The concept of the spa has evolved dramatically in the last few decades; as our disposable income has increased, so too has the range of our leisure activities. The idea of the spa is traditionally a place of relaxation, where people are able to enter a zone of calm and indulge in luxurious care treatments, such as facials and massages. Crucially, in the last few years, spas have become less exclusive to females, and more men have begun attending spa treatments as well. This relatively recent development has meant that the number of spas across the country, and the world, has been blossoming, as has the range of services which are being offered.
Historically, “spa towns" have been visited for health reasons, due to the healing property of the waters. The name comes from the town Spa in Belgium, which is famous for its hot thermal baths and mineral water treatments, known as balneotherapy and hydrotherapy. Although these spa towns are generally concentrated in continental Europe, hot springs in the United States have similar properties for hydrotherapy because of their high mineral content. The scientifically-proven medical value of these spas and hot springs has made them attractive tourists destinations, and popular locations for rehabilitation clinics.
The modern spa offers a variety of services, and is now considered as much a type of beauty salon as a place for relaxation and therapy. Common treatments include massages, facials, waxing, aromatherapy and skin exfoliation, and each treatment often involves a complex set of sub-choices. For example, spa massages are often more than the simple practice of applying pressure to aid the body's muscles and tissues; the choice of massages in most spas is extensive, and may include the Chinese Zhi Ya massage (based on acupressure), Myofascial release (which involves freeing fascial restrictions) and Trigger Point Therapy, which applies manual pressure or carbon dioxide injections into a “trigger point", an area of muscle that may transfer pain to other parts of the body. While these treatments may be offered at many spas, all will also offer more general treatments, such as the Swedish massage and hot stone therapy.
Among the most popular body treatments are reflexology or “zone therapy", the practice of stimulating points on the feet and hands that is believed to be beneficial to other parts of the body; the “design contour", which works to detoxify, firm up body tissue and re-sculpt the body; and anti-ageing body treatments which generate heat and increase circulation, making your skin appear smoother and more hydrated.
Recently, “spa parties" and “spa dates" have become popular. Many spas offer a “Couple's Treatment" which allows couples to enjoy time together whilst being pampered. Spa parties have become very popular amongst women, and are increasingly being chosen as a Hen Party. Today, many of the luxury hotels, like the Conrad Hotel chain, offer exclusive spa facilities, as well as special spa weekend breaks and Bridal packages in America's top cities. Spa gift certificates are also becoming popular birthday or anniversary gifts, as more and more people across the globe hitch on to the Spa bandwagon.
Michael is a keen writer living in Edinburgh. Michael's Website: Taxis Belfast