Spa Town: Baden-Baden is Anything but Bad

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

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!

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

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

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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Breathe Easy: Steam Therapy for Sinuses

December 10th, 2010
Cold Season

Cold and Flu Season

It’s official – we are deep into the dreaded winter cold & flu season. Contracting a seasonal illness can result in what feels like endless bouts of sneezing, coughing and sinus congestion. Perhaps more than any other symptom, it’s clogged sinuses, resulting in the inability to properly breathe – and subsequently sinus headaches – that make our lives most miserable. With severe colds & flus sometimes taking weeks from which to fully recover, it can amount to long and uncomfortable stretches of anguish and suffering.

For some, the first choice of remedies is over-the-counter medications from the drug store. But much research has suggested that such medicines only mask and suppress symptoms, and some would argue that they contain too many ingredients that could potentially be harmful to the body. If antibiotics are required, visiting the doctor is a good option, though there still can be a lengthy recovery time with such medications, and not everyone is comfortable taking them. Drinking plenty of fluids, popping vitamins and taking herbs like Echinacea and Goldenseal can help shorten the duration of the illness, but they do not directly provide immediate relief for those stuffy, nagging sinuses.

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Chill Out! Your Guide to Cold Spa Treatments

December 6th, 2010
Cold Spa Treatment

Kneipp Pool and Ice Fountain at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

Imagine lying in the sand on a hot summer day, the warmth of the beach rising around you – knowing that absolutely nothing would feel better than diving head first into the cool ocean. Sound familiar? It should. That’s because of all the stimuli our bodies respond to, the results effected by a change in temperature are amongst the most powerful to our physiology. And that’s the science behind the growing trend in cold spa treatments.

The term “cold spa treatments” is slightly misleading, as such services rarely just involve the use of “cold.” Typically, they incorporate a combination of heat and freeze to generate positive health results and relaxation. Blood circulation is directly connected to the expansion and constriction of our arteries and vessels, as dictated by the temperature around us. Therefore, drastic changes in the thermostat of our atmosphere can have an amazing impact on our body’s functions, including circulation, metabolism, and our ability to detoxify. Cold spa therapy treatments also promote balance, deep relaxation, and help to minimize inflammation and recovery from injury.
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Top 5 Luxury Spas in Africa

December 3rd, 2010

Everyone knows Africa is an incredible destination for climbs up Mt. Kilimanjaro, wildlife safaris and rugged treks through the bush. But did you know that the continent offers world-class spa destinations, too? Each year, seekers of deep relaxation therapies make their way to the likes of Morocco, Kenya and numerous other African countries in order to receive some of the best spa treatments the world has to offer. A spa retreat in Africa can be an experience like none other, affording you the opportunity to experience a country rich in culture and biodiversity, while at the same time receiving highly unique spa treatments utilizing local products and native techniques. When planning a spa vacation, Africa is well worth considering.

Here are 5 of the top luxury spas in Africa:

1) La Mamounia Spa (Marrakesh, Morocco)

La Mamounia Spa

La Mamounia Spa (Marrakesh, Morocco)

Within the Medina walls of the city, there is an inviting staircase that leads down into this 27,000 square foot luxury spa. The nine treatment rooms, each one minimalist and lit by lanterns, are the ultimate zones of comfort and pampering. Therapists offer massages, scrubs and facials with local products including Rhassoul clay, argan oil and black soap.

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What is a Body Polish?

November 29th, 2010
Body Polish

Body Polish

Not long ago, I was a complete novice when it came to body polishes. Was it a massage, I asked myself? No, my spa mavens told me. Was I going to be laden in creams that would clog my pores? Negative, they reported, astonished that I had yet to try the mother-of-all body treatments. Turns out that a body polish – which always sounded to me more like a car repair service than a body regimen – is one of the most luxurious and refreshing spa activities one can indulge in. Just take it from the newly converted.

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What is Balneotherapy?

November 11th, 2010

Balneotherapy

It’s no coincidence that floating ‘round a swimming pool, diving into the ocean, or sitting in the bubbly comfort of a hot tub all evoke in us a wonderful calming sensation, mind and body. Because water, amongst its myriad amazing qualities, is as therapeutic for our outsides as our insides. And when wielded in specific ways, it actually has the power to restore our physiology, from our digestive systems to chronic skin diseases, to our metabolism and blood circulation. So if you’re looking for a unique approach to healing with a spa-slant, why not give balneotherapy a try?

It’s a mouthful, for sure, but once you’re ensconced in a thermal bath, your body invigorated by various minerals and the motion of the water, the name won’t seem like such a bother. Balneotherapy – the treatment of disease by bathing – uses the science of H20 to promote healing and restoration. By harnessing water’s innate qualities and controlling external conditions (time, temperature, motion, and supplemental materials), the spa experience is quickly transformed into a time of both relaxation and rejuvenation.

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