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, 2013Page : 1 2
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; langham.com.
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; fourseasons.com/mumbai.
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; sofitel.com.
In the past, pampering treatments largely were reserved for Malaysian
female royalty. Channel your inner queen with the full-day Royal Secrets of Puteri Lindungan Bulan at Spa Village Pangkor Laut Resort. It begins with a traditional, long-stroke Malay massage and cream bath for smoother skin. A facial, body scrub and milk bath lead up to the scented body steaming (ukup wangi) and muscle-firming wrap, which incorporates warmed oil combined with several of the flowers and spices—like kunyit (turmeric), inai (henna leaves) and sireh (piper betel)—that overflow in florarich Malaysia. Pangkor Laut Resort, Pangkor Laut Island, Perak; +60 5 699 1100; spavillage.com.
Bali isn’t called Island of the Gods for nothing. The tradition of spiritual healing here aims to harmonize the two worlds the Balinese are said to inhabit: sekala, the conscious and present, and niskala, the unseen or psychic. Using techniques passed down from generation to generation, Balinese massage is believed to cure a wide variety of ailments from
simply reducing stress to and easing allergies and sleep disorders. At the Ayung Spa at Ubud Hanging Gardens, the Balinese massage uses traditional thumb and palm pressure techniques, gentle stretching, skin rolling and kneading with aromatherapy oil for a soothing but invigorating experience. Desa Buahan, Desa Payangan, Bali; +62 361 982 700; hanginggardensofbali.com.
The Farm at San Benito offers treatments designed to balance modern and traditional treatments at its spa, The Healing Sanctuary. The Tres Banyos Lunas is a trilogy of Filipino healing treatments offered at the spa, based on the practices of the arbularyos, traditional medicine men. The ritual begins with a bath of Filipino herbs during which a traditional tuob (steam inhalation) awakens the senses, followed by a body wrap to let the herbs work into the skin, and finally a Tapal Tapal massage to improve the lymph system, reduce stress and aid sleep. 119 Barangay Tipakan, Lipa City Batangas; +632 884 8074; thefarm.com.ph.
Korean ginseng has been used for more than 5,000 years to regulate blood pressure, improve the immune system and lower overall stress. “Ginseng helps maintain the homoeostatic regulation of the body and is a foundation of oriental medicine in Korea,” explains Sue Yoon, manager of The Spa Grand Hyatt Seoul, which offers a Signature Ginseng Body Polish packed with powerful six-year-old ginseng. Known for its rejuvenating, hydrating and stimulating properties, the root is the star ingredient in an antiageing scrub made of ginger powder and ginseng milk. 322 Sowol-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul; +82 2 797 1234; seoul.grand.hyatt.com.