For a first-timer, the inaugural visit to any spa can be an obstacle. Although the concept of the spa is nearly as old as civilization itself (there are many divergent claims on the etymology of the word “spa”, ranging from the Roman period city of Spa in modern day Belgium to the Roman ordinance “Sanitas Per Aquam” i.e. health through water) the art is being rediscovered by modern travelers around the world, and the operation of a spa is a growing industry across every continent. In North America alone, spas were a $14.7 billion dollar industry in 2013, performing services to 164 million visitors.
For a first-time visitor, a spa can be a mysterious, even daunting prospect. Is talking allowed? (Yes.) Will they have my size robe and slippers? (Almost always.) Is nudity required? (Usually not, but it’s better.) What if the treatment is uncomfortable? (Tell them!) Spas are designed for maximum relaxation, but there are many who will forego a spa experience merely out of apprehension or misunderstanding of what a treatment will entail. As avowed “spa junkies” we’ve provided some helpful tips on enjoying your time at the spa of your choice, whether you’re visiting a mega spa such as the sprawling, Southeast Asia-themed Spa Mandalay at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, or the intimate Spa Anjali at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain in Avon, Colorado (both recent favorites of ours).
Aqua is one of the main elements of the spa experience. Whether you’ve chosen a body scrub, wrap, or massage, treatments generally release stored toxins within the muscle tissue, and hydrating both before and after your treatment will help cleanse and heal your body faster. You’ll be more relaxed and comfortable with plenty of water, and all spas make water readily available. It’s also best to refrain from taking spa treatments while intoxicated or with a hangover – as much as you might think it’ll make you feel better, releasing toxins on top of toxins often has disastrous results. Being hydrated is the best way to ensure your body is ready for the cleanse.
“On time” means early
Spa treatments begin promptly at the time of the appointment, but you’ll want to prepare yourself beforehand. This means taking some “unwind” time to yourself, not to mention having a relaxing bath, shower, sauna and/or steam before beginning your treatment. Not only is it more relaxing and pleasant to begin your treatment with a clean body and mind, you’ll enjoy your treatment much more if you’re not bringing the soil and stress of the everyday into the treatment with you. Take some time after arrival to reflect on the nature of your treatment and connect with your surroundings. During our treatment in Colorado, we reflected on the Himalayan origin of our upcoming Ayurvedic treatment and the inherent connection between both alpine locales.
Go ahead, take it all off
Most spas recommend only a robe and slippers be worn while moving to or from the treatment rooms. Attendants have seen bodies of all types and shapes and are specially trained to drape your body for modesty during your treatment, but if you happen to have a bit of a “flash” during your session, worry not: you don’t have anything they haven’t seen before. You’ll enjoy your treatment much more without the constraints of clothing. Similarly in the “wet areas” of the spa (those segregated by gender), it’s much more relaxing enjoyed in the nude. However, because relaxation is the primary aim of a spa, if you’re ultimately more comfortable keeping your undergarments on, feel free (just don’t wear them into the whirlpool, sauna, or steam room, for sanitary reasons).
If you don’t know, ask. That means asking questions about your treatment at the time of booking. Spa receptionists know the standard requests and will typically ask your preferences (such as for a male or female attendant) but if you have any unanswered questions or lingering apprehensions, now is the time to bring them up. Most spas charge for last-minute cancellations so be sure all your questions are answered before you make the reservation. During your treatment, be sure to advise the attendant if you have any special concerns, such as sore or tender spots, are pregnant or nursing, have sensitive allergies to certain botanicals, have a rash or sunburn, or if the room, bath, or shower temperature could be adjusted. Their primary concern is your comfort, so be sure to let them know if anything could be made better.
Time spent at the spa is not time to make grocery lists in your head or try to sort out that issue you’ve been having with your software at work. Take this time to clear your mind and focus on the treatment you’re receiving. Focus on the shape of the strokes as the attendant works, the feel and temperature of the applied botanicals, and the smell and perhaps taste of the essential oils. Take time to disconnect from the thinking brain and let the sensory brain take over.