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7 Holistic Healing Spas in Asia


Massage culture is getting back to its roots as more spas look to the past for natural ways to relax and heal. Karen Fong experiments with traditional 
treatments across Asia.

Published on May 7, 2013

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Traditional Chinese Medicine is a wellness system that not only includes the staples acupuncture and tai chi, but also herbs and medicinal tonics, reflexology and a range of massage styles— good news for spa-goers seeking relaxation by way of their Chinese element. At Chuan Spa at The Langham, Xintiandi, Shanghai, you’ll answer a series of questions to divine whether you’re more earth, metal, fire, wood or water. But unlike your birth sign, your element might vary by your mood or the day. “During the change in the seasons,” says the spa’s Daphne Li, “people tend to be metal because they need to hydrate and strengthen their immune system”—in which case you’d be recommended an oil made of orange, which is said to improve one’s mood; sweet almond, olives, sunflower and jojoba, for hydration; and essential oils of lime and spearmint, to aid breathing. Level B1, 99 Madang Rd., Shanghai; +86 21 2330 2288;


Roughly 5,000 years old, the ayurvedic system advocates balancing the mind, body, senses and soul. According to this philosophy, people are made up of three vital energies that determine their body type and health profile. Vata is air and wind; pitta is fire and sun; and kapha is earth and water. These three must be in balance for us to be whole. At the Four Seasons Mumbai, the spa’s ayurvedic offerings abound, running the gamut from shirodhara, the pouring of oil in a steady stream over the “third eye” (the center of the forehead), to uzhichil, a traditional massage alternating invigorating and soothing strokes with warm herbal oil. 114 Dr. E. Moses Rd., Worli, Mumbai; +91 22 2481 8000;


If you thought the iconic stretching-focused Thai massage was an ingenious relaxation method, traditional healing here gets even more innovative. For example: tok sen (roughly, “tapping the meridians”),
a Lanna technique from the north that involves using a small wooden hammer to free your body’s trapped energy. Experience it at Sofitel So Bangkok Spa, where the signature Serenity of the Five Elements treatment includes aromatherapy oil followed by a warm herbal poultice and a body massage that uses metal balls to roll out the muscles. Together the various techniques are supposed to balance the senses by incoporating each of the elements. 2 North Sathorn Rd., Bangkok; +66 2 624 0000;

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