Glossary Of Spa & Wellness Terms

Here is a glossary of basic and popular spa and wellness terms:

ACUPRESSURE: A type of bodywork that involves applying pressure to specific points on the body with the fingers, knuckles, and palms to relieve pain, reduce stress, and promote optimum health. This modality was derived in China some 5,000 years ago. Acupressure is part of the holistic system of traditional Chinese medicine that also includes acupuncture.

ACUPUNCTURE: A part of traditional Chinese medicine, this modality employs the body’s own energy to help heal itself. Working with the same points as in acupressure ‘ an acupuncturist will use tiny, fine needles to increase the flow of energy in the body to relieve pain, reduce stress and promote optimum health. Read about the Acupuncture Facial

AQUA AEROBICS: Aerobic exercises performed in a pool of water using the support and resistance of the water to burn fat, strengthen bones, and increase cardiovascular activity. The buoyancy of the water reduces the chance of injuring joints or muscles.

AROMATHERAPY: Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, extracted from plants, trees, and herbs, for therapeutic purposes. Application during treatments such as massage, facials, body wraps or hydro-baths assist with acute conditions, including acne, blood circulation, detoxification, digestion, and overall stress reduction. Read more about Aromatherapy

ASIATSU Ashiatsu is an ancient Asian barefoot massage that uses deep compression as well as acupressure to relieve the discomfort and strain of tight muscles. Techniques are performed as a skilled therapist suspends herself/himself from wooden overhead bars.

Ashiatsu, meaning ‘foot pressure’, (Ashi means ‘foot’) and (Atsu means ‘pressure’) dates back as far as the fifth century. It can be a very deep massage. As with all massages clients can request more or less pressure to desired or pained areas. Read more about Ashiatsu

Ashiatsu is not used on the front of the body or the head. It also is not a recommended service for pregnant women or for those taking aspirin or other medication, those who have had recent eye surgery, breast implants within the last nine months, cancer, heart conditions, varicose veins and high blood pressure.

AYURVEDA: Founded in India some 5000 years ago, and recognized as one of the oldest medical disciplines, this modality now stretches worldwide. It incorporates a variety of techniques from meditation to massage and from diet to herbal medicines. The Ayurveda belief is that health results from harmony between mind, body and spirit. Many of the spa treatments are based on the use of oils selected to help balance one’s dosha (personal constitution.) Read more about Ayruveda

BALNEOTHERAPY: One of the oldest medical procedures, balneotherapy utilizes natural elements such as hot springs and mineral waters. It’s used for such things as pain relief, increase circulation and stimulate the bodies natural healing mechanisms.

BODY SCRUB: A full-body treatment using products such as sea salt mixed with natural oils to assist in the removal of dead skin layers and increase blood circulation. A Body Scrub is sometimes referred to as a Body Polish or a Body Glow.

BOWEN THERAPY: A non-intrusive therapy using gentle moves on soft tissue at key pressure points to help the body to re-balance itself, release tension and blockages, and to help in the natural healing process.

CALDARIUM: A room for soaking in hot baths or steaming water to detoxify. The term dates back to the bath houses of Ancient Room.

CAM: CAM is the acronym for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Complementary and Alternative refer to such therapies and lifestyle sciences as homeopathy, Aryurveda, chiropractic, aromatherapy, therapetic touch massage and energy work, to name just a few.

CHAKRA: Sanskrit word for wheel or disk and refering to energy centers that run from the crown of the head to the base of the spine. It is believed that there are seven chakra center each interdependent upon the other and connected on varying levels such as emotional, mental, physical. Balanced chakras can lead to optimum wellness.

CHAMPISSAGE: Also known as Indian Head Massage, Champissage, has been practiced in India for over 1,000 years. It is a form of massage that focuses on the face, head, neck, shoulders and upper arms. These are important energy centers within the body where tension accumulates resulting in stiff necks and shoulders as well as headaches. A firm and gentle rhythm is used to release blockages and relieve tension and pain. Read more on Champissage or Indian Head Massage

CRANIO-SACRAL THERAPY: A gentle, non-invasive bodywork that directly influences the brain and spinal cord. It is used to locate and release tension, calm over-stressed systems and over-stimulated nerves.

CUPPING: A Chinese-based alternative therapy, Cupping incorporates a cup-shaped device used by the therapist to create a gently suction of the skin. The process is thought to stimulate blood flow to encourage the body’s natural healing ability.

DEAD SEA MUD TREATMENT: An application (as in a wrap or soak) of mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea used to detoxify skin and body, and to ease painful symptoms caused by such conditions as rheumatism and arthritis.

DETOXIFICATION: The elimination of toxin build up in the body through lymphatic massage using essential oils. The application of mineral-rich muds, or dry brushing techniques assist the body in stimulating lymph, and aid in the elimination of toxins. Drinking a litre of water per day will assist in flushing toxins, as will steam baths and high aerobic exercise.

DOSHA: An Ayurvedic term which describes the constitution of a person. According to Ayurveda, the body is made up of five symbolic elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space – and the way these combine is called the Dosha. To be healthy we must seek a balanced Dosha.

DRY BRUSHING: Dry brushing is the brushing of the skin with a natural-bristle brush to remove dead skin and impurities while stimulating circulation and the lymph system. It’s often used in the preparation of the body for massages, wraps or body masks.
Read up on the dry body brushing ritual

EXFOLIATION: A process by which the top layer of dead skin cells is sloughed off the face or body whether by dry-brushing, scrubs, or other exfoliation techniques.

FANGO MUD: A high mineralized mud used in wraps, or facials to eliminate toxins and increase blood circulation.

FOUR-HANDED OR SYNCHRONIZED MASSAGE also known as BALINESE MASSAGE: A massage administered by two therapists working in synchronized movements along the body.

FIGIDARIUM: A cold bathing room where bathers plunge into a cold pool of water to refresh and close pores after visiting the warmer Caladerium. The term dates back to Ancient Rome.

HAMMAM: A traditional Turkish or Middle-Eastern communal bathing house with various rooms at different temperatures. Unless you’re in Turkey, northern Africa or the Middle East, the term hammam is usually used to refer to ceramic-tiled steam rooms.

HERBAL WRAP: A treatment in which moisture, heat and herbal essences penetrate the skin while the body is wrapped in plastic sheets and blankets to maintain heat and maximize benefits. It is intended to promote muscle relaxation and eliminate toxins.

HOMEOPATHY: A natural system of medicine that uses highly diluted doses of substances (plant or mineral product for instance) to stimulate the body’s own healing response.

HOT STONE THERAPY: The application of smooth, basalt mineral stones are heated and combined with oil for this massage designed to relieve muscle stiffness and fatigue while restoring body energy.

HYDROTHERAPY: Treatments using various water techniques incorporating underwater massage, jet propulsion or multi-jet shower.s

HYDRO TUB: Short for Hydrotherapy tub, a hydro tub combines water with air jets and provides underwater body massage to relieve tension in muscles and joints.

INDIAN HEAD MASSAGE: An Ayurvedic therapy incorporating medicated oils applied during massage to head and scalp. It increases circulation, exfoliates the scalp and nourishes the hair. Also called Champissage

IRIDOLOGY: Iridology is the scientific analysis of patterns and structures in the iris of the eye. Analysis by a qualified practitioner can result in identifying areas and stages of inflammation throughout the body, often before physical symptoms appear.

JAPANESE SOAKING TUB: A deep, round soaking tub for two or more structured to immerse the entire body for full body relaxation.

JET BLITZ: In alternate streams of hot and cold, pressurized sea water is administered via a controlled hose. Each area of the body is massaged in turn with the water to help move lymph, increase circulation and break down fatty tissue and cellulite.

KELANI: An exhilarating holistic Polynesian ‘movement’ incorporating dance and cardio.

KNEIPP (Dr.): Germany’s Father Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1898) is credited for the discovery of a therapy that involves the alternate application or immersion in hot and cold waters. His Kneipp “cure” also includes movement therapies, massage, herbal medicine and nutrition but mostly he is remembered for his hot and cold water treatments.

KUKULI: This is a traditional native earth house burrowed into the ground and covered with branches, leaves and natural shrubbery. It represents female energy.

KUR: German word for “cure” that typically involves a combination of soaking in mineral waters, mud bath, body wrap and massage.

LACONIUM A room where a gentle, dry heat radiates to warm up the body slowly. The room could also be referred to as a “dry sauna” but with a soft or gentle heat. The lower temperature makes it easier to tolerate than a traditional sauna so guests can lounge longer and unlike lying in the sun, skin will not be exposed to any damaging UV rays.

LOMI-LOMI: A Polynesian healing treatment incorporating long and broad massage strokes, as well as a rocking motion. This treatment can be quite vigorous, as the therapist uses forearms and elbows as well as hands.

LULUR: An Asian body treatment that general combines a coconut oil massage, herb and rice exfoliation, a flower-scented bath, and a yogurt-based moisturizer.

LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE THERAPY: A hands-on method of draining the lymph while increasing the natural flow of lymphatic fluid to allow the body to eliminate toxins. Techniques are performed with hands and fingers simulating gentle, wave-like movements that allow lymph to flow effectively.

MOOR MUD BATHS: Baths using a natural preparation that is rich in organic matter, proteins, vitamins and trace minerals, used to help relieve aches and pains. The treatment can vary from spa to spa. Sometimes the mud preparation is added to a tub of water, less frequently the entire tub is filled with the thick, rich mud that is purified after each use.

MYOFASCIAL RELEASE MASSAGE: Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds the entire body from bones, joints and muscles. It can be damaged by falls, poor posture, repetitive motion and can cause pain and inflexibility. An MFR Massage is very deep and is specifically designed to relax the fascia through the entire body.

NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE: The study and treatment of acute or chronic medical conditions using botanical (herbs), Chinese Medicine, Nutrition and Homeopathy as a preventative course of medical intervention.

PARAFFIN TREATMENT: A treatment in which heated paraffin wax is applied to body parts (mostly feet or hands) to help eliminate toxins as well as softening the skin. Usually administered to enhance a manicure or pedicure.

PARAFFIN POULTICES: These are soft, heated, compresses of paraffin wax are applied to areas of the body to relieve soreness and inflammation. This treatment is exceptionally effective in treating arthritis, joint stiffness and sports related injuries when combined with massage therapy. The soothing deep heat of the paraffin penetrates to relieve muscular pain, promote circulation and leave the body deeply relaxed.

PILATES: Devised by Dr. Joseph Pilates, to assist dancers with damaged muscles, Pilates is a series of muscle resistant exercises incorporating precise movements. Performed on a floor mat or specially-designed equipment, the series of exercises can help strengthen and re-align the body as well as help flexibility. A number of spas and wellness centres now offer Pilates classes along with Yoga classes.

PRESSOTHERAPY: A computer controlled compression system which operates using specialized inflatable pumps. The process focuses on moving lymph flow, starting from the ankles and moving to the upper thighs. It also increases blood circulation and helps reduce bloating and swelling by eliminating extra fluids. Read more about Pressotherapy

PRESSURE POINT MASSAGE: Targeting specific areas of the muscles, this massage strives to release built up tension and strain.

PROBIOTICS: Live organisms which can be good for digestion when taken in proper amounts and combinations. Foods such as bananas, raisins and prunes are high in probiotics.

RAINDROP THERAPY: Certain therapeutic essential oils are systematically applied to both sides of the spinal column in a set layered method then massaged gentle over the back to identify acidity or alkaline in the body. Acidity might mean you have a lot of free radicals floating within that could comprise the immune system making you more susceptible to colds and flus. An alkaline state signals a healthier you and a boosted immune system. The treatment assists with medical conditions such as arthritis, depression and nervous system disorders.

REFLEXOLOGY: Originating in Egypt and China, this ancient healing therapy utilizes pressure points in the hands and feet to stimulate corresponding organs within the body. This stimulation taps into energy resources, thus creating a balance of the body’s energy. The practice has been effective in strengthening the immune system and identifying potential weaknesses within the body.

REIKI: A gentle Japanese technique that employs the laying on of hands to align the individual charkas to assists with the proper flow of energy.

ROMAN BATH HOUSES: A mosaic of architectural beauty that dates back to 200 B.C., Roman bath houses are believed to have been one of the first known places of treatment for the immune and circulatory systems. The bath houses normally houses a number of hot and cold areas including warm salt-water pools, cold water pools, steam rooms and ice-water showers.

RUSSIAN BATH: A wooden room heated by rocks that radiate intense heat, while ice cold water is provided to douse your entire body which both eliminates toxins, while encouraging blood circulation, in addition to boosting your immune system.

SCOTCH HOSE THERAPY: Scotch Hose an invigorating hydrotherapy treatment. The use of alternating warm and cool water, through a high velocity water wand (or hose), is controlled by a body treatment specialist. Scotch Hose units work to speed up the client’s metabolism through hot and cold pressurized water and direct contact to the client’s specific points of pressure.

SEAWEED WRAP: A body wrap or mask of concentrated sea water and seaweed which helps release toxins and revitalize the skin.

SHIATSU: An acupressure massage technique developed in Japan.
A therapist applies pressure to specific pressure points in the body to stimulate and unblock’ meridians’ or energy channels. Read more about Shiatsu

SOPHROLOGY: According to Wikipedia, sophrology is a yoga-based relaxation technique developed by professor Alfonso Caycedo, a Colombian neuro-psychiatrist, in the 1960s to support his patient to find more serenity in daily life.

STEAM ROOM: Similar to a Turkish bath where hot steam is used to help relax the body and cleanse thru perspiration.

SWEAT LODGE: A spiritual ceremony (also called Tamazcal) linked with Native Indian culture taking place in a small, enclosed hut or other structure, and following the tradition of mind, body and spirit purification.

SWEDISH MASSAGE: The term “Swedish massage” refers to the various techniques designed to relax muscles by applying pressure to them against deeper muscles and bones, and rubbing in the same direction as the flow of blood returning to the heart. This increases oxygen flow in the blood while reducing toxins in the muscles. Swedish is probably the most well known and most widely requested massage.

TAI CHI: A Chinese martial art of stylized gestures regulated by deep breathing and precise movement and postures.

TAMAZCAL: A traditional Mayan sweat lodge where the heat helps a body to relax,
open the pores and helps in the cleansing of body, mind and spirit. Because of the intense heat, a Tamazcal should be experienced with some caution. (Also see Sweat Lodge above)

TEPIDARIUM: A warm room or heated lounge area where guests prepare for bathing. The term dates back to Roman Times.

THAI MASSAGE: An ancient Asian practice incorporating the principles of yoga, meditation, and acupressure techniques. It treatment assists with the release of stagnant energy within the body, while incorporating range of motion and increased mobility. You’ll need to wear loose, comfortable clothing. Read more about Thai Massage

THALASSOTHERAPY: From the Greek word for sea ‘ thalassa ‘ and the Greek word for treatment ‘ therapia ‘ Thalassotherapy uses seawater and seawater products such as seaweed and algae. True thalassotherapy centers are generally located in close proximity to a sea where the water, algae, mud and other substances are especially treated and purified for inclusion in the therapies. Read more about Thalassotherapy

THERAPEUTIC TOUCH: Hands are used to re-direct energies to help or heal someone who is ill. Touch therapists say that a client’s energy field can be detected and intentionally re-focused for the promotion of health and well-being.

VICHY SHOWER: A rain-like shower that streams down from six jets over a body lying on a treatment table. Relaxing and rejuvenating on its own, but most often used in combination with massage.

VINOTHERAPY: Skin treatments that incorporate antioxidant-rich grape skins, seeds, and extracts in a variety of scrubs, baths and masks.

VISTASP THERAPY: An advanced Ayurvedic (East Indian) technique that uses very precise movements to stimulate nerves and maximize the flow of nutrient rich blood to the affected areas Vistasp Therapy is different from traditional massage. The movements are very quick and exacting, directed at freeing the musculature and joints which have become immobilized over time by pain. This treatment is often taken when all other pain management therapies have been tried and have not met with success.

WATSU: A shiatsu massage treatment performed in a warm pool where the therapist holds and moves the limbs of the client.

YOGA: An ancient Hindu discipline that combines deep breathing, meditation, a variety of positions used to tone, strengthen and increase the body’s flexibility. It’s looked upon as a philosophical approach to balancing the body and mind.

ZEN: A sect of Buddhism heavy into meditation. In terms of spas and wellness, it’s a term associated with a calm, minimalist d’cor.