SPA: Three Mysterious Letters to Bring the Fortune of Health, Beauty and Relaxation
Text Natalia Shuvalova
Spas have become as popular as Star Bucks coffee. In the USA you can take your doggy to a pet spa. I am not sure that you have this option in Moscow, not yet… But otherwise, Moscow keeps up with the rest of the world.
It is a common belief that the word SPA is abbreviation from the latin phrase Sanus Per Aqua, that is health through water. But that is a delusion. The Romans could have used some of the modern treatments but there is no such a phrase in Latin vocabulary.
In reality, the origins of the word spa go back to the 16th century. Then the place in Belgium called Spa became a very popular with the Belgium tourists. In 17th century the word already was applied to various mineral springs in Great Britain and other countries. In the late XXth century the word was used for the wellness-oasis in resort hotels. Now… now it is used all over… If you ever get confused, the Webster knows the answer: “Spa is a commercial establishment providing facilities devoted especially to health, fitness, weight loss, beauty and relaxation”.
As the devoted SPA specialists say: “Spa is not just a series of treatments or ways of spending time, it is a philosophy of being!”
The authentic Russian Spa is the traditional Russian Banya – very hot, very humid and very much loved by the nation. Our grannies will never even compare it with the delicate Asian treatments. Here everything is for real – the steam, the heat, the birch or oak besom they beat each other with - yes, with lots of ah and oh exclamations and much excitement. They do not mind sharing a big hall with a dozen other women; they do not care that the place is far from being fancy and the personnel are far from being friendly. As long as they get their parilka – a room with intense humid heat – and their branch of oak or birch, they enjoy life to the maximum.
The modern generation, though, prefers minimalist zen to the outdated extremes. Fortunately, the demand is met with ever-growing supply.
Every Spa Center includes a whole variety of options. First of all, you have to choose at least between Turkish Hamam, Roman Therms, Finnish Sauna, Russian banya land Japanese O-furo.
Russian Banya is very much like a Finnish sauna, the difference is that a sauna is dry while the banya is humid. Humidity makes it much easier to sweat and releases the toxins from the body. It also very conducive for all kind of aromas that one can breathe with the steam or absorb from the dry leaves of the besom. When speaking about Russian banyas, many got scared with the thought of being beaten with birch or eucalyptus branches. But the truth is that the branches should never really beat the body, they hardly touch the skin. The point of the procedure is to condense the steam as close to the body as possible, not to beat the client up…
Turkish Hamam is traditional for the Islamic countries. The specialty of it is that one lays on a warm marble. The Harar – the steam room- is full of vapor and essential aromas. The steaming is usually accompanied by massage, peeling, oblations and soap-foam massage. While in Russians use the besoms, the Turks use towels to direct the steam and heat to the body.
Roman Therms have lots of specifics. Their steam is both dry and humid, which is achieved by the special architecture, the stone that is used and other aspects. One has to be well acquainted with the banya and spa topic to understand all the peculiarities. The good news is that this knowledge is not obligatory to enjoy the whole variety of traditions.
Japanese O-furo is great for those who cannot stand the heat. They use special barrels with hot water and oils. The benefit is that the head never gets hot. The treatment has several steps. First, hot barrel. One just sits on a small bench right inside of the barrel, while the shoulders and head are being massaged. Of course, the water has special oils and may even have rose petals. Second, one lies down on warm cedar wood planks. Third, stone therapy – lying on very warm special stones.
The choice is wide and depends a lot on personal preferences and health conditions.
To be able to compete in the market, each spa has its own specialty. For instance, “Banya Estate” is all about luxury and abundance. “We are open 24 hours, and always ready to provide any service to out clients” says their PR manager. “Once we had a client who wanted to take a barrel with Champagne after the steam room… that was about 2 a.m. We managed! The whole personnel was involved! Just imagine how many bottles of Champagne we needed to fill the whole barrel!”
This establishment is part of a chain. Each section consists of several little houses, devoted to a particular tradition mentioned above. Each of them is available for rent as a hotel room.
For instance, Japanese O-furo has at least three rooms: one with two cedar-wood barrels and two cedar-wood special baths, a tearoom and a bedroom. All is in exquisite oriental design. VIP service includes geisha (nothing intimate…at least that’s what they claim), who takes care of treatments, entertainment, tea ceremony and meals.
As for Russian Banyas – they are a designed as a part of a whole house with a little yard, a swimming pool and a barrel outside. They promise to offer the best banya men, who know all about the steam, the herbs to use and massages.
These guys are nothing like the tiny and gentle Japanese ladies. They are robust and brawny fellows. “There are many people willing to learn this art,” says one of them, “But only few can do it! Imagine working hard in the humid heat for several hours a day!”
If you are looking more into Zen place, Banya Estate maybe not the best choice. There are other options.
Royal Rixos Spa is located in the huge European shopping mall. It belongs to the chain of Turkish hotels. Its owner was joking (though, he could have been serious) about building a tunnel bridge going to the reconstructed Ukraina Hotel. For now, there is no bridge, but a sandy beach, big swimming pool, Turkish Hamam, Russian Banya, Finish Sauna, aroma room, snow room, several massage rooms, rest halls, beauty saloon and fitness. You can get the idea that a visit to a place like that may take the whole of the day.
Their specialty is the Turkish Hamam with many Turkish employees to do the treatments. “We believe in authentic traditions thus we hire people from the country where this or that therapy comes from,” their PR manager explains. Thus, Thai massage is made Thais, Aurvedic – by Indians etc.
Its view over the Kutuzovsky prospect, which is always in traffic jams, creates an incredible contrast. Of course, Spa is always associated with peaceful nature, like mountains and ocean waves. Yet, when relaxing in one of the Rixos halls, sipping freshly squeezed juice or freshly brewed tea, you can truly enjoy watching the busy city, its constantly changing billboards, people rushing, cars getting stuck… it feels like watching the planet Earth from far away, like in a crystal ball. It makes one wonder – what is it that they all run after?
Well… when paying the bill, you get down to the earth and ready to join all of those running around.
One day visit costs about 200 USD. The price includes fitness center and beauty saloon.
Another one that is worthy mentioning is First Spa Beauty and Relaxation Center. It has a wide range of spa programs and all of the corresponding treatments: peelings, wrappings, all kinds of massages, foot and hand care, hair care, sun-tan studio, Aurveda… Their Spa decor is created with such materials as sea stones, leather and pearl mosaics not to mention water falls and candle lights. It is very easy to reach as its location is not far from the center. Another oasis right in the middle of the rushing city… Another one that is not cheap. Every treatment will cost you about 150 USD…
Well, let’s assume that prosperity is part of the spa philosophy. Maybe making spas a part of your life, you can always stay in shape for a good career. Otherwise, create a spa at home! Make yourself a warm bath, add some nice sea salt with lavender essential oils, light some candles, put on soothing music… and just relax!
Banya Estate (Usadba Bannaya)
Rixos Royal Spa
Mon-Sat 9a .m – 9p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.