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The Nature of Spa

Special guest post by Anne Bramham, founder of ASTECC

Like nature, spa has a wonderful way of reminding us who we really are.

Water, mud, algae, mineral salts, and essential oils are the basis of most spa services, and it is in the application of these organic elements that spa becomes an artful expression of its remarkable therapeutic potential.

Consider the use of essential oils.

Essential oils are composed primarily of carbon and hydrogen chains – two of the most abundant elements on earth and in our body. Carbon’s nature entails cell division and new life. Hydrogen, slightly hypnotic in its essence, expands – reaching greater heights, penetrating to greater depths. Used in aromatherapy,  essential oils engage the deepest part of ourselves, stimulating memory, emotions, dreams, and our creativity.

Not long ago while teaching at a resort spa, I gave a student-therapist an aromatherapy treatment. A woman in her mid-twenties, she was overweight and suffered with facial skin eruptions and lower back pain.

Palpation revealed restrictions in the root pathway of the nerve supplying the abdominal muscles and pancreas. Her hips were noticeably misaligned. She showed restrictions through the cervical vertebrae and thickening in the tissue below the mastoid process. In questioning her during treatment I learned she had a family history of diabetes. I also learned she suffered with digestive problems.  She admitted to an inability to express feelings and a difficult relationship with a family member.

In the course of the 90 minute session she began to relax, then fell into a sound sleep.

The following morning the woman reported that she’d had a good night’s rest, and over the next few days she began reading up on diabetes. She  purchased supplements to stabilize blood sugar and to assist metabolism. She made an appointment to be fitted with prosthetics to balance her hip and lower back.  She began eating healthier foods. Over a period of several days her voice grew stronger, her presence more visible.

Her response to the treatment  was not uncommon. The woman was ready for change.  The therapeutic application of organic earth matter had activated a creative and life-affirming process.

On my last day at the resort the young woman approached me. She looked vital and alive and she told me she couldn’t remember ever feeling so well.

That’s the nature of spa.

Plus, read our recent Q&A with Anne.

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2012 GSWS in Aspen Incites Innovation through Imagination from around the World

Global Spa and Wellness Summit 2012

The 2012 Global Spa and Wellness Summit wrapped up last week with a bang. Industry leaders gathered for four glorious days in beautiful Aspen, Colorado, at the world-renowned Aspen Institute to share ideas, reconnect with old friends, forge new connections and, most of all, learn new ways to innovate within the industry through the boundless limits of imagination.

As the spa and wellness industry come together as one throughout the world, this year’s Summit, which revolved around the theme of “Innovation through Imagination,” addressed the GSWS 2012need to work together to create change, not only in the industry on a global level, but also for the good of the earth and the people. Sessions covered topics ranging from wellness gaming, the importance of health coaching and how to make technology work for you to the world’s water crisis and how hotels and spas can get involved and the globally growing obesity epidemic and national health care issues.

Between thought-provoking discussions, engaging panels, delicious food and fun-filled nights, the feedback we’ve received from attendees has been tremendous. Many have commented on the top-notch speakers who presented at the Summit (which included the likes of innovation guru John Kao; Miraval CEO Philippe Bourguignon; the 17th U.S. Surgeon General and CEO of Canyon Ranch Health Dr. Richard Carmona; spa pioneer and founder of Rancho La Puerta Deborah Szekely; former president of Costa Rica Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen; Google’s Head of Industry and Retail Ted Souder; Six Senses Hotels and Spas CEO Sonu Shivdasani; Academy-Award nominee Mariel Hemingway, and many more!) and stated that this year’s event was indeed a meeting of leaders from around the world who are open to innovation through imagination and discussion of serious global issues.

The 2012 GSWS was truly an event full of ideas, and there was a plethora of information and to-do’s to take away from it. Until next year (2013 GSWS: INDIA!), here’s to inspiration, innovation and imagination, and the courage to realize your ideas and implement them to better our industry!

GSWS 2012
Read about all of the GSWS 2012 sessions here – more will be uploaded shortly! See below for specific posts.

2012 Global Spa & Wellness Summit Kicks Off with Cocktail Reception at the St. Regis Aspen Resort

Keynote speaker, Philippe Bourguignon ponders whether we should try to understand the world? Or re-imagine it?

Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper, Addresses GSWS

Ted Souder Gives Tips on How to Make Technology Work for You

Shelley Berc and Alejandro Fogel Present an Experiential Session on Jump Starting Your Creativity

Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen: Global Business at the Forefront of the Low Carbon Economy

Dr. Richard Carmona Speaks on the Pursuit of Global Health & Wellness: The Value Proposition of the Future

Student Challenge, Part 1: Cornell & Univ. of Houston Present Two New Spa Concepts

Student Challenge Part 2: Penn State & University of Denver Present Two Innovative Spas

Sanus Per Aquam…for All: Imagination Is for the Voice of the Daring

A Chat with Mariel Hemingway & Susie Ellis

Aspen Health Innovation Project Panel: What Would Most Transform Health Care? And How Does Spa/Wellness Best Fit In?

Dr. Elissa Epel on Telomeres, the Next Wellness Frontier

Innovation Guru John Kao Jams at Summit – Using Jazz, He Not Only Demystified Innovation – He Showed How to Practically Get it Done

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Join Tweet Chats for Wellness Week

To get people talking about healthy living, we have planned three Twitter Chats throughout Wellness Week™, March 19 – 25. The topics we’ve identified coincide with the original editorial content (literally, dozens of features) that we’ve developed on the Club Spa blog as well as The Pledge – 7 steps towards a healthier life.

Here’s the schedule:

Wellness Week™ Twitter Chats,  4 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Monday, March 19: How Best to De-Stress

Wednesday, March 21: Smart Eating for Mind, Body and Beauty

Friday, March 23: What Heals You – Top Treatments, Therapies and Tips

We invite you to please join the conversation!  If you haven’t already, please follow us on Twitter at @SpaFinder.  To follow and participate in each of the chats above, search and follow the hashtag #WellnessWeek.

In addition to our spa/wellness business partners, we’ve also invited members of our Wellness Week Expert Panel to chime in and answer questions. They will be logging in under their own Twitter handles, and will be the primary people to answer consumer questions.  SpaFinder will be the moderator of the chats, doing our best to ensure all questions are answered.

We’ll get the ball rolling on each conversation by either posing a question right off the bat in our first welcome tweet during the chat, or we can ask for questions from participants, and they should start flowing in.  We can, of course, answer or chime in on anything we’d like as well – because of the nature of Twitter, it’s okay if people jump around, or an answer comes in a few minutes after the question was asked. If it seems to die down a bit, we keep the convo going by posing a question ourselves, or calling for questions perhaps on a more specific topic within the overarching theme of the chat.

In promotion of the tweet chats, we will make sure to mention which experts are participating as well.  And if you tweet it, we’ll make sure to retweet!

Talk to you soon, we hope!

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Guerlain Spa Hosts SpaFinder 2012 Trends Press Event

Last week, journalists and press from major national magazines, newspapers and websites gathered at the elegantly beautiful Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf = Astoria in New York City to attend a very special event focused on presenting the SpaFinder 2012 Global Spa Trends Report.
Photos by Amy SungAfter champagne and hors d’oeurves, guests were welcomed to the spa’s relaxation area, which was transformed into a dining hall complete with centerpieces of rich red roses and Waldorf Astoria-engraved silverware. As a three course menu by Chef David Garcelon, director of culinary for the Waldorf = Astoria, was enjoyed, SpaFinder President Susie Ellis presented SpaFinder’s 2012 trends.

Five of the trends were brought to life through leaders in the industry sharing a taste of their specialty and knowledge and emphasizing the importance of these trends:

Photo by Amy SungFirst came a closer look at the Spa, Wine & Dine Packages and Glambition trends with Richard Dusseau, president of Trilogy Spa Ventures, the company that operates Guerlain. Dusseau explained to the group that Guerlain embodies the superlative luxury spa experience through its anticipation of guests’ needs, impeccable service and attention to detail. In creating a new service platform, the luxury spa represents Parisian culture and the cosmopolitan lifestyle, Dusseau said. From floral artistry and handwritten welcome notes to handmade chocolates and rotating food selections, Guerlain returns glamour back to the spa experience.

Photo by Amy SungNext, the trend of Good Vibrations (Sound, Music, Light and Color Therapies) was brought to life by Shannon Stringert, spa operations manager, Qua Baths & Spa, Las Vegas, and the spa’s Master Artisan, a double-certified esthetician and massage therapist, Lori Cloutier. Together, they presented the unique Aura-Soma concept offered at Qua Baths & Spas that incorporates color, light and vibration therapy. With “aura,” meaning light, and “soma,” meaning body, this treatment incorporates colors, massage, interpretation, light and acupuncture meridians to create a multi-sensory experience, connecting the mind, body and spirit.

Photo by Amy SungYamuna Zake then spoke to the Healthy Feet trend.  As a master body therapist, creator of the YAMUNA® Body Rolling fitness and therapy system, the YAMUNA® Body Logic hands-on therapy and YAMUNA® Foot Fitness, Zake spoke on the importance of foot education, saying “one third of the bones in our body are in our feet and without them, you can’t get anywhere.” With her development of the three related practices above, injury prevention, healing and wellness education is taught to last a lifetime. For more than 25 years, Yamuna has relieved all kinds of pain for thousands of people, teaching them how to achieve healthy, fully functioning bodies with minimal effort.

Photo by Amy SungLast but not least, the enthusiastic co-recipient of SpaFinder’s 2011 Visionary Award, Dr. Daniel Friedland, spoke about The Science of Spa trend and, the world’s first website to consolidate the validation for spa and wellness approaches.  As a highly respected educator and the president of SuperSmartHealth, which delivers wellness programs to organizations like the U.S. Army and Navy, Dr. Friedland emphasized how the creation of is a real game changer in the industry; the site makes spa not just about relaxation, but about revitalization, enabling people to live their lives as their best self.  His book Evidence-Based Medicine:  A Framework for Clinical Practice, is one of the first to apply medical literature searches to patient care.

More photos from the event (click to enlarge):

All photos by Amy Sung

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SpaEvidence is Buzzing

Dear Spa Partners,
There’s a lot of buzz about the new website, which we want all spa professionals and consumers to see.  Here is how you can help: 
a)  Send the link to all of your clients in your next email
b)  Add a free link to your website using one of the attractive logos

(You can locate the logo in high resolution via the website under contact/resources  there is a zip file or images/logos.)

c)  Let me know which modalities/therapies you would like to see us add in our next stage where we will add at least 10 more therapies to the current list (see below). So far we have had requests for: Pilates, manual lymph drainage massage, infrared sauna and light or color therapy.  Just email me at with your requests and suggestions.

 If you want to “white label” the site, which means you put the entire thing on your website with your colors and design so that it looks like it is part of your website, please contact Kathrin Nikolussi at

d)  Thanks for helping spread the word.  I hope you are also enjoying using the site.

Best regards,


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Spa Evidence Message from Susie Ellis

Dear Partner,

Please step with me out of the dark ages into the light!

Evidence for spa therapies is now clearly accessible through the recently launched website, The development of this website/portal was an initiative undertaken by a group of dedicated spa professionals, including several esteemed doctors. Unveiled at this year’s Global Spa Summit and thanks to the generosity of the sponsors, it is now available to everyone for free!

Through this portal you will find a list of 22 spa and wellness therapies and by clicking on any one of them, you will be able to discover the research behind those therapies via four medical databases: Natural Standard, Cochrane Collaboration, PubMed and TRIP Database.

Does massage help with stress reduction? Does acupressure relieve nausea? The answer in both cases is yes, and now, instead of just hoping that what you read is true, you can actually find the exact research studies that were conducted that support these conclusions. You will also learn that some therapies do not have as much research data to back them up. This however, does not mean they aren’t valuable – just that more research needs to be done, something we can then encourage. In addition there are some therapies, like ear candling, that have almost no research at all proving positive results; that’s important for us to learn as well.

Trust me that you will be encouraged and empowered as you spend more and more time on I am very excited about this development as it will be a real “game changer” for our industry. It is my sincerest hope that you will check it out and find it as inspirational as I have.

Very best,

P.S. It is possible to “White Label” this website meaning that it can be incorporated into your own website as SpaFinder has done here. Please contact Kathrin Nikolussi at for information on this option. For the option to simply link to the website, please contact .

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Recap: Global Spa Summit 2011

By, Lisa M. Starr, Guest Editor

I’ve been in the spa industry for over 30 years, and for most of that time, we never had to consider what was happening with spas in other countries.  But one of the wonderful developments in the new global economy is that spa brands stretch across borders, and clients do too!  This is one of the reasons that the Global Spa Summit has become such an important annual event; 250 leaders and visionaries in spa and wellness from around the world meet for three days to discuss both the challenges and opportunities currently facing the spa industry.  While there are different regulations and culture issues that will continue to affect the way service is delivered from one country to another, it is certainly helpful if we all share the same visions and dreams about what our industry can become, and our role in society today.


The 5th annual Summit was held last month in Bali, Indonesia, and there were several major themes that emerged.  I think the most meaningful and important trend is the continued merging of spas and wellness, as evidenced by the numbers of physicians and medical professionals who were present.  If spas want to continue to grow their clientele, we have to reach them on a deeper level; receiving a facial or massage is certainly enjoyable, but providing the education platform for clients to try new approaches and make changes in their habits and lifestyle that will have a lasting effect on their health and wellbeing, both physical and mental, is really where the industry is going.  One of the main forces behind this movement are the out-of-control costs of healthcare, especially in the US, and if spas can influence people to make subtle but effective changes in their personal care, and become more of a tool for overall wellbeing, that will have a positive effect for the economy as well as the clients.  A team of physicians, led by SpaFinder President Susie Ellis, spent the last year developing an evidence-based medicine portal which was unveiled at the Summit,  This will be a wonderful tool that will facilitate the sharing of studies and data among spas, physicians and clients who want to learn more about the lasting benefits of spa treatments.

Fortunately for us, the world is only becoming more stress-filled, as the confluence of technologies and global business models leave little down-time.  Especially for the younger generations, peer pressure and social circles drive many activities, and spas need to ensure they are providing environments that support social components of a spa visit.

Spa franchising is also a growing force, not just in the US, and there is a lot of opportunity here for strong brands with clearly defined infrastructure to grow into multi-unit chains.  But, in spite of all of the technological innovations, spas remain a place where people touch people, and we have a meaningful role to play in the lives of our current and future consumers.  If you’d like to read daily reports from the Summit presentations and breakouts, please visit my blog.

Lisa M. Starr, Community Ambassador GramercyOne; Senior Consultant Wynne Business


Universal CompaniesNatura Bisse

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Down to Earth Movement Goes Beyond Earth Month

Going green has been an increasing trend for the past decade now, so much so that it’s almost no longer a trend. Beginning with the green food movement, consumers have become more and more aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. Now, not only are they also aware of what beauty products they’re putting on their bodies, they’re becoming more conscious of what the spas and beauty product companies themselves are doing to make the world a greener place.

A key trend set to shape the beauty industry in 2011, emerging from innovation from the past year, is the ‘Down to Earth’ movement, according to the experts at Mintel Beauty Innovation. Closely linked with sustainability, the Down to Earth trend addresses the practicalities of making and marketing green beauty.

“There is a lot of education and encouragement around the green spa concept,” Taya Tomasello, U.S. director for Mintel Beauty Innovation told SpaFinder. “ A lot of trade shows talk about focus on not only how to make your spa or salon more green and how it can appeal to consumers, but also how it can save spa or salon money.”

Beyond carrying green beauty products, day spas can evaluate their energy and water use and equipment, which in the long run, can help save costs on utilities, Tomasello pointed out.

In fact, 85 percent of spas in 2010 already employ environmental sustainability, according to the International Spa Association.

An even simpler, no-cost step that spas can take to become more green and “down to earth” is to make a point to recycle.

‘’What we do see is that 66% of consumers are looking for products to have recycled packaging, so even  recycling can be a low cost way to implement green practices and make consumers feel better about going to that spa or salon.”

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Spa Apps in the New Year

From restaurants switching to iPad menus and public schools handing out iPads to students as learning tools, it’s glaringly clear that technology and apps have become ubiquitous in our everyday activities. Spas, too, should be taking the opportunity to communicate and provide information to potential on-the-go clients through tech-savvy vehicles.

Leading the pack, Rancho La Puerta, a world-renowned fitness resort and spa in Baja California, brought the resort to spa-enthusiasts through its iPhone and Android apps in late 2010. Created in conjunction with Macroview Labs, the free app serves as a resort guide, social media hub, and fitness companion.

“This is a really cool app that includes healthy, delicious recipes, exercise videos, and pictures from resort spa Rancho la Puerta,” an app reviewer said. “It’s like being able to take the tranquil, rejuvenating atmosphere of the Ranch with me.”

In addition to the instructional fitness videos, recipes, and photos, news, updates, social networking, and more are also available on the app.

“The Rancho La Puerta app is an entertaining and simple way to engage our audience, encourage past guests to maintain their year-round fitness, and plan their next visit,” said Rancho La Puerta’s director of communications, Peter Jensen, in a published report. “It is much more than just another hotel or resort app; in a way, it’s like having a Ranch fitness instructor at your beck and call.”

Application Features:

  • Activities and Entertainment Directory: Guests can access the Ranch’s schedule of speakers, presenters, classes, hikes, movies, games and more during any week.
  • Fitness Videos, Pictures and Descriptions: Guests can stay fit while away from the Ranch with exercise, healing and meditation videos taught by the Ranch’s expert and entertaining instructors.
  • People Directory: Guests can contact reservations, housekeeping or anyone else at the Ranch instantly.
  • Food Directory: Guests can browse through recipes, preview Rancho La Puerta’s cooking classes, watch videos from the Ranch’s nutritionist, or check out the latest images from Tres Estrellas, Rancho La Puerta’s 5-acre organic garden.
  • Travel Info: Guests can read up on everything from travel itinerary FAQ’s to making the most of their stays.
  • My Rancho La Puerta: Guests can bookmark a recipe, photo gallery, map or anything else for later viewing in a custom favorites folder.
  • Real Time Weather Updates: Guests can keep an eye on the sky with constant weather updates.
  • Private Content: Groups can create private, passcode-protected content.
  • Be Heard: Guests can take a feedback survey or rate content within the app.
  • Interactive Maps: Never get lost with an illustrated Ranch map and a satellite GPS map. The illustrated map highlights key locations around Rancho La Puerta, such as accommodations, trails, pools, and gyms. The GPS map allows users to find their exact location or get directions to the Ranch.
  • Memories: Guests can read about the history of the Ranch, or reconnect with old friends through live Twitter & Facebook pages.

Does your spa have an app and if so, how do your clients like it? If not, do you have plans for one in the New Year? Let us know in the comments section!

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Creative Spa Concepts Launches Get Spa Smart Tool

get spa smartCreative Spa Concepts, a spa consulting company based in Kennesaw, GA, launched a new tool last month aimed at sharing useful techniques and information with the intention of inspiring creativity and helping others use their experience to move the spa and wellness industries forward.

Called Get Spa Smart, the new information hub provides tips, techniques, and tools to optimize business. It includes the resources of Creative Spa Concepts’ consultants to help spas and wellness centers run a more efficient operation while helping owners and directors become more effective developers, managers, and leaders.

Accessible by annual subscription, the tool is divided into three sections with information for download:

  • Spa Inspired Life – for journalists, spa managers/directors and hospitality professionals, Spa Inspired Life is a one-stop shop for the latest tips, tactics, products and recipes from recurring contributors. Spa Inspired Life is a great library from which to pull content for newsletters, websites, and articles, or simply use as tips to boost personal wellness.
  • Spa Operations & Management – a source of inspiration for spa managers who are looking for best business practices. Also, for hospitality professionals, students, healthcare professionals or anyone interested in understanding what it takes to run a successful spa and wellness business.
  • Spa Development – ideal for entrepreneurs and developers considering a spa business and anyone interested in understanding the spa development process. Content ranges from design & construction and operations planning to recruiting & hiring.

In addition to providing knowledge, Get Spa Smart gives back financially. Annual subscription fees will be donated to a spa and wellness industry cause or initiative that is voted on by the registrants. Access is complimentary through the end of 2010, and an annual $20 fee will be required to access resources starting January 1, 2011. 

“I am passionate about the wellness industry and believe in sharing that passion with my peers. Get Spa Smart is my way of paying knowledge forward,” said Get Spa Smart Founder Mindy Terry, in a published report. Terry is also the President of Creative Spa Concepts and an 18-year spa industry veteran. “It is my goal that Get Spa Smart will inspire and motivate spa and hospitality professionals toward success and wellness.”

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