Special Assignment

The spiritual side of the spa

CREATED Jun 23, 2014

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Many spas are going beyond soothing your body to enriching your soul. When pediatrician Josefina Miranda is done healing her patients, she heads to the spa for a little healing of her own. Her goal? Not just to pamper her body, but also enrich her mind and renew her spirit.

"I usually feel more focused, I have more clarity," she says.

According to the International Spa Association, spas across the U.S are offering mindful services and treatments that focus on the soul.

Lynne McNees is president of the association. She explains the process. "To be present, to have an experience, to focus and nourish that mind-body spirit connection."

These holistic treatments range from special massages, designed to align the body's energies, to sound therapies that use crystal bowls to awaken vitality, to a hot oil forehead treatment designed to calm the central nervous system and integrate the mind and body.

Dr. Sheila Patel is Medical Director of The Chopra Center. She adds, "They're really taking away with them a new perspective, a new self-awareness. They have an opportunity to self reflect."

The demand for these enhanced spa services doesn't surprise Harvard Theology Professor Mayra Rivera, who has seen a growing trend of people claiming no official religious affiliations, but still identifying themselves as spiritual. "For people who are no longer part of religious communities, it is not surprising that there is a need for places where they can find those spaces, those times for a different type of attentiveness."

Spa director Jennifer Johnson insists organized religion and personal spirituality are not mutually exclusive. "It's really about being connected, finding what they're passionate about and leaving some of those other things behind."

If you're not ready for hot oil or crystal bowls to satisfy your spirit, the International Spa Association says any spa experience can be a transformative one if you have the right mindset.

"Just walking into a spa provides that moment of mindfulness in every treatment. Whether it's yoga, or a fitness class or your basic massage, it's all about being in the present moment," McNees points out.

As for Josefina, she says her mindful treatments are fulfilling long after she's left the spa and she encourages others to take the step. "This is going to really, really transform every area of your life."

While divinity professor Rivera does see the attraction to mind-body spas she says the one drawback is they eliminate the sense of community that's central to many religious traditions--choosing to focus instead on individual transformation.