6 Hot Spa Trends
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6 Hot Spa Trends

New spa treatments range include deeper tissue massages, anti-aging techniques, meditative strategies and healthy foods.

Knot-Defying Techniques

The demand for more transformative spa experiences has turned treatment lists into colorful catalogs chock-full of J.Crew-worthy offerings. "A Swedish massage used to be good enough for most people," says Debbie Bridges, of the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. "Now, guests want services that heal their body, mind, and soul."

We checked in with some of Arizona's trend-setting spas to sample the newest treatments designed to make the "glow" last long after you've checked out. Here's what we found.

The Pressure's On

Anyone who works 12-hour days, lives in a big city, or wrangles kids for a living is painfully aware that most massages just don't do the trick. That's where deep, new sports-oriented treatments come in. And best of all, you don't have to get naked or greasy to reap the benefits.

At the Four Seasons Scottsdale, hot golf balls are rolled and pressed into tight muscles and tucked into trigger points between the shoulders. The signature Golfer's Massage includes "table thai" therapy, which pulls and stretches tight limbs, and muscle resistance work called PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), which claims to improve range of motion and performance.

Still not deep enough? Canyon Ranch-Tucson's new Deep Oriental Barefoot Massage may be the just what the doctor ordered. Hanging from overhead bars, a therapist literally walks on your back, using his or her feet to unknot deep tissue. "Our guests keep asking for 'quicker, faster, harder,'" says the ranch's programming guru Kelly Horn. "This gives that to them."

Fountains of Youth

No need to visit a doctor's office to get your dose of anti-aging magic. It's now possible to enjoy today's "it" treatments in between a tennis match and a whirlpool soak.

These nonmedical therapies go to work on wrinkles and unsightly liver spots using lotions and potions beefed up with well-known skin-repair compounds. The Phoenician's Centre for Well-Being, for one, just introduced the unique Ultimate Repair Facial, a customized blend of freeze-dried collagen, elastin, DNA, hyaluronic acid, or other age-reversing substances. The Golden Door, on the other hand, blends live oxygen with 87 vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids in a super-restorative treatment for mature skin.

Name brands are now finding their way into therapy rooms too. Skin guru Dr. Nicholas Perricone brings his famous therapies to the Spa at Marriott's Camelback Inn. The anti-aging facial uses patented Alpha Lipoic Acid formula to banish fine lines and other signs of age.

Mind Massage

Can't seem to quit smoking or shed those stubborn pounds? Searching for your true calling in life? Many spas now have psychics, astrologers, and hypnotists on staff to guide guests through physical and mental blocks.

No longer considered fringe therapies, New Age treatments are picking up where traditional treatments leave off. The Phoenician's "Perfect Balance," a combined tarot card reading and personalized meditation targeting the "emotional body," is one of the spa's most popular offerings.

More offbeat therapies are also making it onto spa schedules. Guests at the The Spa at Camelback, for example, start the day with crack-of-dawn "healing drum circles," a Native American tradition designed to induce inner peace. Miraval spa-goers can find their life's mission through an unusual form of color therapy -- picking bottles of brightly hued waters that hold personal messages.

Guests of Scottsdale's CopperWynd Resort swear by its resident "toe reader," who can divine the future from bumps, warts, and disfigurations on your little piggies. And a staff psychic diagnoses imbalances in the body by reading auras (energy fields), chakras (energy points), and even belly buttons!

New Twist on Fitness

Always on the lookout for new, more effective fitness technologies, spas are catching on to gyrotonics, a dancer-designed exercise therapy similar to Pilates. Unlike its predecessor, which uses small pulsing movements to strengthen the core, gyrotonics borrows from tai chi, gymnastics, and yoga, and is designed to build and tone the whole body. Some say its spine-strengthening qualities provide relief from back injuries and neck pain.

Canyon Ranch, for one, has just installed gyrotonics equipment alongside Pilates machines, to give couch potatoes yet another opportunity to get fit. "We're giving guests an opportunity to try activities they've never seen before -- and maybe even do them when they get home," says the spa's Kelly Horn.

Good Enough to Eat

Gone are the heavily perfumed creams and oils of the past. More spa treatments are being cooked up in the kitchen, using natural, organic, or sweet-smelling goodies that won't go straight to the hips.

The Golden Door's Golden Harvest Facial makes you feel like you've been tossed in a salad of pumpkin, avocado, orange, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Scents of maple syrup, brown sugar, and bubble gum transport you back to the summer of '75 during a Fairmont Princess Scottsdale facial. And Canyon Ranch's new Ice Cream Pedicure with Creme Brulee Scrub aims to the cool the body while satisfying the sweet tooth -- without adding pounds. Mmmm good!

Finishing Touches

Hot golf balls may have replaced hot stones as the massage du jour. But new, improved versions of stone treatments -- and other old favorites -- are making a comeback.

The Phoenician, for one, turbocharges its regular massages with acupuncture treatments that reduce pain and boost energy. Tucson's Miraval plans to introduce a four-handed hot stone treatment this summer. "Strokes are done in unison by two therapists on both sides of the body -- talk about balance!" says spa director Jim Root.

Golden Door Spa at The Boulders now treats its stones to their own therapy before using them on guests. Once a week, they're taken to Sedona, just two hours north, to soak up the area's famous spiritual energies. Those good vibes are then said to be transmitted to guests during the massage, according to spa director Lorraine Park.

And now for a new take on a truly traditional service -- Scottsdale's Sunburst Resort has just introduced Martini & Manicure (pedicures too!). It may not be the healthiest item on its spa menu, but sipping a frosty apple, chocolate, or pineapple libation while getting your digits pampered and polished makes drying time much more fun.

April 2004