Step into a pampering spa with extensive facilities, (like various thermal rooms, plunge pool, ‘experience’ showers and sauna) and you’d be forgiven for floating around and trying things out in a relaxing daze.
However, if you really want to get the most out of your spa day, to really detox the body, recharge and leave with glowing skin, then there really is a ‘right’ way of doing things.
Alternating the body between hot and cold temperatures for restorative effects, has been around since the Ancient Greek and Roman times. Many of the spa facilities are still named after their thermal suits (tepidarium (think ‘tepid’), frigidarium (think cold like a ‘fridge’). Wet heat, (like steam rooms) opens up the airways, invigorates the respiratory system, cleanses the skin and is a fabulous way to aid decongestion. Dry heat, (like saunas) boots circulation, relaxes the mind and muscles and makes a perfect team together with steam to detoxify.
WARM UP – GENTLY
Literally. A hydrotherapy pool is much warmer than a swimming pool, and normally has some powerful water jets and air bench. The air tub & bench pummels the muscles of the back of the legs, lower and upper back, to gently, yet effectively relax any muscle tension. A waterfall air jet does exactly that for the back of your neck and shoulder blades. Keep your feet planted, or hold onto the bar/side, as this jet is pretty powerful!
Next you want to start perspiring, pleasantly. Not so hot, but with a raised humidity level. Some spas offer a ‘soft’ sauna or steam room before seriously raising the temperature. The idea is that you are beginning to open up the pores, detoxifying the body through perspiration and then cool the body back down again with a shower. This rinses off the skin and closes the pores.
Don’t forget to breath in deeply whilst in the steam room (or if the sauna is infused with eucalyptus) as this will do wonders for your sinuses.
If the spa offers just the steam and sauna, start with the dry heat of a sauna but for only a few minutes. Then cool back down with a shower
KICKING THINGS UP A GEAR
Next cocoon yourself either into the sauna again, for a bit longer this time or try the hotter sauna. Relax only for as long as comfortable (for both steam and sauna there is a suggested maximum of 15 minutes). The hotter you get and feel, the cooler the shower should be afterwards, to bring the body back down again. So if your spa has ‘experience’ showers, a ‘sea spray’ will have an invigorating cooler effect than to a tepid ‘rainforest’ drench.
SOME LIKE IT HOT
It’s time to get steamy now and open up your airways. Breath in nice and deeply and allow the steam to envelop your whole body. Do some neck rolls in there, stretch your legs, and release any bodily tensions, aches or pains. Many steam rooms have a water hose or tap inside to cleanse the skin following perspiration. But afterwards still cool off with a refreshing shower.
Be brave and go even colder with the water. There maybe a suspended ice-water bucket (to get it over with quickly!) or a plunge pool for the very brave. Ice chips can also often be found – rub these over your skin after a shower to really close up the pores.
You can repeat this heat/cool cycle for up to a suggested maximum of 4 times, or whatever feels comfortable to you.
Get the most out of your pampering treatment
If you’re lucky enough to have a massage scheduled, at the very least prepare and loosen your muscles beforehand in the hydrotherapy pool or in the heat. Your therapist will then really be able to enter you into a truly relaxing state, and any remaining tension will really melt away.
Additionally, to really pamper the skin, a mud treatment after all this skin cleansing is suggested to really make a glowing difference.
Your spa experience with the heat and cool elements has designed to really be a journey. So now your interchanging is at an end you should relax, hydrate and recharge.
Your spa may have a relaxation room/tepidarium with heated ergonomic loungers, so you can drift off in slumber-approved lighting. Or perhaps you would prefer to read those magazines on a lounger by the pool. Either way, try to reach a vegetative state for a little while, reflect and be at peace.
- A relaxing retreat really is no place for a laptop or phone. They even maybe banned by some spas. Really disconnect from the world for a while and leave it safely in a locker.
- Use the spa facilities way before your allotted treatment time to fully enjoy & benefit from it.
- Keep hydrated at all times. Your body will be flushing your system out, so keep refreshing it.
- Tell the spa if you suffer from any medical conditions as they want you to enjoy the journey as safely as possible. Some areas may not be suitable for you, and others may be more beneficial spending more time in.
- Phone in advance if you have children, as many spas operate an age limit or may only allow children to use the pool at certain times.
- Spas are slippery places and some provide footwear. if you would rather not go bare-foot however, take some grippy flip-flops.
- Most spas have ‘half’ day packages, which would give adequate time to use all the facilities if other activities are on the agenda. Some of these packages can have brunch, lunch or early dinner included in the price, so do enquire.
Some UK spa suggestions for a break with a difference:
Whatley Manor, Malmesbury, Wiltshire
Senspa, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
Seaham Hall, County Durham
Further afield to add a touch of the exotic:
Skiathos Princess Hotel, Skiathos, Greece
Hotel Adler Dolomiti Spa & Sport Resort, Ortisei, Dolomites, Italy
The Chedi, Andermatt, Switzerland
Photos courtesy of Skiathos Princess Resort, Skiathos