Since Grecian times, people have been harnessing the therapeutic power of water and heat, both of which were considered to be luxuries thousands of years ago as they were often hard to come by. It was the Romans who began to build thermal baths at natural mineral and hot springs and as the Roman Empire expanded into Europe, spas became a popular place to go to relax and socialise. Some say that the word spa is derived from the Latin word ‘salus per aqua’ which means health through water, whilst others attribute the word to the Belgian town of Spa where, in 1326, a Belgian ironmaster discovered a natural spring around which a health resort soon flourished.
Nowadays, a visit to a spa offers the possibility to completely relax, both physically and mentally, as well as providing the opportunity to partake of some invigorating treatments in a tranquil atmosphere.
Modern-day hydrotherapy treatments echo the traditions of Roman bath houses with extensive hydrotherapy circuits that include warm saunas, Jacuzzis, hot tubs, steam baths, chilling plunge pools and pressure showers, all said to help alleviate pain, calm the senses, and rejuvenate the body.
The alternating temperatures of water offers differing benefits and moving between hot and cold water, expanding and dilating your blood vessels, works as a pump to circulate blood throughout your body, delivering all the nutrients and oxygen effectively to clear out impurities that have built up in the cells, enabling your body to release toxins faster, stimulating the immune system and increasing your liver’s and kidneys’ natural abilities to filter blood.
Heat slows down your internal organs, and is good at lessening certain types of aches and pains and also increases the production of beneficial body hormones. Taking in the warm, moist air from a sauna or Jacuzzi can help open up congested or constricted airways in your lungs, throat and sinuses.
Cold temperatures makes blood vessels contract and can lessen inflammation in areas of injury, and help to decrease the sensitivity and pain of injured areas.
Most spas offer massage treatments and having a professional massage has been voted as the most popular treatment by spa goers, which is not surprising as it is known to help the rehabilitation process after injury, encouraging blood circulatory movement and relaxing muscles, delivering more oxygen and nutrients to soft tissues and organs which accelerates the healing rate of injured areas. However, do bear in mind that a while a spa massage may successfully relax you and temporarily relieve some stress, medical massage will more likely produce tangible results that is factored round a treatment plan based on your health needs.
For a new experience, try the Venik Massage, particularly popular in Russia where, after being smothered in oil, you lie naked on a wooden bench in a sauna while two therapists hit your back with oak or birch leaves and branches. This apparently boosts circulation and prevents skin aging.
There are many different types of body treatments available, some slightly unusual and some weird and wonderful, including wraps, scrubs and soaks to make you feel relaxed and invigorated. A good tip is to have a sauna or steam bath before your chosen body treatment to open your pores and soothe your muscles.
The most popular spa body treatments include a salt scrub, detoxifying body mask, hydrating body wrap and a firming anti-cellulite treatment. If you don’t like the idea of being wrapped in seaweed or algae, how about getting smothered in a chocolate and mud mixture and then wrapped in towels or foil? Cocoa, an anti-oxidant, is said to firm skin and reduce cellulite. Alternatively, take advantage of the Hay bath treatment, where you’ll be wrapped in layers of mountain grass mixed with herbs, flowers and hot water before lying down on a warm waterbed. ‘Grass napping’ is a said to be a great treatment for stiff necks, muscle contractions, muscle cramps, stiff joints, and obesity.
Having a facial is a relaxing and indulgent thing to do, and let’s face it (no pun intended!) there’s only so much you can do at home to rejuvenate your skin, so as well as pampering our faces with hot towels, essential oils and a bit of ocean wave music to help us meditate, a professional beauty therapist will have the expert knowledge to treat your skin.
There are many different facial treatments available, ranging from a European facial – the perfect entry-level treatment – to an oxygen facial where typically a wand is used to deliver a stream of high pressurised oxygen to the skin’s surface to plump and brighten the skin, to Microdermabrasion which works to strip your skin of dead skin cells and provides deep exfoliation. Other treatments include LED light therapy, perfect for anyone who suffers from acne, an acupuncture facial if you are not averse to having needles in your face, or a vampire facial which involves having your own blood drawn, put into a vial and placed into a centrifuge to separate platelet-rich plasma which is then injected back into your skin.
Once again, there are some unusual treatments to be found around the world. What about the ‘Fire Facial’, popular in China, where alcohol soaked clothes and a special ‘elixir’ are placed on the desired part of the face and set alight for a few seconds before being put out – meant to stimulate the skin and address dullness, sagging and wrinkles. Only to be attempted with a fire extinguisher at hand!
The spa industry has evolved over the years, with most luxury hotels and resorts offering a spa as part of their facilities to their guests, and whilst a spa was once all about being pampered and indulged, there has been a more recent shift towards wellness. Treat yourself to a spa this year and give your body, mind and spirit a significant lift.