There is nothing better for the mind, body and soul than a much-needed trip to the spa. However, if you don’t know the difference between effleurage and endermologie, you may be getting a treatment that you don’t necessarily want or need. The solution is easy – simply learn the lingo! Once you have a grasp and understanding of the terminology, you will be a bona fide spa aficionado.
Before you cross the threshold of any spa, you may want to educate yourself on the different types of spas that exist. Urban spas are typically lavish and found behind the doors of cosmopolitan hotels, such as The James in Chicago or Casa Moderna Miami Hotel & Spa and can either be exclusive to hotel guests or accessible to the general public. Day spas are just that – places to be pampered for a short period of time or an entire day. Boutique inns – such as The Chauvet in Northern California’s wine country – are typically too intimate to support a full-service spa and form a partnership with nearby day spas in order to provide guests with a complete experience. Eco spas are usually set in natural and protected areas and typically found at resorts dedicated to green practices and preserving the indigenous culture of their surroundings; Lumeria Maui, nestled in the hills of this tropical paradise, is a property that executes the eco spa concept flawlessly. Then, of course, there are resorts where the spa experience is absolutely central to one’s stay. Guests typically book a week-long stay with the intention of getting away from it all with a daily regime of massages, treatments fitness and healthy eating. Rancho La Puerta in Baja California pioneered the total immersion spa concept way back in 1940, and continues to uphold an unparallel standard of excellence voted World’s Best Destination Spa by Travel + Leisure two years running. Just a bit further north, Rancho La Puerta’s sister property Golden Door near San Diego maintains founder Deborah Szekely’s unique philosophy of personal health and fitness inspired by the ancient Japanese Honjin inns.
Massage therapy can take many forms, from long broad strokes to air-like touches to the kneading of weary muscles. Essentially a massage – no matter what the technique – is designed to improve health and well-being by relaxing the muscles, relieving tension and increasing circulation. Some styles are found on most every spa menu, such as deep tissue massage which really gives the muscles a workout or aromatherapy where different essential oils are used for therapeutic benefits. Duo massage, sometimes referred to as four-hand massage, is where two therapists perform massage on a client simultaneously.
Many styles of massage are Eastern based, such as Japan’s shiatsu, where specific body points receive pressure to stimulate and unblock energetic pathways, and Japanese reiki, a style where therapists use their hands to promote deep relaxation and well-being while bringing energy into the body. Acupressure is another Eastern-style massage created by the Chinese to stimulate the flow of energy through pressure-point massage. The ancient Chinese technique of reflexology also relies on pressure-point massage but is administered on the feet or applied to the hands and ears. Thai massage is traditionally administered on the floor with clients wearing loose clothing and involving simple yoga stretching and pressure-point massage.
The French are responsible for endermologie, a massage created to reduce the appearance of cellulite. Ancient Polynesians gave us lomi-lomi, a popular style of massage in Hawaii that is similar to a Swedish massage because of its gentle and continuously flowing strokes. Certain massage techniques involve some H2O, such as watsu which is administered in a warm pool, or Scotch hose, where a high-pressure hose is aimed at the standing client while hot and cold, fresh and salt water are alternated to relieve sore muscles. While lymph drainage doesn’t use water per se, hands and finger work in tandem applying gentle, wave-like movements to help stimulate circulation in the lymph system where excess fluids and trapped toxins drain away.
Now that you’ve mastered the spa language, it’s time to go out and speak it! Will it be a deep tissue massage or some much-needed reflexology? Once you’ve made that all-important decision, nothing more needs to be said. In fact, no words should be spoken at all because the whole point of a spa treatment is to relax, refresh and rejuvenate.
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