We can reach for the spas again! Health clubs have reopened, so what changes can you expect before you take the plunge?
- It’s five weeks since spas were allowed to re-open and they’ve been missed
- The UK now has more than 900 spas, employing around 45,000 people
- But what are they like in the brave new world of masks, bubbles, track and trace?
There’s a lot of faffing about in spas. And comedy, too, in a polite sort of way.
‘Would you like to wear some throw-away underpants?’ asks Arina, a striking blonde woman from Lithuania.
In a different setting, that wouldn’t sound quite right. But when you’re in an oval-shaped room with a flickering candle here, soulful music there and a whole cabinet filled with aromatherapy oils under the Espa label, it’s perfectly normal.
It’s five weeks since spas were allowed to re-open (although to their chagrin, saunas and steam rooms have to remain closed) and the word is that they have been greatly missed
It’s five weeks since spas were allowed to re-open (although to their chagrin, saunas and steam rooms have to remain closed) and the word is that they have been greatly missed. There are a lot of them. In fact, the UK now has more than 900 spas, employing 45,000 people, according to the UK Spa Association. The industry is worth some £2 billion in a normal year.
Spa days, in particular, seem to be a growing phenomenon, popular with mothers and daughters or groups of female friends. I don’t know of too many men who book in together for a spa package, but some of us chaps are only too happy to hop up on the treatment table for an hour or so.
The word spa is derived from the name of the town of Spa in Belgium, which in Roman times was called Aquae Spadanae. Then in 16th century England, the Roman idea of medicinal bathing was revived in towns such as Bath and Harrogate.
A big spa breakthrough happened in the early 19th century in Saratoga Springs, New York, when the area had two huge Greek revival hotels dedicated to ‘taking the waters’. Then the first day spa was introduced by Elizabeth Arden in 1910, offering manicures, facials and so on.
Today, the buzz word is ‘wellness’ and it seems to cover the gamut, but the question is: what’s it like in the brave new world of visors, masks, bubbles, track and trace?
That’s what I’ve come to Espa Life at Corinthia (the biggest spa in London) to find out. Not overly taxing is the answer, although the questionnaire you are asked to complete on a sanitised tablet takes ten minutes.
The UK now has more than 900 spas, employing 45,000 people, according to the UK Spa Association
Espa Life at Corinthia offers a Renew & Restore day package, Monday to Thursday for £275, including a one-hour Swedish massage, lunch with a glass of Laurent-Perrier champagne, complimentary body oil and full use of the indoor swimming pool, vitality pool, ice fountain, heated marble loungers and sleep pods.
The list of possible medical treatments I might have had includes ‘microdermabrasion’ and ‘sclerotherapy’, neither of which rings a bell.
After this, I’m asked to wash my hands and apply sanitiser before heading for the changing room. Any towels or robes must be deposited into a string bag after use.
Surfaces all look shiny and there’s nothing on them such as a pot of combs or swish cologne that were de rigueur before Covid.
Arina is wearing a visor and asks if I would like her to use a mask, too. I don’t.
‘But would you like to wear a mask?’ she asks.
‘No. I’m fine unless you would like me to wear one.’
See what I mean about the deep-tissue politeness.
I’m having a detoxifying Swedish massage, which promises to ‘awaken the body’. But not immediately. In fact, I fall asleep until, like a piece of steak on the griddle, it’s time to turn over.
Almost the best bit is the scalp massage at the end using a product called Pink Hair And Scalp Mud.
Getting dressed after all this indulgence is depressing; getting back on the London Underground is a horrible shock. But, of course, spas thrive on stresses and strains. And we’ve had a few of those in the past five months. No wonder spa days are here to stay.
IV DRIPS, FOREST BATHING… WACKY TREATMENTS AWAIT
Gong (or sound bathing) is an ancient type of sound therapy
Face the music
Gong (or sound bathing) is an ancient type of sound therapy with the large fairy tale instrument originating from China’s Western Regions in the sixth century.
You lie on a mat wrapped in a blanket and let the overtones of the gong wash over you. It’s meant to re-tune you on every level.
Where: Lush Spas offers a 60-minute sound bath treatment for £80 at locations across the UK (lush.com).
CBD, or cannabidiol is the darling of the spa world, with studies to back up its anti-inflammatory and pain- relieving powers. Get CBD oil infused in your massage. Abbey Clancy is a fan.
Where: Natural Health Spa at the Budock Vean Hotel, Cornwall, CBD infused massage, 60 minutes, £69 (budockvean.co.uk).
A shot in the arm
Intravenous (IV) drips are said to increase your body’s intake of nutrients such as amino acids
Intravenous (IV) drips may have been a Hollywood health craze, but they are now available at some top UK spas. Said to increase your body’s intake of nutrients such as amino acids, they are supposed to enhance energy levels. IV infusions are administered directly into the bloodstream.
Where: Pricing based on consultation at The Beaverbrook Coach House Spa, Surrey (beaverbrook.co.uk).
Join the tribe
Experts say the term ‘shaman’ originates from the Tungus tribe in Siberia and that it translates to ‘one who knows’. Gwyneth Paltrow calls hers ‘my light in shining armour’, but don’t let that put you off. Shamans believe you can heal your body with help from spirits. Offerings like flowers are involved, as are rattles and drums.
Where: Shamanic Healing Session at Mandrake Hotel, London, from £300 (themandrake.com).
Walk in the park
This Japanese practice, known as shinrin yoku, or forest bathing, is a powerful exercise in relaxation with the help of nature. Great for adults and children, as it instantly de-stresses and boosts wellbeing as you walk quietly, touching leaves, taking the natural world in through your senses.
Where: The Spread Eagle, West Sussex, offers a one night forest bathing break from £275 for two, including meals (hshotels.co.uk).
By Suzanne Duckett