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By: Richard Williams
Posted: June 4, 2008, from the February 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
For quite some time, Asia has looked to the United States and Europe for statistics, research and development. Although the information is useful, it does not always translate well into Asian culture, and therefore much of the information is redundant. In the past few years, Asia has become the new paradigm in day spa concept, design, services and treatments, particularly to the Western spa model. How has this happened?
It has happened with the recognition of ancient wisdom in regard to indigenous products, ingredients, services and treatments. For example, between traditional Chinese medicine and ayurveda, there already are more than 5,000 years of continuous practice, and these two modalities have been integrated into Western wellness centers and spas from Frankfurt to Los Angeles.
Sawasdee Krup/Ka, the prayerlike greeting and respectful bow of the Thai culture, represents a simple and yet prolific greeting, infused in an ancient culture that says many things: welcome, you are welcome in my home and you are welcome in my country. It also says hello, nice to see you again and how are you? Other meanings include I respect you, it is my pleasure to see you, it is my pleasure to serve you and it is my pleasure to acknowledge you. It also gives honor to everyone, from the common folk to the socially elite. This simple greeting is but one example of many of the cultural idiosyncrasies of Asia that create an experience to a spa-goer and evokes a moment in time. A moment when one had time to stop, to bow, to show respect to someone—this is the essence of what you might want instilled in your spa environment, that of a moment when time stands still. Asian spas weave a tapestry of indigenous services and treatments, rituals and rites into what is best described as an “experience,” with the aim to surpass one’s expectations as a client.
There are many examples in Asia of indigenous wellness modalities that the
spa community has translated and utilized into daily services, often signature treatments and packages that include services such as traditional Chinese medicine—herbal medicines translated into ingredients used in spa services; Tuina; acupressure; reflexology; acupuncture; moxibustion; guasa (bamboo cupping); and thermal waters.
In Japan, there is Zen shiatsu; onsen culture; green tea or sake baths; and hot thermal sand. Green tea has become quite a health phenomenon, with huge breakthroughs even in the medical profession with anti-cancer research and also in anti-aging. The main polyphenols—catechins—found in green tea are powerful antioxidants and help boost skin cell rejuvenation. Another legacy from Japan is that of recognizing the great benefits of seaweeds in body therapies, in the diet, for hair and also for general health and vitality.