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A Body of Work

By: Cathy Christensen
Posted: September 25, 2008, from the October 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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“We feel that the ingredients used in the treatments are a way of telling about our culture, and using natural products available in the area helps to enrich the spa experience,” he says. “From having a wrap with amaranth and honey to sipping a drink made out of chaya and prickly pear, it really takes you to another dimension.”

García believes more and more spas are combining indigenous elements from the environment with the heart and soul of the local people. This new play on “indigenous” treatments focuses not only on the ingredients that are native to an area, but on the people, customs and history tied to a location, as well.

No spa subscribes to this more completely than The Spa at Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia. During the formative years of the United States—specifically from 1699 to 1780—the colony of Williamsburg was its political, educational and cultural center and the place where the fundamental concepts of the United States were nurtured by such founding fathers as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

As expected, this historic culture is embedded in the entire town, including the spa, which opened in the spring of 2007. According to Kate Mearns, spa director, “Being part of Colonial Williamsburg and the rich historical aspect here, it was only a natural fit to become the experts in the different wellness practices performed throughout the centuries.”

Sylvia Sepielli, through her company SPAd, helped develop the spa’s concept based on a continuum of wellness. Its five signature experiences are each based on a century—17th through 21st—and depict the wellness practices of that time through a modern-day interpretation. “When a client comes in, they want to do something authentic and unique,” explains Mearns. “Our 17th century experience is the first one we had inspiration for. It’s a two-hour treatment that depicts American Indian practices, such as sweat lodges to detoxify, cold plunges and treatment oils, such as angelica, which probably were used for insect protection.”