Spa culture: What you shoud know
By Meera Ravi » With the fabulous range of treatments available at spas today, it’s all too easy to forget that you, the guest has to be actively involved to make a difference with the treatment you choose.

The good news is that the rules of the game have remained pretty basic. Regardless of the setting – super luxurious or cheerfully modest – it’s entirely possible (and, in fact, required) for you to be positively transformed by your spa visit. Here’s how:

1. Go often. Make a habit of taking a much-needed break and pamper yourself. Learn what you like, what heals and nurtures your body and soul. Regular visits will let you experiment till you find what works for you and can change your life.

2. Give yourself time. Yes, we go there to unwind but rushing in 15 minutes late and stretching out on the massage bed,  all sweaty and strung-up, is not fair on yourself or on the therapist. You have less time to reap the rich rewards of a full session and the therapist too cannot perform to his/her best ability.

“At Jacques Dessange, we advise clients to come in at least half hour early so they can take in some preliminary water treatments like our sauna, steam room and whirlpool,” said Louise Moy, “This helps them to unwind and reach the actual massage therapy room ready to get the best from the treatment.”

Allow for plenty of time before and after your booking in order to transition from your real world to the spa world. Taking the time to unwind and slow down before your appointment will make your visit more pleasant (mind) and more beneficial (body).

With most spas running like clockwork with no more than 10 minutes between sessions to allow for prepping the room for the next client, every minute counts. When you’re late, spas can’t afford to give you that time at the other end of your treatment, which means you’ve just taken your 50-minute massage down to a 40-minute session. Suffice it to say, your body would have loved to soak up the extra attention.

3. Know what’s on offer. It will save both you and the spa reception/booking agent a lot of time if you have taken a moment to look at their treatment menu online or as a brochure. Make note of the things that interest you and ask the booking agent if she thinks any of these are right for you based on your experience level, preferences and health concerns (if any).

4. Understand your treatment. Being informed about how a certain therapy may be able to affect you (whether in the sense of pure relaxation or for getting over a particularly harrowing party season) can deepen your session – both emotionally and physiologically. Understanding the cultural background to a service can enrich it as well.

5. Learn what is expected. Treatments, such as a seaweed bath and algae wrap, are detoxifying therapies that can disturb your physical equilibrium as they strive to eliminate toxins from your system. This isn’t to say one should avoid powerful treatments. On the contrary; use them wisely and understand some of the ways to support their effects afterward. A wise therapist will advise you of follow-up behavior – be it not drinking alcohol for the evening or taking a hot soak and a nap immediately after.

6. Drink water, eat lightly. It’s crucial to drink plenty of water before, during and after your visit. Water hydrates the body’s tissues on a cellular level, prompting the system to cleanse itself and function with fluidity. Just as you would want to hydrate before a workout, well-watered muscles (including those of the face) respond better to the activating pressures of massage, allowing the therapist to work more deeply.

Sufficient hydration also encourages the removal of toxins. Flushing your system will reward you with compliments on how great your skin looks, how well rested you seem, etc.

As for food, cutting back on (or eliminating) sugar, caffeine and alcohol and hard to digest foods like red meat before a spa visit, will prime your system to detoxify with ease. You’re also likely to feel lighter, happier about your body and more in tune with yourself. Plus, it increases the likelihood of your “staying clean” afterward, to extend the bliss of your visit and more fully reap its rewards.

7. Speak up. A good spa session requires that you communicate what you like – or at least don’t like. It could be pressure, music, conversation, scent, temperature … don’t accept what you don’t want. You are in charge.

8. Learn to relax. Relaxing the muscles and settling the mind are a great assist to your therapist. Various mind-over-matter techniques like deep breathing and visualization come in handy and help bodywork go deeper. Relaxing helps keep your mind in your body or at least in the room.

9. Book in advance. It is all too common to look forward to spa-ing on a trip but find the spa fully booked upon arrival. Call ahead. (The telephone is still far more reliable for appointments than online systems.) This is truly one of the only ways to get the time, therapy and results you want, and it’s especially crucial if you’re travelling and want to enjoy a spa treatment at your hotel.