What is Spa ?

With today’s emphasis on health and total well being, the spa experience is earning growing attention among people from various spheres. Spa Resorts now recognise stress reduction as a major contributor towards better health. The fitness movement, once considered a passing “fad”, has become an accepted and followed way of life.

These days, an increasing segment of people want more from their vacations than just an album of photographs and a few extra pounds. Instead, they want to spend the time improving aspects of their lives.

Many people have a whole host of misconceptions about the spa experience…..imagining the strictly regimented “fat farms” of yesterday, assuming that spas are something only the rich can afford, or believing that spas are solely for women, or further confusing it with an oriental massage centre.

Simply put, a spa is a facility which operates under the philosophy that total well-being can be attained by focusing on three elements – wellness, fitness (of mind and body) and relaxation.

Type of Spa

Now that we have established what a spa is, keep in mind that there are many variations on the theme. Some are fitness oriented, others dedicated to holistic health, and yet others focus on pampering. Certain spas become known over time for specialties such as smoke cessation programs or a spiritual focus. You can relax for a few hours at a nearby spa, or head to the hills, nearby beach spa resort to escape the world for a week or more. As you begin your search for the best spa for you, you’ll find your options can be grouped as follows:

Destination Spa

If you want to immerse yourself in the spa lifestyle, this is the option for you. It typically offers a distraction free environment, a planned program, and a dedicated spa cuisine menu.

Destination Resort Spa

A more flexible option than the destination spa, this combines the pleasures of resort activities with the programmes and amenities of a full service spa. Activities and services are geared towards both fitness and pampering.

Day Spa

This option offers an integrated spa/salon environment, and caters to those who want to indulge in a few relaxing or beautifying treatments without committing financially and time-wise to a destination spa. The day spa rarely includes fitness facilities due to limited space.

Hotel Spa

Typically found at city centre hotels, where guests tend to spend less time, the hotel spa is often primarily a fitness centre. Its spa treatments might be limited to massage or a few salon services.

Spa experience for you

We have anticipated questions you might have as you make the decision to visit a spa.

Are all spas fat farms or health farms?

No, fat farms and health farms focus on concentrated weight loss programmes for overweight people. While a spa visit can inspire weight loss, the focus is on total well being, integrating mind and body. Many spa resorts in India offer a comprehensive weight loss programme, among other weight reducing activities like aqua aerobics, spa cuisine, etc.

Do spas enforce a strict food regimen?

While not all spas recommend a certain food regimen, most offer low fat selections that are also lower in calories, cholesterol and sodium. A dedicated destination spa might offer a set selection of spa cuisine, but at most resort spas, you can make your own choice. At a luxurious spa resort you get a medley of Indian, Thai and European cuisine besides authentic spa cuisine.

Do all spa activities take place indoors?

The trend is to incorporate the outdoors whenever possible, and to take advantage of activities that the locale has to offer, such as mountain trekking and river rafting. Various Indian luxury spa resorts offer an array of outdoor activities to choose from. There are tennis courts, squash, mountain biking trails, jogging tracks, and a host of other activities. Gardens in these spa resorts are an ideal spot for meditation and yoga.

Can I choose my activities at a spa?

You have the choice of choosing the spa treatments you want or to consult the spa expert for advice on which treatments will be best for you. As for other activities, you are again pretty much left free to choose whichever you prefer. At a destination spa resort, your first appointment at the spa would be with the Spa Director or Spa Physician, who will help you prepare a complete spa programme for the duration of your stay.

Will I be made to go through compulsory exercise programmes?

Most spas have fitness and exercise programmes as part of their offerings, but you need not go through these if you don’t want to!

Are there medical personnel on staff?

This depends upon the spa’s emphasis. A spa might employ a nurse, and certain destination spas have staff physicians. Most of the spa resorts in India offer you the full time services of a Western Medical Practitioner and an Ayurvedic medicine expert.

Should I avoid a spa if I’m pregnant?

Not at all, though you’ll want to avoid treatments using deep pressure, and hydrotherapy treatments involving heat. Many Spa Resorts, formulate special programmes only for pregnant women.

Planning a Spa Vacation

Other questions may arise as you begin to plan your first spa visit.

How do I choose the best spa for me?

Take into account your budget, your goals (whether you want to relax, improve your fitness, enhance your appearance or all of the above), the locale, and the amount of time you wish to spend. Spa resorts offer you a place to relax in the serene and restful surroundings. Indian spa resorts offer you a gamut activities and programmes which will help you become a new person.

What do I need to pack?

For the spa portion of your visit, the only essentials are comfortable, loose clothing. If you plan to work out, appropriate shoes are a requisite. You will have a robe and slippers to wear between treatments, and a locker for your personal belongings. Bring a bathing suit and hiking boots for outdoor activities. For the evening, a casual elegant wardrobe would be appropriate.

What should I do in advance to prepare?

Book your spa appointments in advance to ensure the treatments you want will be available. You might also try a little mental preparation – get yourself ready to tune out the world – especially if your spa visit will be brief. If you plan to take fitness classes, jump-start your spa experience by gradually intensifying your activity level before you get there.

How much time do I need to spend at a spa?

It varies with your goals. One day might be all you need to wind down after a stressful week. But to obtain maximum benefits, we recommend a three-day minimum and five to seven days ideally. It often takes one or two days to “decompress” and acclimatise yourself. On the third day and fourth days, you’ll assimilate and be receptive to new ideas. If you stay four or five days, you’ll go home a new person.

What results can I expect from my visit?

Keep your expectations realistic. Do expect to take away you a sense of well being, and if you seek it, an education in wellness. Don’t expect a dramatic change in appearance in one week’s time. You can benefit over the long term from your spa visit if you use the knowledge you gain to make appropriate lifestyle changes when you return home.

How do I determine qualifications of spa personnel in advance of my visit?

While licensing requirements vary from country to country, the spa industry as a whole maintains high professional standards for its members. Spa personnel are well trained and take great pride in their chosen professions.

Putting your Spa know-how to the test?

Once you arrive, you’ll find that by following a few basic guidelines, you’ll breeze through your visit like a veteran spa-goer.

How early should I arrive for a spa treatment?

Arrive a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes prior to your first appointment, to allow yourself ample time to change, put personal effects into a locker, and familiarise yourself with the facility. You may also want time to shower and begin to relax using the Jacuzzi, steam and sauna before your appointment. For subsequent treatments, be ready 5 to 10 minutes in advance.

What do I wear to the spa?

You can wear anything, as you’ll be changing into a robe provided by the spa once you arrive. If you plan to work out, wear appropriate, comfortable clothing.

Can I wear makeup?

You are welcome to wear makeup to the spa, but it will be removed before treatments such as facials, etc.

Do I have to disrobe entirely for a spa treatment?

You can wear a leotard or bathing suit if modesty is an issue for you. But keep in mind, therapists are trained to drape towels or sheets discreetly over any areas not involved in the treatment and to protect your privacy at all times.

Should I take my jewellery off?

Leave any jewellery in a safe deposit box – don’t wear it to the spa.

Is there someone I can consult to help me decide what treatments are best for me?

The spa reservationist can help you plan a programme to suit your needs and interest areas, and most spas have experts to create specially tailor made programmes for you.

How many kinds of massage are there, and how do I choose the right ones for me?

There are at least a dozen popular massage techniques – from classic Swedish to Shiatsu to ancient Ayurveda. The spa programmer can help you decide the right one for you if you explain your goals. Do you want to simply relax, for example, or relieve tension?

Can I ask the therapist to adjust certain things to increase my comfort?

Definitely. It’s your hour, and you should enjoy the experience. Ask to adjust the room temperature, for example, or the amount of pressure applied during a massage.

Is there a limit to the number of spa treatments I should plan in one day?

Three hours of treatments is usually the maximum recommended in one day. Don’t overschedule. Leave quiet time to relax and enjoy the environment, or time for a fitness workout.

Should I alert someone if I have any physical ailments, disabilities or allergies?

Absolutely. In particular, if you have high blood pressure, suffer from allergies, or are pregnant, notify the spa programmer when booking your appointments.

Are there treatments I should avoid if I’m claustrophobic?

The cocoon like sensation of a herbal wrap, for example, is one that many find relaxing, but some find uncomfortable. To avoid a claustrophobic reaction, keep your arms outside the wrap.