We asked Milana Knowles, vice-president of spa operations at SpaFinder (www.spafinder.com), a spa marketing and media company, to share the latest massage trends. They are:
BlackBerry Hand Massage
The spa industry has seized on a hi-tech trend and introduced a massage for BlackBerry addicts. “Everyone is on their BlackBerry typing, and when you do it for a long period of time, the muscles in your hands and thumbs start hurting,” Knowles explains. The antidote: The new BlackBerry Hand massage. As you’d expect, the massage therapist focuses on easing tension and soreness in the fingers, thumbs, hands and overworked wrist areas. In Canada, you can plug in to a hi-tech hand massage at Stillwater Spa at the Park Hyatt in Toronto and The Palace Casbah in South Surrey, B.C..
International Water Treatments Combined with Massage
Water has always been an integral part of spa treatments. But what’s in vogue right now is combining a water treatment of international origin with a massage. “We’re seeing many Russian Banyas opening, for example,” Knowles says. Here in Canada, the Izba Spa in Quebec City features a Russian-style Banya, where participants enjoy a traditional steam infused sauna and then engage in a platza ritual – patting the body with oak/birch leaves. In Vancouver, at the Miraj Hammam Spa, patterned after the historical Hammams in Turkey, you can experience a Hammam (low-mist, high-intensity steam chamber), followed by a full body Gommage (exfoliation) and a massage. Meanwhile Le Scandinave Spa at Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ont. provides a Scandinavian baths experience. Alternate body warming with refreshing cold-water plunges outside and then pair it up with a Swedish massage afterwards.
With roots in osteopathic medicine, craniosacral therapy helps to improve the functioning of the craniosacral system, which consists of membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. Using light touch, a therapist starts at the tailbone area (sacrum) and works her way up the spine to the neck and head to monitor the rhythm of craniosacral fluid in the spine and determine if there is an obstruction or stress at any point, explains Theresa Crolly, a massage therapist at Yorkville Massage Therapy in Toronto. If one is found, the therapist then assists the natural movement of the fluid and related soft tissue to help the body self-correct. It’s useful for those who suffer from chronic head and back pain, migraines, jaw problems, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and central nervous system disorder. However, it’s not recommended for people with acute aneurysm, cerebral hemorrhage or severe bleeding disorders-a small change in intracranial pressure may cause instability to these conditions. Spa Zazen in Montreal and Spaah-Go in Bloomfield, Ont. also provide craniosacral therapy.
Organic Skin Products
Given the green revolution, it was only a matter of time before environmentally aware spa-goers started to want organic essential oils and body lotions. “In the past, therapists would ask clients only if they wanted cream or oil. Now we are asked by clients what kind of products we use” “Are they organic?” and “Are the products good for my skin?” Eco-chic spas are responding. Aliviar Spa in Toronto touts itself as an organic and vegan spa. The Aliviar Signature Head to Toe treatment includes a body exfoliation with an organic scrub, followed by a massage that hydrates the skin with organic oils. And Gatehouse Spa in Shediac, N.B., uses organic therapeutic essential oils in its aromatherapy massage.
Spa-goers are opting for longer massages. “People have found that maybe 50 minutes is not long enough. They are looking for a massage that lasts 90 minutes or even two hours,” says Knowles. These are appealing to stressed-out folks, who feel that they’re just starting to relax after an hour. In Canada, most spas offer 90 minutes massages but we’re starting to see two-hour massages on the menus at many, including Château Victoria Hotel & Suites in Victoria, 2Hands1Heart in Canmore, AB and Spa Savanna in Montreal.
Finding a Good Massage Therapist
“The spa treatment is only as good as the therapist that provides it,” Knowles says. So how do you find a great massage therapist? Well, you can wander into most spas and just book an appointment, but that’s not the best strategy.
• To find a massage therapist that’s right for you, first start with the spa. Look for one that shares your philosophy and offers the types of services you want. Are you looking for a more medicinal approach (focused on treating health issues) or a luxury spa that focuses on pampering? Are you looking for a specific modality, such as Ayervedic massage?
• Next, identify your preferences (male vs. female therapist, someone who has a gentle touch vs. a strong touch) and ask the spa to match you with a therapist who meets your needs.
• Finally, try massages with a few different therapists to find out who clicks with you. “There needs to be a connection between you and that service provider,” Knowles says. Recommendations from a friend are great, but keep in mind that massage is a very personal experience and what works for one person may not work for you.