Archive for the ‘Spa Reflections – Experiences, Rituals, History’ Category

Blind Spa: In the Land of Massage, the No-eyed Man is King

Monday, January 31st, 2011

blind-man

India is the country with the largest blind population in the world. Of the nearly 40 million blind individuals across the globe, 15 million of them are Indians. How is this possible? India has a severe shortage of optometrists and ophthalmologists, and it also suffers from a lack of donated eyes with which to treat corneal blindness. The truly sad part is that with the majority of cases in India, blindness could have been avoidable if proper care were received.

As with many disabilities, there is a stigma associated with blindness in India; one that prevents the blind from being fully accepted in society, and allowing them to live full and productive lives. The truth is, blind individuals are an incredible resource of untapped potential and one field in which they are being trained is that related to the spa. India is the birthplace of Ayurveda – a comprehensive system of holistic medicine designed to facilitate optimal physical, mental and spiritual well being – and it remains the premier destination in the world for such treatments. An integral part of Ayurveda is massage and many blind individuals are proving to be gifted in this art and science.

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Bathing in Bulgaria

Thursday, January 27th, 2011
Bulgaria

Bulgaria

When most people think of Bulgaria, one of the first things that come to mind is, well, nothing. Bulgaria, unlike titans-of-tourism Italy, France and Greece, is not on the radar of most travelers. How unfortunate it is, being that this Eastern European country is in fact a gem; incredible beaches, uncrowded ski resorts, delectable cuisine and expertly cultivated wines all characterize the nation. Maybe even more surprising to some is the country’s standing as one of the most inviting, and comprehensive, spa and wellness regions in all of Europe.

With over 800 springs varying in chemical compositions and boasting a multitude of healing minerals, curative mud and clay sources gaining their disease-curing properties from the Black Sea, and a climate that facilitates the growth of a plethora of meditative herbs, Bulgaria is undoubtedly one of the premier spa destinations in the world. The country’s history as a healing center dates back to ancient times when the Romans established spa centers in cities including Sofia, Sandanski and Kyustendil. In fact, the Emperor Maximilianus visited Bulgaria simply so he could bathe in a spring and treat his rheumatic disorder.

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Ceremonial Steam: Native Sweat Lodges

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011
Sweat Lodge

Hupa Native American Sweat Lodge

Long before modern bath environments offered high-technology steam generators and fixtures, Native American and other native cultures utilized the powerful effects of steam, which they generated in sweat lodges. Native American sweat lodges were typically dome-shaped, circular and built low to the ground. They were made from “living” materials including tree branches and animal skins, and as a result the structures were believed to possess spiritual significance.

In order to power the steam generation within the sweat lodge, rocks were heated up outside, in fire pits, to extremely high degrees. Transported into the sweat lodge utilizing shovels, they were then placed into a pit dugout in the center. The ceremony leader would pour water on the hot rocks, creating steam, elevating the internal temperature of the sweat lodge, and causing participants to sweat. Often traditionally used plants such as sage were placed on the rocks prior to pouring water, adding an aroma and essence to the steam and aiding in purification.
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10 Celebs Most in Need of a Day at the Spa

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Another year has drawn to a close and as always, another batch of celebrities has proven that the rigors of stardom, career and family life can take their toll on the fragile body, mind and soul. While the following list is by no means complete, it does reflect a breadth and depth of celebrities who could greatly benefit from the wonders of spa treatments. For thousands of years, going back to the times of Julius Caesar, spa treatments have rejuvenated celebrities so that they could once again shine in the spotlight and bring their talents to the masses. Today, the timelessness of such treatments have endured and the spa is more relevant than ever. So without further adieu, here is the official Talk Spas list of Top 10 Celebrities Most in Need of a Day at the Spa:

10) Julian Assange

 

julian assange

Poor Julian Assange. All he did was release top secret documents through his WikiLeaks that threatened to compromise the perceived “integrity” of governments and organizations all over the world. How will he ever get out of hot water? (suggested treatment: Cold stone massage)

9) Lindsay Lohan

lindsay lohan

2010 was a lot like 2009, 2008, and 2007 for Ms. Lohan. Lots of partying and lots of trouble. But 2011 is a new year; one that could prove to be the best party year this tired little starlet has ever had, provided her body is rejuvenated to its fullest potential. (suggested treatment: Thai massage)

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Spa Town: Baden-Baden is Anything but Bad

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
Baden-Baden

Baden-Baden

Picture in your head a town with a sophisticated, cosmopolitan flair, dotted with green parks and blooming gardens, filled with people who revel in culture, food and drink – and well, you’ve pretty much named half the towns in Europe. But add to that a centuries-old reputation as one of the continent’s most chic spa towns, and you have Baden-Baden.

Less than 40 miles northeast of Strasbourg, France and nestled in the charming Black Forest Region of Germany, the town of Baden-Baden literally translates to “Bath, Bath” – how’s that for emphasis? The ancient Romans knew of the wondrous, healing springs present in Baden-Baden and the emperor, Caracalla, somewhat of a bath addict, made the journey there to soothe his arthritis. In the Middle Ages, the town fell into ruin, but in 1112, it was resurrected by German nobility who made the town their home. The region again faced hardship during the Thirty Years’ War starting in the early 1600’s, but today Baden-Baden is without a doubt the summer capital of Europe and the epitome of the lap of luxury.

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Wellness Tourism: A Travel (and Spa) Revolution

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010
Beach Front Massage

Wellness Tourism

There are any number of reasons why over the last several decades, many people have been taking vacations with intentions other than hitting the beach, exploring a new city or engaging in some other traditional travel activity. The travel revolution known as wellness tourism is one of the primary reasons. So what exactly is this type of tourism?

Wellness tourism can encompass many things; among them spa treatments, healthy culinary adventures, physical activity like hiking or yoga, and inspirational retreats and activities that expand the mind. The term also includes preventive health services, diagnostics and stem-cell banking. It can even mean getting dental work, plastic surgery and other medical procedures. Wellness tourism is about achieving and maintaining optimal health and an overall sense of well-being. It’s ultimately an opportunity to relax, rejuvenate and restore. So why are people utilizing their vacation time to engage in such activities?

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Silence Retreat: Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
meditation

Silence Retreat

Life is a noisy and chaotic proposition. From the moment our alarm clock jars us out of bed in the morning, through the continual cycle of talking, listening and maybe most disruptive – thinking – we engage in all day, until the verbal, internal, TV, radio, iPod and other forms of chatter finally die down before bedtime, we are trapped in a world of disruptive sound.

The truth is, exposure to talking, and even the sound of one’s own voice, day-in and day-out, for weeks, months and even years at a time without a significant break, is unhealthy for the mind. To make matters worse, many of us have an addiction to talking, or have one or more individuals in our close contact who are addicted to talking, amplifying the negative effects. For some of us, we are so conditioned to hearing noise that we don’t even know what to do with ourselves when we find ourselves in complete silence, like in nature.

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Ancient Wisdom: Ayurvedic Massage

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
Ayurvedic Massage

Ayurvedic Massage

India, the country that invented algebra, trigonometry and developed that little mathematical constant known as pi, is also the country that formulated the world’s first dynamic system of medicine, known as Ayurveda. Ayurveda, the study of the science of life, offers natural, preventive and curative measures to facilitate optimal physical, mental and spiritual well being. Among the numerous components of Ayurveda are proper diet, yoga, meditation and massage. Ayurvedic massage is believed to not only provide therapy to muscles, joints and bones, but it’s also thought to help eradicate emotional and mental problems as well.

All massage treatments in Ayurveda are prescribed based upon dosha type (bodily constitution), which a trained Ayurvedic doctor can determine. The three doshas in Ayurveda are Vata (dryness, coolness), Pitta (heat, absorption) and Kapha (water, lubrication). Everyone is made up of all three doshas, but most people have more of one or two. Such an imbalanced state does not facilitate optimal health; tri- dosha balance, according to Ayurveda, is the well-being that everyone should seek. Ayurvedic massage is one of the tools that can be utilized to help achieve this balance.

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Where the “Spa” Got its Name

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
Spa Belgium

Spa, Belgium. Copyright (c) of the Belgian Tourist Office NYC/USA

In a wooded valley in northern Ardennes, 22 miles southeast of Liege and 28 miles southwest of Aachen, lies Belgium’s charming municipality of Spa. Though the traditions of the spa, including water therapy, massage and other body healing treatments likely originated in ancient Rome, it’s the healing hot mineral springs of Spa, Belgium that gave the modern day “spa” its name.

The word itself is an acronym for the Latin phrase, “salus per aquae” – or “health through water.” Widely revered throughout Europe for many centuries, Spa’s natural waters are strongly believed to restore health to those who drink and bathe in it. The local surroundings of Spa offer nine springs; seven of the springs maintain an alkaline state, are rich in iron and offer what is considered to be one of the most relaxing experiences the natural world has to offer.
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Time to Relax

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Between Bluetooths, Blackberries, homework crises and household disasters, finding time to relax has become a chore in itself. And as 10-hour workdays become the norm, it’s more important than ever to give our minds and bodies a chance to truly find peace – even if it means putting “relaxation” on the schedule.

Thankfully, the spa world is embracing this challenge, and, with a little creativity, is making tremendous efforts to accommodate our often-taxing lifestyles and provide easy outlets for relaxation. One emerging trend is the one-stop-shop approach to relaxation. More and more, spa services are popping up in typically un-spa places, like hair salons, nail salons, airports, and malls. In fact, these days you’d be hard pressed to get a manicure and not have the option of adding on a hand or back massage. And no longer does your stylist just do a wash-and-cut, without offering a relaxing scalp treatment, providing the opportunity for a few blissful moments without the hassle of changing locations.

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