4 Old Spa Treatments Made New Again

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Sanctuary Camelback Mountain.

Old School Beauty

Some hotel spas are revisiting age-old treatments that now seem downright novel.

Soak it in: Amankora’s hot tub.
The Plaza’s Vine Room.

By Shivani Vora
Today’s spa world is flooded with innovation, from treatments employing high-tech miracle machines to ever more, ahem, creative offerings such as chocolate wraps and margarita scrubs. But a few hotel spas are shifting from “what’s new” to “what’s old is new again” by reintroducing classic treatments that have existed for centuries. Gadgets and gimmicks may not be part of the deal, but these rituals are as relaxing and effective as their contemporary counterparts. Here are a few oldies but goodies to book.
1. Pinch Me
The treatment: Le palpé roulé, a 200-yearold French technique of pinching the skin to keep it firm and tight.
The spa: The Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa at The Plaza Hotel, New York
To age as elegantly as The Plaza, New York’s 282- room, century-old grande dame, ask for the Vine Slim treatment, an off-menu service spa co-owner Mathilde Thomas swears by to keep her looking lithe. You’ll lie face up on a massage table as a therapist uses the palpé roulé technique to pull and push your skin with both hands, from feet to just below the neck, then repeats the process on your other side. The process reputedly breaks down cellulite and eliminates toxins. By the end, the spa says, you’ll look less puffy, with firmer skin, and you might even be down a pound or two.

 2. Flora and Fauna

The treatment: Floren Skin Rebalancing Facial, a Renaissance-era cleansing ritual.
The spa: The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
How does this garden grow? Find out when you book a Renaissance-era facial at this ten-treatment-room spa in the midst of the fifteenth-century Palazzo della Gherardesca’s picturesque gardens, now home to the 116-room Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. The spa menu features handmade products from Santa Maria Novella, an Italian line that originated in the thirteenth century, and incorporates plants and flowers grown in the Tuscan countryside, from soothing cleansers made with chamomile and lavender to purifying serums made with burdock and sage. A face massage with calendula, a lavender oil mask, and splashes of rose and orange water are a final nod to the spa’s beautifully blooming surroundings.

3. On Tap

The treatment: Tok sen, an ancient Thai ritual of tapping the body with wooden tools to alleviate physical pain and poor circulation.
The spa: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, Scottsdale, Arizona
Set in the heart of Camelback Mountain,the 105-room Sanctuary has an Asianinspired spa complete with a Zen meditation, garden and reflecting pool – the ideal environment for this treatment. Slip on sabai wear – loose-fitting pants and top – then settle onto a massage table. The therapist starts by walking up and down your back and guiding your body through a series of yoga-like stretches to loosen your muscles. Then she begins a gentle and rhythmic tapping motion along your energy lines (in Eastern medicine, invisible paths through which your life force, aka chi, flows), using a hand-carved wooden hammer and a long peg that have been blessed by Thai monks. Besides being deeply relaxing, the constant motion is believed to minimize nagging pain.

4. The Long Soak

The treatment: Dho tsho, a time-honored Bhutanese bathing tradition using a native herb.
The spa: The Spa at Amankora Paro, Bhutan
For centuries, the Bhutanese have relied on a medicinal herb called khempa to treat skin conditions, back pain, and headaches, and in this hot-stone bath (called a dho tsho), spagoers can reap its healing benefits. At the 24-room Amankora, nestled in Bhutan’s pristine Paro Valley, slip into a teakwood tub filled with water that’s heated to more than 100 degrees and infused with the musky herb. A therapist slides stones with high mineral content collected from nearby rivers into the tub to amp up the temperature even more. Glass walls let in the light of the surrounding pine forest, a screen gives you privacy, and there’s no time limit – you can soak as long as you can stand the heat.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, May 2014.

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