Friday, May 30, 2008

Spa Design Part 1


A business traveler wants to minimize jet lag. A mother of three wants some time to herself. A group of friends plans a birthday celebration. A man with back pain seeks relief. A teenager is troubled by acne. A weekend warrior is sore from overexertion. A man decides to stop smoking. A busy executive wants to rediscover spirituality. A woman wants help establishing a safe and effective exercise regimen. An obese man needs help controlling his weight. A pregnant woman wants to feel more comfortable. A couple wants to reconnect. Where can all these people go for help?

A spa.

Today’s spa is a center for healing and nourishing mind, body, and spirit. People go to spas for fitness, stress management, peace of mind, pampering and pleasure, and health and wellness. Spas offer a wide variety of techniques and services - traditional and modern, from the East and from the West - to meet the diverse needs of their clients: Swedish, Japanese Shiatsu, and Thai massage, European facials, acupuncture, Dead Sea salt scrubs, Moor mud wraps, thalassotherapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, microdermabrasion, endermologie, reiki, aura imaging, watsu, rasul, hypnotherapy, classes in nutrition, meditation, journaling, yoga and Tai Chi, state-of-the-art fitness centers with personal trainers, and much more.

Spas come in many shapes, sizes, and focuses - from day spas where you can get a single treatment to destination spas where you can stay for a week or more to medical spas that treat cosmetic and chronic health problems. Spas are everywhere. The number of spas in the U.S. grew at an annual rate of 21% from 1995-1999 and continues to show strong growth. Aggregate industry revenues grew by 114 percent between 1999 and 2001.The size of the United States spa industry in 2001 was estimated at 9,632 locations; in 2000, that number was 5,689.
Although spas seem to have sprung up overnight, that’s not the case. “The Waters” can be traced back to early civilizations. Like water, spa popularity has come in waves throughout history. Popularity of spas has accompanied cultures with leisure time. Social bathing was an important cultural process practiced by Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Minoans, Greeks, and Romans whenever they sought health and relief from their pain and disease. From the small Greek laconica grew the Roman balneum and finally the extravagant Roman thermae (Greek word for “heat”).

As the Roman Empire fell, the Roman thermae fell into disrepair and disuse. The bath gained and lost popularity in different parts of the world – Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America – through the present day. Baths were often built near natural hot or mineral springs. Towns like Spa, Belgium, Baden-Baden, Germany, and Bath, England, grew up around natural thermal waters considered to have healing properties. The use of saunas and steam baths also emerged. As these springs and spas were discovered, forgotten, and rediscovered, the healing power of the water was often enhanced and formalized.

With the medical discoveries of the early 20th century, scientific clinics and public hospitals replaced the spa. Existing spas responded by offering luxury accommodations, and many eventually turned into vacation locations or clinics that concentrated on weight loss, catering to the wealthy, with the spa origins obscured. In recent years, the value of prevention, healthy lifestyles, and relaxation has been rediscovered and the spa is again finding its place in modern society as a place uniquely qualified to address these needs. The wealthy no longer have exclusive use of spas. Spas now appeal to and are accessible to a much broader population.

Today’s spa is an interesting combination of ancient traditions and modern mechanical wonders. However, the heart of the modern spa, just as the ancient spa, is water and the rituals that evolve around it. The proper sequence of the typical spa ritual is cleaning, heating, treatment, and rest. The first step, cleaning, should be a visit to the shower to purify the body. The second step is to heat the body. Many spas offer heated whirlpools, saunas, and steam rooms. A short visit to each or any combination can heat the body (caution: this step should be eliminated for people with certain medical conditions). The third step is the treatment such as a body scrub and massage. The last and equally important step is rest. Today’s ritual is very similar to the spa ritual used at the Roman thermae.

There have been many recent additions to spa water therapies in recent times. The Jacuzzi whirlpool, a central fixture in many modern spas, was invented in the 1950s, followed by Hydrotherapy Tubs, Swiss Showers, Scotch Hoses, and Vichy Showers. In addition to these mechanical inventions, new therapeutic ways to use still water have been discovered: Floatation Therapy, Watsu, Wassertanzen, Water Dance, Liquid Sound, and Dreams and Rituals in Healing Waters have been developed. The spa today embraces and celebrates its origins in water and is constantly looking for new ways to express it.

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