SPAS WHAT IS A SPA?
Are they affordable for everyone? Or are they only a luxury for the rich or very rich? The word “spa” conjures up images of long days filled with mud baths and meditation classes, exquisitely prepared spa cuisine, and fragrant eucalyptus groves. But spas seem to be everywhere: office buildings, strip malls, village storefronts. Salons with one tiny massage table tout their spa services. How can they all be spas? For one thing, there are several different types of spas. The first kind is a destination spa. At a day spa you just drop in for treatments like massage, facial and body treatments. Often, day spas are an extension of a hair salon, which is fine as long as the spa is a separate wing that offers a quiet, serene, environment. No Regulation of the Word “Spa”. The International Spa Association defines spas as “places devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit.” But no one is regulating use of the word spa. That’s why some salons promote spa services when all they have is one massage table, or use names like “spa pedicure.” If you have any doubt, check out the facilities yourself before booking an appointment.
Just drop in and ask for a quick tour. At a minimum, a day spa should offer professionally administered massages, facials and body treatments in a quiet, serene atmosphere. There’s also a huge range of experiences at resort spas. Again, no one is regulating the use of the name, so it could be anything from one massage room next to the fitness center to a multi-million facility. You should do research on the facilities before you book. There’s even a difference with destination spas, ranging from small specialty inns to Canyon Ranch, which has a staff of physicians, psychologists, nutritionists and physical therapists. It offers so many classes, lectures and services that and so many things going on that you could spend months there and still not experience them all. A spa can be a location where mineral-rich spring water is used to give medicinal baths. Spa towns or spa resorts (including hot springs resorts) typically offer various health treatments, which are also known as balneotherapy. The belief in the curative powers of mineral waters goes back to prehistoric times. Such practices have been popular worldwide, but are especially widespread in Europe and Japan. Day spas are also quite popular, and offer various personal care treatments. The term is derived from the name of the town of Spa, Belgium, whose name is known back to Roman times, when the location was called Aquae Spadanae, sometimes incorrectly connected to the Latin word “spargere” meaning to scatter, sprinkle or moisten. Since medieval times, illnesses caused by iron deficiency were treated by drinking chalybeate (iron-bearing) spring water (in 1326, the ironmaster Collin le Loup claimed a cure, when the spring was called Espa, meaning “fountain”). In 16th-century England, the old Roman ideas of medicinal bathing were revived at towns like Bath (not the source of the word bath). It is commonly claimed, in a commercial context, that the word is an acronym of various Latin phrases such as “Salus Per Aquam” or “Sanitas Per Aquam” meaning “health through water”.
This is very unlikely: the derivation does not appear before the early 21st century and is probably a backronym as there is no evidence of acronyms passing into the language before the 20th century; nor does it match the known Roman name for the location. The practice of traveling to hot or cold springs in hopes of affecting a cure of some ailment dates back to pre-historic times. Archaeological investigations near hot springs in France and Czech Republic revealed Bronze Age weapons and offerings. In Great Britain, ancient legend credited early Celtic kings with the discovery of the hot springs in Bath, England. Many people around the world believed that bathing in a particular spring, well, or river resulted in physical and spiritual purification. Forms of ritual purification existed among the Native Americans, Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Today, ritual purification through water can be found in the religious ceremonies of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. These ceremonies reflect the ancient belief in the healing and purifying properties of water. Complex bathing rituals were also practiced in ancient Egypt, in pre-historic cities of the Indus Valley, and in Aegean civilizations. Most often these ancient people did little building construction around the water, and what they did construct was very temporary in nature. Some of the earliest descriptions of western bathing practices came from Greece. The Greeks began bathing regimens that formed the foundation for modern spa procedures. These Aegean people utilized small bathtubs, wash basins, and foot baths for personal cleanliness. The earliest such findings are the baths in the palace complex at Knossos, Crete, and the luxurious alabaster bathtubs excavated in Akrotiri, Santorini; both date from the mid-2nd millennium BC.
They established public baths and showers within their gymnasium complexes for relaxation and personal hygiene. Greek mythology specified that certain natural springs or tidal pools were blessed by the gods to cure disease. Around these sacred pools, Greeks established bathing facilities for those desiring healing. Supplicants left offerings to the gods for healing at these sites and bathed themselves in hopes of a cure. The Spartans developed a primitive vapor bath. At Serangeum, an early Greek balneum (bathhouse), bathing chambers were cut into the hillside from which the hot springs issued. A series of niches cut into the rock above the chambers held bathers’ clothing. One of the bathing chambers had a decorative mosaic floor depicting a driver and chariot pulled by four horses, a woman followed by two dogs, and a dolphin below. Thus, the early Greeks used the natural features, but expanded them and added their own amenities, such as decorations and shelves. During later Greek civilization, bathhouses were often built in conjunction with athletic fields. Yet, the most developed and sophisticated use of water with healing and relaxation purposes comes from Turkish hammams, and Arab baths. This therapeutic use of water was introduced by Muslims in the European Middle Ages through Spain (al-Andalus). The biggest Arab baths in the world outside a Muslim country are those located in the Spanish city of Jaen, and date back to the 12th century. The Romans emulated many of the Greek bathing practices. Romans surpassed the Greeks in the size and complexity of their baths. This came about by many factors: the larger size and population of Roman cities, the availability of running water following the building of aqueducts, and the invention of cement, which made building large edifices easier, safer, and cheaper.
As in Greece, the Roman bath became a focal center for social and recreational activity. As the Roman Empire expanded, the idea of the public bath spread to all parts of the Mediterranean and into regions of Europe and North Africa. With the construction of the aqueducts, the Romans had enough water not only for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses, but also for their leisurely pursuits. The aqueducts provided water that was later heated for use in the baths. Today, the extent of the Roman bath is revealed at ruins and in archaeological excavations in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The Romans also developed baths in their colonies, taking advantage of the natural hot springs occurring in Europe to construct baths at Aix and Vichy in France, Bath and Buxton in England, Aachen and Wiesbaden in Germany, Baden, Austria, and Aquincum in Hungary, among other locations. These baths became centers for recreational and social activities in Roman communities. Libraries, lecture halls, gymnasiums, and formal gardens became part of some bath complexes. In addition, the Romans used the hot thermal waters to relieve their suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, and overindulgence in food and drink. The decline of the Roman Empire in the west, beginning in AD 337 after the death of Emperor Constantine, resulted in Roman legions abandoning their outlying provinces and leaving the baths to be taken over by the local population or destroyed.
Thus, the Romans elevated bathing to a fine art, and their bathhouses physically reflected these advancements. The Roman bath, for instance, included a far more complex ritual than a simple immersion or sweating procedure. The various parts of the bathing ritual — undressing, bathing, sweating, receiving a massage, and resting — required separated rooms which the Romans built to accommodate those functions. The segregation of the sexes and the additions of diversions not directly related to bathing also had direct impacts on the shape and form of bathhouses. The elaborate Roman bathing ritual and its resultant architecture served as precedents for later European and American bathing facilities. Formal garden spaces and opulent architectural arrangement equal to those of the Romans reappeared in Europe by the end of the 18th century. Major American spas followed suit a century later. With the decline of the Roman Empire, the public baths often became places of licentious behavior, and such use was responsible for the spread rather than the cure of diseases. A general belief developed among the European populace was that frequent bathing promoted disease and sickness. Medieval church authorities encouraged this belief and made every effort to close down public baths. Ecclesiastical officials believed that public bathing created an environment open to immorality and disease. Roman Catholic Church officials even banned public bathing in an unsuccessful effort to halt syphilis epidemics from sweeping Europe.
Overall, this period represented a time of decline for public bathing. People continued to seek out a few select hot and cold springs, believed to be holy wells, to cure various ailments. In an age of religious fervor, the benefits of the water were attributed to God or one of the saints. In 1326, Collin le Loup, an ironmaster from Liege, Belgium, discovered the springs of Spa, Belgium. Around these springs, a famous health resort eventually grew and the term “spa” came to refer to any health resort located near natural springs. During this period, individual springs became associated with the specific ailment that they could allegedly benefit. Bathing procedures during this period varied greatly. By the 16th century, physicians at Karlsbd, Bohemia, prescribed that the mineral water be taken internally as well as externally. Patients periodically bathed in warm water for up to 10 or 11 hours while drinking glasses of mineral water. The first bath session occurred in the morning, the second in the afternoon. This treatment lasted several days until skin pustules formed and broke resulting in the draining of “poisons” considered to be the source of the disease. Then followed another series of shorter, hotter baths to wash the infection away and close the eruptions. In the 17th century, most upper-class Europeans washed their clothes with water often and washed only their faces (with linen), feeling that bathing the entire body was a lower-class activity; but the upper-class slowly began changing their attitudes toward bathing as a way to restore health later in that century. The wealthy flocked to health resorts to drink and bathe in the waters. In 1702, Anne, Queen of Great Britain, traveled to Bath, the former Roman development, to bathe. Bath set the tone for other spas in Europe to follow. Ostensibly, the wealthy and famous arrived there on a seasonal basis to bathe in and drink the water; however, they also came to display their opulence. Social activities at Bath included dances, concerts, playing cards, lectures, and promenading down the street. A typical day at Bath might be an early morning communal bath followed by a private breakfast party. Afterwards, one either drank water at the Pump Room (a building constructed over the thermal water source) or attended a fashion show
. Physicians encouraged health resort patrons to bathe in and drink the waters with equal vigor. In the 19th century, bathing became a more accepted practice as physicians realized some of the benefits that cleanliness could provide. A cholera epidemic in Liverpool, England in 1842 resulted in a sanitation renaissance, facilitated by the overlapping hydropathy and sanitation movements, and the implementation of a series of statutes known collectively as “The Baths and Wash-houses Acts 1846 to 1896”. The result was increased facilities for bathing and washed clothes, and more people participating in these activities.