activity to establish minimum fitness levels to prevent personal and physical discomfort.

Despite a fairly widespread recognition that exercise contributes positively to psychological well-being, the mechanisms accounting for this relationship are not clear. Nevertheless, the psychological benefits alleged to be associated with regular participation in exercise have a direct relationship to mood, depression, stress, self-concept and personality, as well as cognitive processes. Exercise programs are well able to contribute to a person's quality of life. A well-conceived and diligently implemented physical activity program will likely enhance individuals' high-level of well-being (Berger & Motl, 2001).


Meditation methods for health promotion

Meditation is a multimodal practice and should therefore be analyzed in a multidimensional way. However, there are several aspects that must be taken into account to delimit the breadth and scope of meditation: (1) the lack of a clear definition, (2) the many different types of meditation techniques, (3) the various types of outcome due to its practice, and (4) the wide range of application fields. Let us deal with these four points, while trending forward toward the present interest of viewing meditation as a discipline to promote health.

(1) Meditation can be considered as "...a family of techniques which have in common a conscious attempt to focus attention in a non-analytical way and an attempt not to dwell on discursive, ruminating thought." (Shapiro & Walsh, 1984). There are two components of meditation. The first is to keep a passive concentration (rather than an active concentration) while consciously keeping a passive attitude. The second is decided on a detailed personal manner, which must be strictly followed (Sakairi, 1998).

(2) Yoga, Qi-gong, Tai-chi Chuan, and Zen Meditation as well as Transcendental Meditation (TM), Vipassana, Mindfulness Meditation, etc. all fall in the category of meditation techniques.

(3) Summarizing some of meditation practices' common benefits, the effects of Qigong, Yoga, Zen and TM are: (a) physical and mental relaxation, (b) improving self-regulation, (c) easing tense emotion and anxiousness, (d) increasing ability to cope with stress, (e) improving power of understanding, (f) increasing physical and mental health (Wang, 1996).

(4) Among the Asian countries, purpose and meaning of meditation varies. In India, meditation is practiced as part of Yoga. Yoga is mainly practiced as a method of health promotion, and for some and in certain periods in its long history, yoga is/was a religious practice too. In China varied forms of meditation has been developed, such as a predecessor of Zen: Chan. An indigenous Chinese form of meditation (stemming from Taoism) also practiced widely in modern time is Qi-gong. This has always been practiced to promote health, although, it has been applied also as a means for medical treatments. Zen meditation is the most typical practice in Japan, it has been considered as a religious practice. The recent trend is to study Zen as a (clinical) psychological approach (Haruki, Ishii, & Suzuki, 1996).

In the west the term meditation was initially used as a general concept to cover various oriental practices. Western derivatives have been developed based on eastern principles. These are practiced with a religious purpose, as health promotion, or also as an adjunct and prophylaxis in the context of psychological and medical treatment. In a bird's eye view, the most important are: (1) Transcendental Meditation (TM), the most popular meditation practice. Introduced into the West by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi it starts with mantra meditation with a set of instructions on relaxation, posture, and the way of covertly repeating the mantra. (2) The relaxation response. In this method developed by Herbert Benson the concept of mantra meditation is also used, he emphasized e.g. the silent repeating of the sound "one". (3) CSM, this stands for Clinical Standardised Meditation. This technique was developed by Patricia Carrington and is based on TM. The method is used by instructors in a standardized way, by the aid of an instructor's manual, a student workbook, and cassette tapes. (4) Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn uses mindfulness meditation for the treatment of amongst others: chronic pain and psoriasis patients. (5) Other techniques like Yogic meditation and biofeedback have been used as well, e.g. in the management of hypertension (Sheppard, 1992).

Meditation methods in contemporary society can be interpreted in various ways. The present interest is to view meditation as a multifaceted discipline that can be merged or even fused with other body-work disciplines to enhance subjective well-being.


Sport meditation: A non-dualistic concept of body-mind-work

Bringing meditation into sports

Nowadays there is a current to bring elements of meditation into physical exercise and sport's practice. The aims for joining meditation methods to sport activities can be manifold. Health promotion, psychotherapy, self-fulfilment achievement, increasing general feeling of well-being, fitness/wellness related goals, and enhancement of sport competition performance are some of the various goals people pursue.

Sport meditation is not about rediscovering the conjunction of the body, mind, and spirit dimensions into physical exercising. The body-mind connection is deeply embedded in eastern culture. One of the ancient antecedents of the new body-mind-work disciplines are "Do" philosophy and martial. In Japanese "Do" means style or manner: For example, ken-do (the way of the sword), "Sa-do" (tea ceremony), and Ka-do (flower arrangement). Practitioners strive for self-control while following a behavioural set of acts. The purpose of practicing "Do" is self-cultivation, individuals are aware of their own behavioural or cognitive pattern (Sakairi, 1998).

The mental and physiological states encountered in meditation can be useful in physical training. The abilities to clear the mind, increase awareness, achieve mental focus, overcome anxiety and relax are traits of mediators as well as of elite athletes, and they can be acquired and trained.

E.g.: "Meditative skills can be displayed when engaging in any form of relaxation. In progressive/isometric squeeze relaxation attention is focused on tensing up various muscles and then deliberately letting of. In yoga stretching one quietly attends to passively maintaining specific postures. In imagery one lets go of all attempts at physical activity and passively attends to relaxing mental pictures. Meditative skills can be present even in casual relaxation." (West, 1987, p.139)


New body-mind-work disciplines based on ancient eastern wisdom

In the context of a wholistic approach to human beings, apprehended as a body-mind integrated entity, a variety of body-mind exercise programmes has been developed, such as "Somatics" and "Movement Arts", and lately amongst others: Bodybalance, Zen-Fitness-yoga, Zen-Fitness-Tai-chi. These programmes include the Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais and Pilates Methods, Zen meditation, Yoga, Qui-gong, Tai-chi and other types of eastern martial arts based on body-mind-work. Characteristic is the insistence on the role of body-mind awareness for integrating body-mind into a harmonious state, establishing a highly organized and well-functioning self-image, and eventually realizing self-actualization (Konno, 1998). (E.g., the new body-mind work discipline of Bodybalance. This is mainly a dynamic yoga-based stretch programme that combines the fundamental principles and practices of Yoga, Pilates and Feldenkrais, such as controlled breathing, concentration, flexibility, and strength training to create a holistic workout that brings the body, mind, and soul into a state of balance and harmony.)

A Sport & Meditation Model: A conceptual framework

Much has not been written about the precise characteristics and nature of the sport and meditation relationship, but there seems to be little work done in discussing the binomial conceptualisation of sport and meditation. The expression Sport Meditation is indeed baffling. It is complex to determine the profiles of conceptualization. From the starting point, there is a duality of the concept. Words can be taking separately as noun and adjective or bound together like single nouns. The sport and meditation binomial term has two different sides: sport meditation and meditative sport.

Sport meditation. This can be understood as a kind of active meditation where sport (primary non-competitive, closed, rhythmical, and cyclic sport disciplines) are used as a means to meditate. The prime motivation to engage in sport meditation practice is to meditate itself, and the sport activity performance is just a means to meditate, e.g.: cycling meditation, running meditation.

Meditative sport. This is any kind of sport activity performed in the way that elements of meditation (passive attitude, abdominal breathing, passive concentration, and personal set manners) are implemented to achieve a determined aim. It is a specific way to practice sports, e.g.: martial arts, body-mind-work disciplines. Whether individuals practice sport professionally or not professionally, the sport meditation model provides a practice mode that can increase joyfulness and enhance physical and psychological skills with the ultimate goal of self-regulation.


Alternative tourism: The emergence of new tourist product concepts

In the past decades the concept of "Alternative Tourism" has emerged in many different guises in different parts of the world in both developing and developed countries. A number of projects and policies promoting "new" forms of tourism appeared in developing countries during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Alternative tourism is obviously not alternative to all other forms of tourism, but rather alternative to essentially what is known as mass tourism. Alternative tourism might be distinguished from "conventional/mass" tourism by a number of features such as number and typology of tourists, motivational selection decision, and accommodation (Pearce, 1994). There are many forms of alternative tourist products available to an individual but it is difficult to discern which is the underneath primary motivational element for selecting a tourist product which is always made up of comprehensive attractive group of elements (Smith & Eadington, 1994).

Determining separately sport, meditation, and wellness as tourist products' features (with the overall aim of health promotion for well-being) will constitute three different but quite alike alternative tourist choices: sport tourism, meditation tourism and health tourism.

Sport, Meditation and Wellness: Motivational elements for Alternative Tourism

Tourism not only represents a trend for satisfying people's needs: inherent curiosity, hedonism, desire for adventure and excitement, or just a need to change the routine and settings of everyday life. Furthermore new and alternative tourist products have opened also a gate to many to seek out and fulfil not only their vacation needs but also reinforce a particular lifestyle and self-fulfilment needs.

Sport Tourism

Tourism and sport have been associated historically since the birth of winter sports in the Alps at the beginning of the 20th century in Europe. But Sports Tourism as an entity in itself only came into existence in the 1950's. The term "sports tourism" only appeared in the middle of the 1970's in France and Europe (Pigeassou, Bui-Xuan & Gleyse, 1998).

Contemporary, the binomial terminology of Sport Tourism has been presented in a diffused manner due to the wide range of different typologies that it includes. Tourism modalities such as tourism of sports, training trips or sport competition trips, recreational sport holidays, professional sport trips, or amateur sport journeys, as well as sport events attendance can be included in this binomial term. Nowadays sport activities are shown to represent a primary motivational element in the election of vacation products. Sport tourism (in its wider concept meaning) tries to agglutinate addressees' segments that at the moment have focused their motivational goal on the election of tourist products as: wellness and health tourism, eco-tourism, incentives tourism, sport recreation participation tourism, sport events participation tourism, sport events attendance tourism, and adventure tourism, mainly.

A sportive lifestyle determines the main characteristic of the non-professional sport participant tourist who strives at physical Well-being acquired by good health habits, competitive sports, or strenuous outings, among other things.

Wellness Tourism

Wellness grew as a popular concept starting in the late 19th century, just as the middle class began emerging in the industrialized world, and in a period time when a newly prosperous public had the time and the resources to pursue wellness and other forms of self-improvement. Wellness is the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal.

Arriving at this point it is important to make a clear distinction between wellness and curing. Solely "healthy" people, the prime aim being prevention or promoting health, pursue wellness. "Normal cure guests" aim to heal their illness. Wellness has developed into a buzzword. It encompasses deeper individuals' philosophies emphasizing self-responsibility for a lifestyle process that realizes the individual's highest physical and mental health. In our current case, we assume Wellness Tourism as "...the sum of all the relationships and phenomena resulting from a journey and residence by people whose main motive is to preserve or promote their health. They stay in a specialized hotel, which provides the appropriate professional know-how and individual care. They require a comprehensive service package comprising physical fitness/beauty care, healthy nutrition/diet, relaxation/meditation, and mental activity/education (Lanz, 1999).

Meditation Tourism

The binomial term Meditation Tourism and its relationship with spiritual or personal development is not a new combination. It has something in common with retreats, pilgrimage, and religious tourism. But how should Meditation Tourism be considered? In which perspective should this be viewed: cultural, health, or religious tourism?

Since some meditation methods had initially, and still today have a religious aspect, such an interest is rather natural and quite undeniable. The practice of meditation methods, serves also, as a pathway to a spiritual health. Thus, Meditation Tourism can be seen in the perspective of health tourism too. From the cultural point of view, meditation methods have been a very important part of some countries culture representing its main spiritual society side, Buddhist Meditation in Japan or Hindu Meditation in India for instance.

But which individuals belong to the group of meditation tourists? Mainly culture, religious, and health (wellness) tourists will seek Meditation Tourism. However, the meditation tourist's primary motivation is to experience during its holidays period, any form of meditation and to enhance its Well-being through an acquaintance with or training in meditation methods.

Meditation tourists may be wrongly identified with the profile of culture, religion, or wellness tourists. However, only tourists whose first motivation is to practice meditation methods rather than visiting related cultural heritage, taking part in religious activities, or staying in special wellness facilities, can be considered to be meditation tourists. Meditation tourists have a particular lifestyle that is based on one's personal interests and experiences. Spirituality in humans can be reduced to the relationship between people's consciousness and life (VukoniE6, 1996). In this basic relationship, a "meditative lifestyle" is characterized by: (a) emotional involvement in whatever exerts one's awareness, (b) intrinsic motivation that guarantees one's commitment, (c) flexibility and creativity in solving stumbling blocks on the path, (d) enjoyment in training and practicing the new lifestyle, and (e) "the art of laziness", meaning to relax by allowing oneself to be lazy from time to time (Kwee, 1998). In addition, personal values and a particular philosophy are of influence to the individual's meditative lifestyle. Such characteristics make up the profile of meditation tourists.

The fulfilment of the spirit in the full sense of the word, as seen by philosophers, is possible in every moment of a person's life. Peak experiences can be considered as spiritual experiences. An investigation of Transcendental Meditation (T.M.) practitioners (Sakairi, 1992) showed that 74% (20 out of the 27 practitioners) had peak experiences outside of meditation. In case of Zen Meditation, enlightenment also happens during daily life. Thus, the holiday period offers an ideal atmosphere to reconfirm a meditative lifestyle, to seek for spiritual experiences, and to experience a wholistic kind of well-being.


Well-being tourism: Promoting sport, meditation and wellness tourist products

Well-being tourism is a liaison among three well-defined fields: sports, meditation, and wellness placing all of these in the context of holidays in the pursuit of wholistic well-being. Thus, Well-being tourism is a multidimensional tourist product concept. A sport-meditation-wellness tourist product with the ultimate purpose of health promotion makes up the Well-being tourist product concept. To put this tourism movement in context, it is necessary to delimit the aims of this model by describing the different goals that each of its three dimensions separately might attain.

Positioning Well-being tourism

Understanding how travellers make decisions is essential to an efficient development of new products. These sport-meditation-wellness guests might claim services that can be met by the same provider offering these services with adequate professionals and know-how. It is difficult to determine what the prime motivational reason is to choose the comprehensive product of Well-being tourism that offers a wide pack of services including sport and physical activities, meditation programs, information or educational workshops, and wellness services. Also surroundings, atmosphere, service choices, and additional services can finally determine the selection of this particular product.

Many tourist destinations are consolidating or reorienting their positioning as a strategy to differentiate their offerings from others' according to the tourist sector latest fad. For example in Europe, Austria is trying to consolidate its tourist image as a Well-being tourist destination in Europe. "Austria-Well-being Destination of Europe" is the title of the central program of the Austrian National Secretary for Tourism. Thus, Austria is strengthening its international position in the field of health generation of alternative tourist concept products, still lacks a solid positioning, mainly due to the quick development of the emerging new tourist sub-sectors. Nevertheless, Well-being tourism sounds attractive, very new, ingenious, alternative and responsible, spiritual, active, and healthy. It seems to be more than a buzz word, for it represents a tendency, a current guideline in human development.


Final considerations

Placed on a pre-theoretical stage are the complex interrelationships among the fields of tourism, subjective Well-being, health and sport psychology, and meditation. Then, which is the nature of Well-being tourism? To elucidate a gateway to this new paradigm of study we advocate to determine the essential features of this entity and subsequently to carry out an analysis of its amalgam of terms.

Well-being tourism implies a wide range of interrelated terms. Physical activity and sports, health and wellness, meditation methods and body-mind-work disciplines, alternative tourism, health promotion and Well-being interrelationships, make up a complex matrix to be analysed. Sport, exercise, relaxation or meditation methods can enhance participant's high levels of wellness. Empirical studies have supported the assumption of the effectiveness of exercise for enhancing subjective well-being. "Health" related exercises must be pleasant and joyful in order to be healthy because psychological Well-being is central to health. However, extensive research is needed to better understand the interrelationships between physical activity, sport, and well-being.

It is necessary to compare and examine not only long established traditional meditation methods, but also new corporeal and mental disciplines, such as Feldenkrais and Pilates Methods or buzz body-mind-work disciplines such as Bodybalance, Zen-fitness-yoga, and Zennis (Zen meditation integrated in tennis practice). For that purpose it might be helpful to focus especially on techniques. Which are the relevant factors for practice and training requirements? Which are the mode characteristics of each of these disciplines?

As in many other fields, innovation goes first, the empirical data follow. There is an ostensible lack of scientific support for these new body-mind work disciplines, based on eastern wisdom and western practices. The often merely supposed benefits must be scientifically evaluated and substantiated by experimental tests. It is of utmost importance to provide scientific evidence to the effectiveness of these new disciplines. But where are the empirical and scientific bases of these sport-meditation disciplines? How could physiological, psychological, physical beneficial effects, short-term and long-term benefits be measured?

There is ample literature written related to a conceptual and epistemological approach to Sport Meditation. Although Sport Meditation can be established as a model to refer to these new body-mind-work disciplines (jogging meditation, meditative walking, Zen-fitness-yoga, Zennis, Bodybalance, etc). There is a danger that the Sport Meditation concept becomes diluted by triviality. Therefore future research priorities should be focused on the conceptual framework in order to understand the various possibilities that the combination of sport and meditation is able to provide.

Wellness, sport, and meditation terms used in contemporary tourism need a clear differentiation and demarcations. It is essential to create a standard interpretation of wellness, sport, and meditation tourism, so that those segments can be considered by the guests, i.e. whether their primary motivation can be satisfied separately or jointly by the one general concept of Well-being. Consequently, in this current case we advocate a detailed definition and a thorough investigation of Well-being.

Thus, presenting sport, meditation, and wellness as a single-tourist-product helps Well-being tourists (whose prime motivation is wholistic health) to choose a particular, alternative, healthy, natural, and wholistic mode of tourism. A Well-being tourism concept emerges once after considering and establishing these three tourist models in one as an interdisciplinary means to promoting health. Well-being tourism represents a wholistic conceptualisation, not only in the terminological sense but above all, on the content level: epistemologically as well as in the humanistic sense. It shows a comprehensive identity, which comprises relevant human needs. Well-being tourism represents indeed a contemporary pilgrimage in the search of the natural essence of human beings.

© Miguel Quintana Santana (University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Japan)


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3.8. Well Being. Integrating Eastern Knowledge in Western Culture and Western Knowledge in Eastern Culture

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