From the Inside Out

Show clients internal paths to wellness with the latest energy-based treatments.

The Tibetan Sound Massage at Spa Claremont in Berkeley, CaliforniaThe Tibetan Sound Massage at Spa Claremont in Berkeley, California

The Tibetan Sound Massage at Spa Claremont in Berkeley, California

If you’re an energy therapy practitioner, you’re used to fielding a wide range of reactions in response to your work. Some folks will recognize energy therapy as a form of healing through the unseen fields of energy—within us and within the universe—that greatly affect our health and well-being. Others will suspect that you just caught the last flight in from Mars.

This is an occupational hazard that Cyndi Dale, healer, consultant, speaker and author of the best-selling New Chakra Healing, is willing to face. Dale is committed to the idea of internal energy as a barometer of wellness. “It’s purely physiological,” she says. “Negative energy pollutes cells so they can’t function properly, which in turn affects surrounding organs. If we can shape our energy, we can change our health.”

But does this form of therapy belong at your spa? One could argue that, in a sense, it’s already there. Energy balancing has always been a tenet of spa, whether you provide a high-tech facial to improve a client’s skin and bolster her self-image, or perform a deep-tissue massage to release clenched muscles and encourage stress relief. Regardless of the treatment, your underlying mission is ultimately to help clients achieve internal balance. In energy therapy, that balance is attained by tapping into mind-body mechanisms.

Some spa owners are so committed to this approach that they’ve devoted their facilities completely to it, and employ practitioners who call upon ancient traditions of energy medicine to develop new treatments that are exciting to both staff and clients. Other spa owners are starting slowly, testing the waters to see whether their clients are ready to embrace the intangible, yet time-tested theory of energy as a healing force.

Sanctuary Spa d’ Santé, Houston
The Ritual (75 min./$200)
The Bozzan (30 min./$55

Although traditional energy therapies such as Reiki (the Japanese technique of “laying on hands”) and chakra work have some customary protocol, there are ways to make energy work new and inspired. Brea Gratia, naturopathic doctor and owner/founder of Sanctuary Spa d’ santé in Houston devoted an entire menu to classic energy-work modalities. Yet there were two clients in particular that led her to invent a new treatment called The Ritual. “They had black clouds above them,” Gratia says. “They weren’t able to explain, but I thought they needed to be nurtured and loved, like infants. I felt like I had to give them something that would get into their bodies, and then their spirits would follow along.”

The Ritual takes place in a darkened room, where the aroma of incense resins and scented oils are used sequentially as the treatment proceeds. Beforehand, the client is given communication signals to use during this completely nonverbal treatment, and earphones that transmit meditative music and sounds. To start, the therapist performs a gentle face cleansing and a seaweed poultice and eye pads are applied. The skin on the body is gently dry-brushed, and then a hand dryer is used to blow warm air onto the body. Using custom-made rockers that are pre-fitted into the table, the client is tucked into sheets and rocked as if in a cradle as they’re lightly stroked. Neither a conventional facial nor massage, this unique treatment has been created to fill the client with a sense of healing love.

The Bozzan is an add-on foot treatment to help clients rebalance. It uses small hammers to stimulate pressure points on the feet, similar to reflexology. The hammers produce a rhythmic sound to relinquish stress.

rA Organic Spa, Burbank, CA
Acu Massage (75 min./$150)

If your staff isn’t ready to perform energy work, you may choose to work with an outside, energy balance specialist. At rA Organic Spa in Burbank, California, co-owner Chris Haas contracts with a licensed acupuncturist to serve clients. This has enabled him to offer the Acu Massage. “Someone may come in for an ailment, while someone else might just need a deeper way to achieve relaxation,” says Haas. “This service addresses both.”

Two practitioners administer this rejuvenating treatment combo. First, a massage therapist performs a half-hour therapeutic massage, typically Swedish or deep tissue depending on the client’s preference. Then, a licensed acupuncturist does a short intake and performs a “tune-up.”

Acupuncture needles are inserted at the energy pathways (also called meridian points) that affect chi to help balance the body’s natural, opposing forces of yin (cold and passive) and yang (hot and active). Concerns ranging from headaches and high blood pressure to circulatory problems may be addressed. The session concludes with an acupressure and stretching session. The treatment can also be booked as a couples’ experience.

The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
Manipura Experience (90 min./$260)

“We encourage people to see energy balancing as an investment in their health, like going to the doctor and paying attention to their diet,” says Derek Hoffman, director of spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. According to Hoffman, everything from the negative forces emitted by other people to the ions leaking from computers and phones intermingle to disrupt our internal life. “Guests who come out of our Manipura Experience are euphoric, sometimes in tears, and report feeling more confident and centered,” Hoffman says. “We notice that their voice has dropped an octave. When they can relinquish control and allow themselves to be vulnerable, we can create powerful changes for them.”

Four Seasons decided to offer this traditional Indian-based, energy balancing treatment with a protocol inspired by its chosen spa product line, ila. The treatment room is prepared with candles and music created specifically for the treatment. Scented and warmed oils are applied to the client’s skin, followed by a full-body scrub with a mineral-rich Himalayan salt thought to draw disproportionate energy from the body. The client then showers in preparation for the marma point massage based on the ayurvedic system, which indicates specific, vital energy points on the body. Blood flow is increased and stored energy is released while lymphatic drainage promotes detoxification. A poultice, made from Himalayan salt and wrapped in a muslin square and heated, is applied to the ten petal points of the third chakra, the solar plexus of the body, to unblock and heal that vulnerable area where emotional baggage is often stored.

The Luxe Hotel Sanctuary Spa, Los Angeles
Energy Healing (60 min./$100 or 90 min./$145)

Customized care is a hallmark of energy medicine. At the Luxe Hotel Sanctuary Spa in Los Angeles, the simply titled Energy Healing treatment begins with a client consultation to help the therapist ascertain what the guest feels and needs, in order to select the most effective techniques. “People are asking for a holistic approach, and energy cleansing is a part of that,” says spa director Kelly Towry. “However, each person is different so we have to provide the treatment that’s right for them.”

This treatment uses different therapy modalities, including Reiki, to improve the client’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being by encouraging release through the meridians. The therapist’s hands are positioned on or above certain points on the body to exchange energy as needed, picking up cues from feelings of hot and cold. The treatment may also include the use of crystals and crystal plates to assist in chakra healing, tuning forks for vibrational therapy and tapping techniques to dislodge any energy blockage. Essential oils are used and herbs are burned to infuse the experience with aroma. A practitioner who specializes in aura readings and biofeedback analysis can be booked upon request to educate clients on which parts of their bodies contain either dominant or under-active energy, and what they can do to achieve greater balance.

Spa Claremont, Berkeley, CA
Tibetan Sound Massage (50 min./$150 or 80 min./$200)

For some clients, hearing is believing. “Guests often ask us to help restore their sense of harmony. They want to better focus and pay attention, to release negativity and create channels for deeper relaxation,” says Stacey Parks, director of spa operations at Spa Claremont in Berkeley, California, where the Tibetan Sound Massage provides clients with a novel pathway to harmony. “This massage balances energy fields, aids in synchronizing left and right brain activity and helps clients address deep-seated issues.”

The auditory nerves act as energy channels for sound bowl treatments, used in ancient and spiritual traditions to aid in meditation and recovery from illness. This treatment involves a customized massage in which the bronze bowls—of different sizes and warmed to maximize their vibrational capacity—are used on or near the seven chakra points so that the vibrations are felt as well as heard. Using a mallet, the therapist rolls the outside of the bowl to create a tone that corresponds to each chakra. The accompanying music plays chimes that are said to repair holes in the energy field, while the sound of rattles awakens the spirit and drums simulate a human heartbeat to lower anxiety. Sound and touch all combine for a transformative experience.

Balancing It All

Spa owners may be surprised at their therapists’ enthusiasm for adding these unusual and meaningful treatments to the spa menu. “It’s a departure for them,” says Hoffman of the Four Seasons. “It gives them a chance to flex. They really concentrate and set their intention, which is the essence of energy healing.”

For many spas, energy treatments are a logical extension of their services and practitioners often already possess an intuitive ability that lends itself to these therapies. “I’ve got people who’ve been doing massage for 15 and 20 years,” says the Luxe’s Towry. “I find that they need very little training to do some of this work.

Some practitioners will need to learn to trust their intuition, however—a challenge for those used to a set protocol and to delivering a consistent experience with every single treatment. “I want each therapist to bring his or her own ability into the room,” says Spa Sanctuary d´santé’s Gratia. “And to remember that with this type of work, clients largely generate their own experience.”

Because energy balancing calls upon the therapist to connect with the client—physically, emotionally and spiritually—it isn’t unusual for him or her to encounter resistance, warns author Dale. When that occurs, the client may need some gentle encouragement. “People usually want to avoid working on the very part of their body where their emotions and blocks are stored,” she says. “I encourage them to focus on that part, to be willing to dig in. Once they uncover the trauma and negativity, the cells unlock and healing begins.”

Energy therapies simply won’t be appropriate for every client, and it’s often up to the spa to make the call. “We create a connection right away on the phone to find out what the client’s needs are,” says Spa Claremont’s Parks. “If they say they have neck pain or stress, we’re not going to lead them to this treatment. But if they say they have sleep challenges, if they say they’re out of balance, if they say they want to be transported to a different place, this might be right for them. This type of treatment is unusual, but it’s accessible.” •

Andrea Renskoff is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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