Ancient Rituals

As Fall sails in, I find myself thinking about the rituals that I have developed to transition into the season. I reorganize linens, pull out down comforters, unpack Winter sweaters, and start preparing for all of the wonderful soups and stews that will nourish the body for the impending cold weather. Everyone has transition rituals – even your favorite spa.

There are at least 2 distinct elements in spas today that can be traced back to ancient rituals used throughout time to promote health and wellness in the body, mind and spirit. These rituals work simultaneously as a complement to any service or treatment to create total body wellness.

Aromatherapy
Aromatic scents are powerful tools in stimulating emotional responses. In this way, aromatherapy has been used for centuries to improve mood and promote overall body wellness. It works directly with the Limbic System which releases endorphins, neurotransmitters and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals. Essential Oils (base oils of olive, jojoba, sesame, etc. accented with herbs) are at the heart of aromatherapy. They, in combination with the service performed, provide a vehicle for the therapist to transition the body.
 
One of my favorite aromatherapy enhanced treatments is an herbal wrap. The use of essential oils warms and hydrates the body in preparation for the detoxification produced by linens steeped in seasonal herbs. The aromatic herbs used during Fall treatments(cinnamon, cloves, ginger, anise, cardamom, etc.) are generally used to warm the body, increase circulation and prepare the immune system for the coming Winter months. All spas use aromatherapy in some form, in specific treatments like the one described above, with the essential oil blends in massages and facials and in combination with the incense or fragrances they choose as the spa's overall signature scent.
Relaxation/Meditation spaces
Relaxation /Meditation spaces are another way that spas bring ancient rituals of wellness into their practice. The waiting area in the cozy niche in the back of the spa, the Zen garden with circular paths and time altering stones, as well as traditional herb gardens all serve as relaxation/meditation spaces in modern day spas. It is part of a complete wellness plan to allow you to stop, breathe for a moment, and soak in the subtle change that the service or treatment is designed to provide. If you are rushing in and arrive on the table without a minute to spare, the chance for the transformation from the treatment/service is diminished slightly, as your body hasn’t had time to adjust.
 
There is a natural rhythm, an internal slowing and a gradual relaxation that comes from just 10 or 15 minutes of quiet observation and reflection in a comforting aromatic space. The combination of scent, color, arrangement and stillness all work to relax the mind to create an inward journey that most therapists and estheticians regard as essential to preparing the body for any treatment. The meditation of slowing down, focusing on what is in the present allows any treatment experience to be more fully realized and allows the body, mind and spirit to work together in creating a center and balance for wellness.

The next time you call your local spa to schedule an appointment, ask what treatments they recommend to complement the transition between Summer & Fall, and arrive with enough time to relax into the atmosphere of the spa. I am sure you will be surprised by subtleties that you find, and perhaps this will allow you to create your own ritual of wellness for the coming season.