What a spa is not

Spas are not glorified salons; they are havens of relaxation and rejuvenation

Spa with towel and flowing water

From ancient healing rituals to modern-day advancements, spas offer guests an abundance of treatments that stimulate all five senses and still the mind. However, for some people a ‘spa’ is just a fancy word for a ‘hair salon’ and a place for women to splurge on an over-priced maalish. While others believe it to be a load of mumbo-jumbo where terms like ‘wellbeing’ and ‘holistic approach’ are loosely used, with no tangible benefits. So, are spas really a place for just primping and preening, or are they much more than that?

Spas ≠ salons

The spa experience is based on ancient healing rituals infused with contemporary wellness innovations. Years of practised techniques do leave a person feeling rejuvenated and revitalised. Most massages find their roots in ancient Europe and Asia, where treatments were given to heal injuries, alleviate mental anguish, manage pain and improve blood circulation.

Our very own champi or Indian head massage is based on ayurvedic systems, expressly related to our chakras and energy flows. Champi involves kneading the points that suggest the most tension by skilfully tapping, chopping, plucking and cupping. The simple hand and foot massage is founded on the principle of reflexology that states that there are points on our palms and soles related to every organ, gland, and system in the body. The popular Swedish massage on the other hand, uses five styles of flowing strokes to massage rigid joints and improve circulation. While Thai massages combine massage with yoga-like positions, aromatherapy uses specific oils according to an individual’s need.

Every stroke in a spa has a well thought-out significance—the ergonomically designed spa bed, the peaceful décor, the soothing music, the optimum temperature—all contribute to that quintessential ‘wellness’ experience. And most significantly, spas only use trained and certified professionals to administer treatments, something you will never encounter in an ordinary salon.

Visiting a spa does help you; it’s not all indulgence

More and more people are suffering from shoulder and neck problems due to long working hours, headaches, lumbar pain or just plain frayed nerves. Reports illustrate that massage can effectively improve everyday wear-and-tear from swellings, cramps, soreness and muscle spasms by soothing the soft tissues and encouraging relaxation.

Massage also has a broad range of physiological benefits that include improved body alignment, better circulation of oxygen and nutrients, stimulation of the lymphatic system, reduction of stress hormones, increased joint mobility, flexibility and improved skin tone. Treatments also promote the elimination of toxins, flushing out metabolic waste, and therefore aiding recovery, especially during illnesses.

Now, more than ever, where daily exercise is a regular part of our health-conscious routines, a massage is highly recommended. Habitually taken, it renews tired muscles and also keeps healthy ones in peak form, preventing injuries. Massage also boosts immunity and nurses a variety of disorders from premenstrual syndrome, high blood pressure, arthritis to stress, anxiety and sleep disturbances.

Spas don’t just promote new-age spacey nonsense

Mental wellness is not necessarily found only in yoga and meditation, but in massage therapy as well. Massage treatments not only offer great physical benefits, but also promote a mental and spiritual awakening. There are many ayurvedic treatments that aim at restoring the mind-body balance and their emphasis is on oneness with the universe. Massage rituals also work on the natural automatic response to rub or clutch an affected area. It is this ‘human touch’ that practitioners employ as a powerful tool to heal and promote wellness.

Shiatsu has been proven to promote a general feeling of wellbeing through the shifting of Chi or energy points on a person’s body. Watsu, a combination of water therapy and Shiatsu, where the Watsuer tenderly moves a person through warm water in fluid movements, brings about a deep state of relaxation with dramatic changes in the autonomic nervous system. Many come out of a Watsu session saying that it was one of the most powerful experiences of their life. Some even express a delving into a subconscious level of peace and a lightening of emotional baggage after a tranquil massage.

One of the instantaneous benefits of any massage, be it a facial, head or body massage, is a feeling of immense serenity and calm. This occurs because massage aids the release of endorphins [the happy chemical] that induces a sensation of wellbeing by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

Spas are not only for the rich and they aren’t a waste of money

Don’t go by a spa’s pricey menu and assume that spas are only for the moneyed and pretentious. Now, more than ever, spas have become accessible and affordable. Besides, most good spas give you some extras for the price tag such as a jacuzzi, steam and sauna, making it a great value-for-money proposition. Some hotel spas even give you access to their gym and pool facilities.

It’s upto you to make the most of your spa experience. Check your worries and your phone at the door and enjoy the ‘me time’, spending the day as languidly as you wish.

In addition to the herbal teas and exotic fresh fruits [a spa will doubtlessly pamper you with these after a treatment], find out if there is a café or restaurant attached to the spa, should you decide to make an afternoon of it. Spread yourself out for at least half-an-hour after you’ve finished your treatment, reading in the lounge or enjoying the gentle music in your spa room before re-entering the real world.

Most spas provide you with fluffy robes, slippers and even access to a rain or massage shower [should you have the energy to take one] stocked with every amenity possible.

Spas aren't a “girly thing”

Men make up for more than 30 per cent spa goers and that figure is progressively mounting. Massages are the most popular treatment among men, trailed by a steam bath and sauna. Men are speedily uncovering the amazing benefits of spa treatments that not only make them look and feel terrific, but also help them switch off completely from the hustle and bustle of their work life.

An astounding amount of men have become comfortable with the idea of going to a spa for a facial, manicure and even a professional shave.

Spas throughout the country have begun catering to their ever-increasing male clientele with a plethora of treatments like sports massages, neck and shoulder massages, men’s manicures and pedicures, waxing treatments, body scrubs to exfoliate rough and dry skin and special gentlemen’s facials to treat acne or rough and dry skin.

Whether men are interested in a body treatment, deep-cleansing skin treatments, wraps or hand and foot services, they will discover numerous spa rituals tailor-made exclusively for them [you can ask for a male masseuse if you wish]. A healing spa experience isn't just beneficial to women, as the majority of men will swiftly find out after their first visit.

This was first published in the February 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Natalie Pedder-Bajaj
Natalie Pedder-Bajaj is in her element writing and researching about spas, travel, fitness and alternative therapies. A self confessed ‘spa addict’, she has been a devotee of the healing arts since her Editor days at Wellness magazine. She writes periodically and is the Creative Director of an interior design publication. She has graduated in Visual Communication from London.

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