By Terry Trucco
Spa therapists are a lot like craft bartenders – turn them loose with exotic new ingredients and techniques, and they’re happy.
As it happens, we’re big fans of plain vanilla – a basic massage by a skilled therapist makes our senses dance – but mash-ups that blend several treatments into one uber-experience have their charms. This week a slew of spas unveiled their latest creations designed to promote wellness, renewal and repeat visits at the annual International Spa Association event in New York. Five treatments – and a nifty fitness apparatus – grabbed our attention. And yes, we even found a couple of hotel – and New York — connections.
The Sleep Inducer
Mohonk Mountain House, an updated Victorian retreat 90 miles north of New York City, opened during the Ulysses S. Grant administration. But its specialty is balms for modern ailments, including treatments for the ravages of wearing high heels and sleep deprivation. The latter, introduced this summer, begins with a massage of organic lavandin, rosewood, clary sage and bergamot essential oils (it smells a lot like Earl Grey tea) and culminates with a soak in a hydrotherapy tub powered by Dead Sea salts for a grand total of 90 minutes ($185). Cool detail: Hope Gillerman, who designed the treatment’s products, teaches the Alexander Technique in New York City.
Thai Massage and Happy Feet
Not all massages are done with hands. The talk of the show was the fabric-swathed booth – reminiscent of a Moroccan tent – where Peter Bird, a therapist at the Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona, performed Naga Thai Massage with his feet. Yup, Bird, wearing black cotton socks, walked on the backs of willing participants, us included. And it felt great. Grabbing the fabric streamers allows him to stabilize his feet, distribute his weight (he’s slim, but he’s still a guy) and deepen the massage. In a nearby chair, a more conventional foot and leg massage unfolded, fueled by Clarins creams and oils, including Clarins Anti-Eau body treatment which — cool detail coming — hasn’t changed since it’s introduction in 1954.
Most spas won’t admit anyone under 16. Which is bad news for resort spas catering to families. This summer Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, Wisconsin became the latest to cook up a menu of treatments for tweens and young teens of both sexes, ages 12 to 15, envious of mom’s massage or manicure – or dealing with skin problems. On the menu are facials, massages, make-up tutorials and the 50-minute Lavender Parfait Manicure that does everything a souped up grown-up manicure does (and at $77, is priced accordingly). Preceding the manicure are a milk soak, sea salt scrub, a paraffin dip and a shea butter massage. Cool detail: The locavore treatment uses milk from Wisconsin cows.
Australian Sound Effects
As proof spas are past treacly New Age music behold the latest treatment mash-up from Queensland, Australia’s Gold Coast. Devised by Petrina McInnes, a therapist at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat and a professional drummer for 15 years, Australian Spirit of Sound melds a hot-stone massage with a profusion of sounds and light vibrations designed to awaken the senses. At 80-minutes (A$240), the treatment packs a panoply of audible effects, including a rainstick that looks like a giant peppermill as well as music and native sounds like didgeridoo delivered through large headphones. Cool detail: Actor Hugh Jackman is an ownership partner in the spa.
From sound to color. The Indigo Journey, a new color-coded treatment at Aspira The Spa in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, uses lilac, lavender, indigo and purple and their associative scents where applicable, to energize and create a sense of emotional balance. Whatever, it’s certainly pretty. At one point during the multi-faceted treatment, which includes a violet clay body mask, a chromotherapy massage with wood-violet oil, an elderberry facial and reflexology, the spa-goer holds amethyst crystals in each hand. Allow a day – the treatment lasts 200 minutes (and costs $525). Cool detail: Many of the flowers used are grown on the spa’s property.
Step on It
Smart phones, smart tablets. Why not smart steppers? The new Precor AMT – that’s adaptive motion trainer – intuits what the user wants to do and acts accordingly. It becomes a stepper, elliptical machine and treadmill depending on the user’s gait. That means you don’t need to push a bunch of buttons to program the machine before you start. Two discreet knobs adjust resistance and height. Also new is the screen, which has more in common with an iPad than a conventional treadmill TV. Cool detail: You can road test them in the fitness rooms of the New York Hilton and the Waldorf=Astoria.