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Redefining Indigenous

Richard Williams February 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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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.

Indigenous translations

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Guidelines for Embracing Indigenous Wellness

1. Integrate these modalities and methodologies into your spa by utilizing the natural resources at hand—be they plant, flower, product, mineral, service or treatment.

2. Embrace the cultural rituals and beliefs, and adapt them to your own spa identity and philosophy.

3. Do your research and find out all about these indigenous services and treatments. Weigh up the potential concerns with the great benefits they impart. Talk with people. Learn these skills so that you yourself may pass on the knowledge, or at the very least be well-informed enough that in a supervisory capacity you are able to facilitate adequate and credible training.

4. Affiliate yourself with educational institutions and spa associations, as well as with government bodies, where there may be support for education and training.

5. Be the leader by providing informed validation for these products and services, with evidence of plans for improvement in education and with recognition in centers of learning.

6. Your asset will be in the strength of your knowledge regarding your products and services, and obviously this means for your staff, too. The only way to do this is with constant training on client protocols and treatments, updates on products and thorough training on all product knowledge, particularly the benefits of a treatment, its efficacy and its delivery. Also be knowledgeable on ingredients.

Asian spas weave a tapestry of indigenous services and treatments, rituals and rites into what is best described as “experience.”

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