Originally, spas such as Rancho La Puerta, La Costa and Golden Door started with a mission of helping people achieve wellness. Today, more than 18,000 spas, stated the International SPA Association, are competing for the lion’s share. Unfortunately, as the spa industry grew the wellness aspect often is replaced by a focus on cosmetic and beauty services. As a 17-year spa and wellness professional, I am glad to say that the spa industry is taking a step back to its roots of wellness.
When I attended the Global Spa Summit in May, I was thrilled to be part of discussions focused on this enhanced wellness movement. I am also seeing this first-hand as the President of Creative Spa Concepts. We are working on more projects where wellness is the focus, such as wellness centers in hospitals and where wellness programs are being added to spas in resorts/hotels. To address these increases, two years ago CSC added a Senior Consultant-Medical Specialist. We chose Kristine Huffman, licensed independent clinical social worker, who worked at the renowned Canyon Ranch Resort in Massachusetts as an executive director and psychotherapist for 16 years.
Vita, a Sustainable Wellness
Huffman led the wellness consulting when CSC helped open Vita in 2009. Located inside Michigan’s Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Vita is the first wellness facility in a U.S. hospital of such significant size, caliber and services.
Named after the Latin word for life, Vita bridges exceptional traditional medicine with complementary medicine to create the ideal conditions for sustained wellness. Vita’s specially trained health and healing professionals work with a patient’s existing health care providers to create customized programs to help them reach their greatest health potential. CSC shaped Vita’s unique individual services and group classes/activities including:
- Vita Restore – classes, consultations, integrative healing methods and treatments on topics including stress solutions, how to sleep well, managing menopause and weight wise
- Vita Lifestyles – health coaches assist in developing a wellness plan including a fitness routine, regular health screenings and healthy, organic eating
- Vita Body – includes Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, chiropractic services, biofeedback and several types of healing massage
- Vita Mom – safe and effective treatments to help ease the discomforts of pregnancy as well as restore and renew the body’s pre-pregnancy form
- Vita Specialties – includes wig and make-up consultations for those who are undergoing treatment for cancer
Wellness centers similar to Vita are found at Duke University Hospital, N.C., Mayo Clinic, Minn. and the Cooper Center in Dallas, Texas. “Many hospitals are branching out into the integrated medicine approach,” Huffman advised. “So, it’s a good idea to check websites or call your local hospitals to see if they are creating partnerships with healers to offer lectures, programming, etc.”
Four Categories of Wellness Programming
The offerings at Vita are unique and personalized. However, many spas offer wellness programming that is appealing to everyone. The most common types of wellness offerings found in spas include:
- Exercise science
- Women’s life cycles
- Eastern philosophies
- Lifestyle coaching
“A lot of people are motivated to go to spas to lose weight or detox/clean up,” said Huffman.
To assist you with weight loss nutritionists, demo kitchens and even exercise physiologists on staff at some destination, resort/hotel and medical spas can be find. Of course, there’s also healthy cuisine. Often, you are going back home with the recipes.
If someone is going to a spa for a weight-loss program, advanced services such as metabolism testing, body fat testing and prescriptive exercise programming are also available. Moreover, when a spa takes the next step of adding a physician, testing for cardiac stress, personalized target heart rates and cardio metabolic may also be conducted.
Women’s Life Cycles
The International SPA Association’s consumer research shows the average spa-goer is female and in her mid forties. A woman’s buying decisions are often emotionally-based and hormonal changes have a significant impact on the way she thinks and feels.
Women who are interested in wellness programs most likely fall into one of these categories:
- Pregnancy – skin issues due to hormonal changes, concerns over elasticity/stretch marks, hormonal effects on mood and the body, and pregnancy discomforts can be effectively treated through wellness programs
- Post-pregnancy – “When the baby is born, you try to help the woman get her body back and transition back to her normal health,” added Huffman. Wellness offerings that work with mom and baby – yoga, swim classes, baby massage programs – are popular
- Menopause – This life cycle is all about what can be done to stop skin from sagging, stop gaining weight, stop discomfort, and stop hot flashes, while improving sleep and memory. Acupuncture is great for balancing hormones, herbal remedies are helpful for toning down hot flashes and best of all, they offer relaxation, which may help in getting a better night’s sleep
Eastern philosophies are divided into Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. TCM includes a range of traditional medicine practices originating in China. Practices include herbal medicine, acupuncture, dietary therapy and both Tui na and Shiatsu massage. Movement therapies include Chi Gong and Tai Chi. TCM is great for helping people who have complicated medical issues and who need an effective complement to their western health care program.
From India, Ayurveda is a holistic approach designed to help people live long, healthy and well-balanced lives. From a Western medical perspective, stress relief seems to be one of the ways Ayurveda works to help fight illness. According to Ayurvedic beliefs, each person has a distinct pattern of energy of Dosha – a specific combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics. Treatments used to align the energy types include breathing exercises, repeating words or phrases during meditation, yoga and herbal medicines.
“The lifestyle practices taught at spas and wellness centers need to be taken home in order to make a positive difference in their lives. Besides, as a healer, you want to see the results of your advice make an impression,” Huffman said.
Just as professional and executive coaches have grown in popularity in the corporate sector, lifestyle coaching is becoming more common in the spa and wellness industries. Studies show that permanent change can take place with the help of a wellness coach guiding you through the process from goal-setting into action and beyond. In a spa setting, coaches can help with everything from stress management to sleeping better, being a relaxed supermom and managing menopause.