By Roohi Saluja
Spas offer instant rekindling of the body, mind and spirit. No wonder they are the destination of choice among stressed-out urban elites. So what do you get in a spa and how do you select one?
Watch a bird bathing in a puddle-fluffing its feathers joyously, scrubbing its belly gently with the tip of its beak-and you realize that man is not the only taker for instant rejuvenation. However, thanks to his privileged position in the biological chain, he can replace the puddle with luscious wine barrels, fruity fiestas, mud pies and aromatic oils. In a word, he can feast his frayed nerves with a sensual, soothing spa spree.
While spas have become quite a phenomenon abroad, the Indian market is still in its infancy. Naresh Chandnani, Director, Marketing and Sales, Ananda-In The Himalayas, observes, ‘Mumbaiites are more spa savvy than North Indians. They’ve been around the world, checked out all sorts of spa treatments, and know exactly what they want. But North Indians are still experimenting and trying to find out their destination luxury.’
And yet, with multiple pressures piling on, more and more people are willing to try therapeutic ways to unwind. For Vandana Luthra, Chairperson, VLCC, ‘The spa is a dedication to the art of body, mind, and spiritual wellness.’ Jasmin Arethna, Director, Spa Zieta, elaborates, ‘The urban militia is not only looking for ways to de-stress, but also for ways to detoxify. The search is on for harmonized, holistic ways of improving the quality of living, especially inclined towards natural therapies, nutritional education, and non-invasive anti-aging methods.’
The health trend is clearly changing. ‘Focus is not just on treating diseases, rather preventing them from occurring at its very onset,’ notes Gita Ramesh, Director, Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort. Naresh adds, ‘The upper middle class is growing, and has more disposable income to spend on self-health care.’ What follows then is an invasion of deluxe spa cubicles, both in the city and in its lush green suburbs.
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, almost 260 kilometers north of the Capital, is the destination spa, Ananda-In The Himalayas. Featuring 20 luxurious therapy rooms with a state-of-the-art fitness center, majestic yoga and meditation pavilions, and aided by professional consultation, the spa enables its guests to discover a wellness-oriented lifestyle for themselves. The cuisine is a delectable mix of spa and gourmet culled from ayurvedic, Asian and European cuisines.
Close in competition, but further in distance is the Kairali Ayurvedic Health Resort in Palakkad, Kerala. Apart from the elaborate, conventional ayurvedic treatments like abhyanga, pizhichil, navarakizhi and dhara, the valambiri conch, placed in each villa, claims to bestow positive energy to the body.
Coming back to the city, one can be revitalized at the day spas that offer a plethora of fusion treatments ranging from Hawaiian massage to hydrotherapy, reflexology, dead sea mud packs, and chakra therapy under professional supervision. Strongly advocating day spas, Vandana Luthra suggests, ‘With tight schedules and hectic city life, it’s not always possible to take a few days off to rejuvenate yourself. In such a scenario, the perfect escape is a day spa where you can simply shut yourself from the outside world, and feel absolutely refreshed in only a few hours.’ The VLCC Spa in Delhi alleviates the strain with aqua therapy, Balinese spice body treatment, Cleopatra’s elixir, and papaya enzyme facials. The Kairali health chain has also proliferated to major cities in India with their day spas offering similar ayurvedic treatments as at Palakkad.
The ultra-luxe Amatrra Spa combines the ancient wisdom of astroscience and ayurveda. From its ambiance, to therapies, nutrition, beauty care, oils, mantras, and prescribing therapeutic gems and colors-everything is based on planetary diagnosis. At Amatrra, you can relish a herbal bath, prepared with ayurvedic concoctions and flower petals, or slip softly into the psychedelic floatarium. The vichy showers have inbuilt water jets that focus on the chakras, relieving tension, and stimulating the mind.
Barely 10 kilometres from Amatrra awaits a renewing Oriental experience. Asian Roots offers holistic treatments ranging from Thai and Balinese therapies, luxurious body wraps, to yoga and spiritually invigorating meditation sessions. The massages on the menu range from Oriental scalp massage to Royal Thai massage and the Asian roots signature treatment that applies pressure on the back at specific points, with rhythmic strokes to stimulate blood circulation. Beauty packages bunch up ancient Javanese beauty secrets, Cleopatra Elixir, concluding with the Cleopatra milk bath. The ashtanga yoga sessions involve progressive techniques of breath, posture and movement, cleansing, stretching and strengthening the body as well as calming the mind.
And now, the flipside. Naresh points out, ‘Nowadays, a local gymnasium that manages to equip itself with a couple of massage treatments freely advertises as a spa.’ Technology is a considerable factor while choosing a spa, but then the traps are many. Jasmin offers some guidelines, ‘The first step in selecting a spa is to identify your goals. Then look for a professionally competent environment. Hygiene and cleanliness should be of prime importance. Lastly, if you feel positive about the therapist, go ahead.’
The hi-tech, all-woman Spa Zieta at Ozone offers non-invasive American, Italian and French treatments, combined with expert counsel on nutrition and fitness. Its anti-cellulite treatment called LPG pushes the cellulite back into the body, improves skin texture, and brings relief from muscle aches.
Types of Spas
Finally, selection gets simpler if you know what a spa must offer, and also what type of spa would serve you the best. To put it simply, spas are places devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit. The three most popular services at a spa are therapeutic massage, facials, and body treatments.
In case you wish to overhaul your lifestyle, make tracks to a ‘destination spa’, where people immerse themselves in a total spa experience, including healthy food, exercise, medical evaluations, stress management, spiritual growth and more. For massages, facials or body treatments under professional supervision, ‘day spas’ are the perfect solution. While salon spas offer a combo of traditional and beauty services, medical spas provide clinical treatments too, under medical supervision. Catching the pulse of the health-conscious consumer, several hotel and club spas have also popped up in the vicinity. These offer exclusive spa services to their guests and members.
History of Spas
The oldest known spa still in existence is in Merano (Italy) that harbors organized mineral bath springs dating back to almost 5,000 years ago. It is further believed that the practice of soaking one’s tired feet in the steaming pools of ancient geysers goes back to even earlier than 5,000 years.
The therapeutic value of spas seems to have been discovered as early as 2,000 BC by the Egyptians. The most basic form of a hot tub was a simple cauldron in which sizzling stones were immersed to heat the water. However, with the mighty Romans, spa baths were enjoyed as a mere recreational space. The town of Spa (east of Belgium) is from where the word ‘spa’ was derived. To this day, the town is a well-known resort for baths and mineral springs where people come to relax and heal.
Varieties of Indulgence
From hot springs to conventional spa treatments to technological advancements, the bathwaters have indeed come a long way! Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most exotic traditional treatments that are gradually vending their way into urban spas in the form of fusion treatments.
Fango mud: Is full of minerals and nutrients that improve the skin texture, draw out the impurities, awaken the senses and promote better blood circulation. Before being put to use, the fango undergoes a slow maturation process that gradually enriches it with mineral salts and a special algae (that grows on its surface).
Color therapy: With empirical evidence of biological energy fields, color therapy uses the different wavelengths of color for remedial corrections in the body. The color therapy tub produces a sequence of colors that stimulate the chakras, while you relax in the whirling water.
Art therapy: The Liquidrom at Berlin is the first contemporary art spa with 33 digital mural size photo-paintings. As you move through the gallery, the liquid sound pool with a live musical band tranquillizes your fettered spirits.
Seaweed: The active ingredients in the marine algae are deeply detoxifying, and stimulate the internal system. The sea air harbors minerals that help our lungs to rebuild the cells. Seaweed facial packs are widely used, both in India and abroad.
Sand bath: Sand holds in heat, and works wonders for muscle aches, headaches and nerve problems. The Kamegwa Outdoor Sand Bath in Japan is a famous sand treatment spot.
Maze effect: Labyrinth in California deploys the 4,000 year-old groundbreaking philosophy of mazes. According to this philosophy, going in circles is not a vicious affair; it rather pulls you towards the center.
Vinotherapy: Imagine yourself soaked in a huge barrel, slathered with oils and crushed grapes. This is vinotherapy that is fast claiming adherents all over the globe. Scientific research has proven that the poly phenols in grapes are potent antioxidants, almost 20 times more effective than Vitamin C. Great takers in France, Mexico and Spain.
Onsen: The word ‘onsen’ means hot springs. As in other places, hot spring baths were extremely popular in Japan for its exceptional restorative effects. Today, the Japanese have retained the onsen resorts in areas of great natural beauty. Onsen come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more like health spas, while the others are humble abodes where locals often stop by after work for a soak-and-scrub.
Hawaiian Ka Huna Bodywork: This is an ancient temple style massage, which uses both rhythmic and flowing movements (called hula and Tai Chi strokes), creating a nurturing experience. It eases muscle pain, and promotes increased blood circulation. Music is played in the background, and the practitioner attunes the serpentine flow of the massage to the various rhythms in the client’s body, mind and spirit.
Jamu therapy: Ancient Javanese health and beauty rituals have brought several healing benefits of Jamu to the forefront. Javanese lulur is a great exfoliate. Kemiri nut scrub is an antique beauty treatment recommended for dry and sensitive skin. Balinese Boreh warms and soothes aching muscles, and helps combat colds and flu. The healing Boreh is made from a combination of warming spices such as cinnamon, cloves and ginger.
Ayurveda: The classical panchakarma therapy of ayurveda has been practiced and perfected down South India. Today, ayurveda is widely accepted as a radical cure and comfortable management of numerous diseases. The two most important modalities of ayurveda-namely sodhana (purification) and samana (pacification) detoxify and slow down the degeneration of the body. Its rasayana therapy, acting at the level of nutrition, metabolism and microcirculation, serves as a remarkable rejuvenator.
Chocolate or coffee bath: The benefits of chocolate and coffee go way beyond taste and aroma. Chocolates are great exfoliates, and are known to improve the metabolism rate. Combined with coffee, these can uplift your spirits in a moment. So while chocolate wraps, toffee treatments and coffee beans pamper you, get ready to indulge!
Hydrotherapy: With its inception from hot springs, spas have largely discovered the healing effects of water. Be it swimming in mineral water, water dancing, or simply a soak-and-scrub in a hot tub, relief from fatigue and stiffness is guaranteed.
Sauna bath: When the body reclines in the steamy cubicle, the mind wanders dreamily, and the spirit grows receptive. Boundaries between the ‘self’ and the ‘other’ evaporate. As you shift between wakeful and sleepy states, sweating in the sauna detoxifies the body, and drives the impurities away.
Aromatherapy: Fine massage strokes blended with perfumed oils enrich the skin, and relieve tired muscles. Its warming effect improves blood circulation, and renovates the starved senses.
Foodie’s fare: While the fruit pulp is gently rubbed into your body, the senses awaken to a feast of aromas, and the drained spirit dips into the luscious juices. Pineapples, mangoes, pomegranates, strawberries, as well as sweets like sugar, honey, and vanilla, and vegetables like ground corn and cucumbers provide a rich supply of antioxidants to ward off free radicals that deplete the skin of youth and elasticity.
If wellness is on your mind, but you’re strapped for cash, then turn your home into a day spa. Create the right ambiance by surrounding yourself with flowers, potpourri, candles, soothing music, bath oils, and of course, a hot tub. Remember this is your time to lay back, unwind and reflect.
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