Thursday, July 12, 2007
A few months ago my friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her surgery was set for a couple of weeks later. Trying to think of a thoughtful gift that might cheer her up in advance of her surgery, I called Elizabeth Arden's Red Door spa location in Baltimore, which is where my friend and her family now lives. Turned out that the spa was a mere few blocks from her home! I quickly had them FedEx a gift certificate for a massage for her; if I were in her shoes that would be exactly what my inner doctor would have ordered.
I told a mutual friend what I’d done. This friend spent no time mincing words, for she is also a 10-years-clean cancer survivor. (I know! What’s with all this cancer??) “She can’t have a massage!" she cried. "It’s very dangerous! It could spread the cancer!"
Oy! I hadn’t thought of that. I felt like one of those embarrassing relatives who can be counted on to act inappropriately by constantly saying and doing exactly the wrong thing. So I contact Red Door and told them to nix the massage and make it for a facial instead. (Fortunately (?), they hadn't even sent out the gift certificate, even though it was already supposed to have been delivered. . .)
But then I wondered, Might a a facial be bad, too? When I called the first time I'd specifically told the receptionist it was for a cancer patient and she didn't seem to know it was a no-no. Maybe it was bad. I never found out if my friend used the facial gift certificate. She's got bigger concerns right now.
Well, it looks like things are finally looking up for cancer patients massage-wise. There is now what’s called the Oncology Massage. Therapists are trained explicitly on safe massage techniques, nonharmful applications of massage styles for those with active cancer, those in remission or those in treatment. (The link above specializes in this massage technique; it would behoove us all to research carefully before booking for yourself or loved ones.)
I think this new massage technique is just great. I can only imagine the level of stress that a cancer patient lives with. And, I believe—and there are many studies to back this up—that your state of mind is integral to beating the C-beast.
I’m going to start doing some homework on spas that include this offering. Hope it doesn’t sound morbid, but I might find myself needing the info again soon. Fingers crossed that I won’t.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
From the now-I’ve-heard-of-everything department, here’s the latest in innovative pedicures from The Land of Spa: live fish that nibble on your feet to remove dead skin cells. Talk about sustainable!
Apparently, the Turkish Garra rufa species—colloquially referred to Turkish spa fish—are native to hot springs, lakes and river basins. This fact got a host of Middle-Eastern holistic healers thinking: Why not put a school of these spa fish in a luxuriously warm pool and invite people to dip in their footsies! The spa fish will gently swim about, nibbling on all your dead skin. Yum.
I’d try it in a nanosecond, though it looks a tad creepy. If you find yourself in Singapore and at Underwater World, which has recently begun offering the service, book a session and report back. All I can say is make sure you don’t fall in.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, July 9, 2007
This morning I was cruising on the website spas.about.com and came across an interesting posting that I want to share.
The topic was salt scrubs and how, because all clients aren’t always fully informed about the treatments they're about to receive, many enter not knowing exactly what scrubs are. Therefore, they sometimes make unusual requests. For those of you who have had a scrub know that it can be plenty painful. So when this person requested a “deep tissue” salt scrub the therapist was surprised—and quick to make clear that actually, they probably did not want to bring deep tissue anywhere near a scrub because, well, Ouch!
A click on another link posed this question, Are hot stone massages really worth it? Many respondents weighed in with a big no. They indicated that after their first hot-stone experience they had concluded that it was more of a marketing ploy than a true, satisfying treatment worth experiencing. They questioned the benefits because, Wasn’t the point of a massage that it be hands-on? Many said they felt disconnected from the experience because the stones were touching their body, not the therapist's hands and that got in the way. That last comment, by the way, also came from a therapist.
I don't know if I agree with that last comment, and many said they enjoyed the hands/stones combo. But imbedded somewhere in those posts are some core truths.
As many of you know by now, the focus of this blog is to bring some clarity to the spa experience so that you, the spa-goer, don’t walk in with one set of expectations and walk out disappointed.
Coincidentally, I had an interview set up with Geoffrey Gross, manager of Urban Oasis spa on Maple Street. (Their other location is also in Chicago, on North Avenue.) It was with these two anecdotes that I began our conversation. I’d wanted to talk to Geoffrey because I knew he was having ongoing dialogues with his team of therapists and receptionists--the receptionists being the very first contact a potential client has with the spa when they call to inquire about treatments. He was trying to find ways for the receptionists to describe, fully and accurately, the treatment about which the client was expressing interest—without taking too much phone time and without scaring clients off. Why would they be scared off? He went on to describe overhearing one receptionist describing the difference between Swedish and Deep Tissue being that the latter will likely cause you pain the next day. When you consider that between their two locations, Urban Oasis employs 16 receptionists, it's easy to understand how hard it is to get everyone on the same page, especially given that receptionists are just tha— not therapists, and there are call-time restrictions and considerations. I’ll wait to share details of what Geoffrey and his staff have come up with when I write the article for DAYSPA magazine. But in the meantime Geoffrey really opened my eyes.
We were talking about Urban Oasis’s well-established, 15-year-old brand for keeping their sole focus on body work only. They do not jump on every new treatment trend. Because of that consistency they’ve established a deep trust between client and therapist. Geoffrey says they hardly get any complaints, so it's a testament to their commitment to quality that these conversations (with the team) are occurring at all!
That was such an ah-ha moment for me, to quote Oprah. I’ve always had some concerns about most spas’ rush to keep up with all the exotic-sounding new treatments. The menu offerings may be long but how much do they really know about these fancy treatments? How skilled are the practitioners, how steeped in the history are they?
So if nothing else, remember to ask those questions when you’re thinking about signing up for, say, an Ayurvedic Indian Head Massage. Make sure the practitioner knows his or her stuff. Ask where his or her training came from. What makes them qualified to do it? Ayurvedic practices are thousands of year old and I dare say you don't want someone who read a manual or even took a day course to give you this or any other treatment unless they have the bonafides to do so. If you like what you hear and subsequently like what you get, you’ll go there again, happily That’s how trust gets developed.