Five of Chicago's Best Spas
Signature treatments in five of Chicago's top spas.
by Roberta Sotonoff
Chicago didn't get the Olympic nod for 2016 but it's still a winner in our books. It's particularly fun to come to the city to shop or people watch on Michigan Avenue, but its bustle and legendary cold winters make you long for something warm and soothing. So, treat yourself and step inside a fabulous spa at one of the city’s luxury hotels.
Here is a summary of the signature treatments at Chicago's four best spas:
THE CARLTON CLUB SPA, RITZ CARLTON
The reception area welcomes with sleek furniture, delicate music and low lighting that's makes you feel simultaneously chic and cozy. A really nice touch is the individual dressing areas in the locker room.
Attention to detail rules here. Just lie down on the massage table and feel the warmth of the towel around the face piece. Then inhale the sweet scents of olive leaf, grapeseed, lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang (flower of the cananga tree).
Their signature treatment, the 85-minute Herbal Infusion Massage, begins with exfoliation. The brush used to increase circulation feels both stimulating and relaxing. It’s one of the things that makes therapy unique. Ah! A warm chamomile, lavender and marigold mixture is rubbed on the body. Then both pressure point and Lomi Lomi techniques (large, broad strokes using forearms and elbows) are utilized. Turn onto your back and feel a warm towel under your neck. You are so relaxed your body feels like jelly. The final touch is a soothing body milk application. Guests are also invited to use the pool, sauna, whirlpool, or just relax on the sundeck and enjoy awesome city views.
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ELYSIAN SPA & HEALTH CLUB, ELYSIAN HOTEL
The newest of Chicago’s posh hotels has a spa to match. The dimly lit reception area is chic and inviting. Done in browns, beiges and furnished with large comfortable chairs, ladies lounge aids in oozing away the day’s tensions.
Since the Elysian Massage is customized for each individual, it is difficult to describe. It begins with a discussion of your needs and preferences. Next comes the choice of an organic, aromatherapy oil: the Jivaka for muscle pain and healing, Rose Geranium for balance and hydration, Spirit Energy for balance and eliminating exhaustion, Deep Relaxing and The Amrit Signature Blend, a blend of sunflower, virgin and Jojoba oils that aids in anti-aging beautifying and spiritual harmony.
Along with the oils, deep tissue, sports and Swedish techniques are used. The full body therapy includes foot and hand massages.
Besides a full spa menu, the Elysian offers a well equipped health club with a lap pool. But really makes this spa unique is its Pilates and Gyrontonics, complete with trainer. Gyrontonics are a type of exercise that uses a specifically designed cable and pulley system for balanced body conditioning of the body and joint strengthening.
And, before you got back to your stressful life, spend a moment to check out the spa shop. It is filled with goodies.
SPA, THE PENINSULA
You enter SPA at a small reception area, undress and await treatment in one of two waiting areas. The one with the comfy chairs overlooks the huge pool. The other, each separated by curtains, has individual lounges with large horseshoe-shaped back pillows.
This two-hour Uplifting Mint Experience is all about warmth and, of course, mint. The latter is said to be beneficial internally and for the skin. Its advantages include an alleviation of stress and tension, mood enhancement and a lessening of headaches.
Therapy begins with a warm cup of relaxing, mint tea and a yummy, granola square. The “foot ritual” which follows uses fresh mint leaves, Simply Peninsula Refreshing Bath Oil (with mint) and mineral sea salts.
Everything used in this treatment exudes warmth. Towels, table and oil are all preheated. A bowl of mint fragrance, placed under the face rest freshens each inhale. Exfoliation with both a cactus bristle and a body polish of mint and apricot kernels soothes your being.
Now for the massage: a gentle 30-minute fully body massage employs pressure point and Ayerveda techniques combined with warm, wild mint oil. It is followed by a facial cleanse with hydrating mint and floral Spa Fresh, an essence of geranium, rose, tangerine and neroli (bitter orange tree). The face is than treated with an eye cover (24 hr. eye complex) and facial oil. The “pink mud,” applied during the scalp massage, quickly absorbs into the head and hair. After this heavenly experience, you will feel a healthy glow and your hair with have a silky sheen to it.
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mySPA, THE FAIRMONT CHICAGO
Smoky windows hide the triangular, mySpa, which opened in 2008. As you check in, you can smell the flower-scented candles that are for sale in the reception area. The spa also has a fully equipped workout area, sauna, steam and dressing area. Sip a cup of iced lemon water, sit in a plump chair, and flip through the newest issue of Condé Nast while waiting for your therapist in the relaxation room. Therapies are designed to tap into your energies and bring overall balance to mind and body.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than with the 60-minute Aroma Harmony, mySpa’s signature treatment. Using a specific essential oil and healing crystals, it concentrates on the seven chakras. (A chakra is a basic energy center in the body).
Starting with a scalp massage and using different oils, the therapist works her way down the back. Her strokes seem to have the perfect balance-not too hard and definitely not too soft. She intuitively finds every trouble spot and lingers there until it seems to disappear. A warm, damp towel is put over the body.
After turning on your back, your feet are wrapped in warm towels. The treatment proceeds from the feet to the scalp. Each area is carefully massaged. By the end of the 55 minutes, you won’t want to move off the table and feel absolutely wonderful.
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THE SPA, FOUR SEASONS HOTEL
After changing into a robe, relax in the cushy relaxation area. One is at odds as to what to expect from the spa’s new 60-minute Natural Bamboo Massage. For example, since it uses six, different sized bamboo sticks, perhaps it has an Asian flair. Actually, this treatment was developed at the Four Seasons spa in Costa Rica. It attributes include stress and muscle tension reduction, increased circulation and flexibility plus well being.
This deep massage begins face down with the inhalation of a stimulating eucalyptus and mint oil for relaxation. Oil is then applied with long strokes. Sticks are used with windshield wiper, teeter totter and rolling pin motions. At areas like the Achilles heel, pinch-like movements are applied. The therapy starts at the legs, goes up the back and arms to the scalp. The bamboo sticks give off the sensation you are a pile of cookie dough being rolled out. Once on your back, a hot towel is applied to the neck. Your muscles immediately relax and your whole body seems to be warmed by it. The therapist then works down from the scalp to the legs. All through the massage she keeps checking to make sure she is applying a comfortable amount of pressure.
Like all the treatments, when it is over, you feel revitalized. It's worth the splurge for spa treatments that are as unique as Chicago itself.
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Roberta Sotonoff is a busy Illinois-based travel writer who heads to warm weather spas during Chicago winters.