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Do-it-yourself relaxation: Iliana Craig shares the secrets of spas so you can experience the sights, sounds and smells in your own home.

The spa buzz has taken hold. At one time, spa services were a luxury and reserved for special occasions; now, these services are seen as part of an overall preventative care plan that can help people achieve optimal health. According to the International Spa Association, there are over 14,000 spas in the United States, and one in four people have turned to this form of relaxation therapy. With all of these spas, and all of those spa visits, it's easy to see that spas are becoming an integral part of our culture.

Spas force us to slow down, unwind, relax and breathe, and they have been teaching us to do this for centuries. The spa experience originated with the building of very large social baths used for the health benefits of water. In fact, the name "spa" is actually an acronym for Sanus Per Aquam, which means health through water. In original spas, prominent during the Roman Classical Period, patrons would typically begin their experience by exercising, which was followed by visits to a series of progressively warmer rooms where they would enjoy being bathed, anointed with oils, exfoliated and massaged. The spa experience would end with a dip in a pool of cold water to tighten the pores and seal in the fragrant and therapeutic oils that had been applied to the body.

After the Classical age, and in other parts of the world (from Asia to Europe), spas became known as a center for healing and peace. Many different cultures used plants and flowers indigenous to their area to create healing treatments for the spa patrons. Europe experienced the most profound growth, as spas were built around natural hot springs and in beautiful areas of countryside.

In the United States, the number one reason people visit spas is relaxation. With a country plagued by hypertension and the health concerns that come with it, taking time to relax may be just what the doctor ordered. As the spa lifestyle becomes more popular, more spas are including meditation, nutrition, fitness, and home care education as part of their treatment offerings to support the mind, body and soul connection.

But what does this spa lifestyle really mean? Once you leave the planned space of your local spa, how do you bring the lifestyle home? It starts with awareness. Time at the spa teaches us about connection, sacred space and tuning in, and healthy touch and proper skin nutrition. The spa teaches us to breathe: to unwind, relax and renew. To take it home with you, take some cues from the pros.

In your daily life, be present. Be mindful of the food you eat and take the time to move. Pay attention and listen to your body, and care for your mind by creating positive thoughts. Weekly, create a home spa ritual (example below) that allows you time to care for your mind and body and stick to it.

Use your favorite spa as a resource for inspiration and education along your path. Try new treatments that support your wellness. Before long, you'll create a life that nurtures and supports you while holding your health as priority.



This can be a weekly ritual that pampers your mind, body and soul.


1. Dim the lights.

2. Light a scented candle.

3. Turn on a CD of your favorite relaxing music.

4. Breathe deeply.


1. Draw a hot bath and pour in a capful of your favorite body wash and/or a capful of your favorite essential oil blend. I recommend a blend that includes lavender and citrus. Breathing lavender's aroma relaxes the mind and body, and the smell of citrus promotes joy and mental happiness.

2. Drop three chamomile tea bags into the water to soak. Because your skin is your largest organ, the relaxing properties of chamomile will be absorbed through your skin.


1. Cleanse your skin with a spa-quality cleanser and tone with an alcohol-free toner.

2. Shred a cucumber and roll the shredded cucumber in a paper towel, creating a cucumber eye pillow. Place the eye pillow by the tub.

3. Paint on your favorite face masque. A day masque, collagen masque or hydrating masque is fine. No spa masque in the house? Simply apply a sheer layer of honey to your face. Yes, honey? Honey is a natural humectant (has hydrating properties) and feels great.


1. Place a dry body brush near the tub. Before you submerge in your bath, dry brush your body (always towards the heart) to stimulate your lymphatic and circulatory system and to slough off dead skin cells.

2. Take a half-cup of sugar (turbinado works best) and mix it in a plastic bowl with a half-cup oil (olive, safflower, sunflower or almond are all fine) and a few drops of the essential oil blend you placed in the tub. Once submerged in the bath, vigorously scrub your body with this homemade scrub.

3. Wet three washcloths under cool water and place in a bowl with ice. Use these cool towels on your head and on your pulse points to cool yourself off.

Take all the time you need to enjoy your spa experience!

Ilana Craig is founding partner of Innovative Spa Management, a spa design, consulting and management firm that provides turnkey spa management services for hotels, resorts and residential amenity programs. Innovative Spa Management also provides continuing education classes for spa management, massage therapists, estheticians and nail therapists. For a complete listing of classes and more information on consulting services, or to find a spa, visit
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Title Annotation:breathe in
Author:Craig, Ilana
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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