March 2009
by Maryanne Hammers, American Spa Magazine

Discover how spiritual, soulful, supernatural, and even occult offerings are adding interest to spa menus across the country.

At the Wilderness Adventure Spa at Spring Creek Ranch (Jackson Hole, WY), you can have a Rocky Mountain Relaxation Massage ($120, 60 minutes; $175, 90 minutes), a Mountain Sage Salt Glow ($130, 60 minutes), or a High-Altitude Facial ($120, 60 minutes; $150, 75 minutes). No surprises there. But in this breathtaking butte-top setting, where the majestic Grand Teton Mountains frame sweeping valley vistas and moose graze outside your cabin door, some guests feel inspired to seek something more meaningful than a massage or scrub. They want something deep.

Well, how about a glimpse into your soul? The spa also offers a Soul Reading ($250, 60 minutes) with local clairvoyant Carol Mann. "This may be unusual, but it isn't crystal-ball weird stuff," says Mann, who claims she was born with the ability to "click into the blueprint of a person's soul." During the session, Mann outlines a client's life meaning and purpose, what he or she is meant to contribute, and karmic patterns from past lives. And in case participants can't remember it all, they receive a recording of the entire session on a take-home CD.

Though not typical, Soul Readings make perfect sense in a spa setting, and spiritual treatments can make your spa stand out. They boost interest, round out the menu, and increase profits. Spa directors say a spiritual component makes their job more fulfilling. And isn't "mind-body-spirit" the mantra at most spas? "The 'spiritual spa' is a topic near and dear to my heart," says Suzanne Chavez, director of The Spa at Loretto (Santa Fe, NM), which offers astrology, chakra balancing, and life coaching. "We all would like to do more than fluff and puff our clients. Our goal is to have our guests leave with a feeling of peace and connection." Chavez believes that spiritual treatments are, in fact, "the future of spa offerings," with almost one-third of her clients choosing them. "Once a guest experiences one of our more esoteric treatments, about 60 percent of the time they return for another," she says.

Setting the Spiritual Stage
Spa-goers are especially likely to feel a spiritual tug in breathtaking, natural settings. Red Mountain Spa (Ivins, UT), which is nestled among striking red sandstone cliffs of Southwestern Utah, capped by a brilliant blue sky, and surrounded by desertscapes, is a good example. "Our guests cannot help but be affected by the energy in this area," says spa director Myrna Beardshear. "The magnificent mountains, vast desert, and long history of Native American culture evoke a feeling of reawakening."

Accordingly, the spa has a shaman healer on staff, along with Native-American-inspired services, complete with animal totems, story-telling sessions, medicine wheels, sacred plants, and symbols. "We don't ask our guests to accept the philosophy of our rituals, but rather to hear the story, experience the sensations, and leave with a better understanding of a culture that is deeply affected by the earth, wind, and stars," says Beardshear.

Spirit in the City (and Suburbs)
Urban, suburban, and über-traditional spas are also dipping tentative and pedicured toes into the seductive spiritual pool. Juju Spa & Organics (Philadelphia) offers Reiki ($70, 60 minutes), which transmits healing energy through the therapist's hands. The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village (CA), located in a quiet Los Angeles suburb, offers therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, hypnotherapy, and healing touch. The Arizona Biltmore Spa (Phoenix), not known for being particularly alternative, recently introduced a Quantum Biofeedback ($135, 50 minutes; $185, 80 minutes) treatment to reduce stress, clear energy blockages, and improve moods.

"I think all spas could benefit from some spiritual offerings," says Jonathan Ellerby, spiritual programs director for Canyon Ranch Health Resorts. "Our spiritual program has grown in the last two years just to meet the demand. People come to Canyon Ranch specifically for our spiritual services—so we have seen a big financial payoff. More importantly, we are providing guests with something missing from their lives."

Getting it to Go
You can help clients continue to feel the good vibrations after they've returned home by stocking your retail shelves with spiritual products. At Mii amo (Sedona, AZ), a destination spa nestled within red-rock canyon walls, the treatment menu is filled with intuitive, psychic, and Native-American-inspired services, from sweet-grass smudging and sage purifying rituals to the Aura-Soma Color Reading ($205, 60 minutes; $260, 90 minutes) using jewel-colored oils to determine one's life purpose. Accordingly, the spa boutique carries not only lotions, potions, and scented candles but also chakra and prayer bead necklaces (starting at $38), Aura-Soma Equilibrium Oils, sage wands, and books about Native American ceremonies and traditions. "Once our guests' journeys are complete, they are revitalized and pleased to have had an enhanced spa experience," says Chris Bird, Mii amo's general manager. "They can't wait to share their experiences with family and friends."

Spiritual Baby Steps
Still, Chavez admits that it's sometimes tough to reach guests who expect immediate, tangible results. "Describing these treatments to an audience who is accustomed to instant gratification, fast food, information overload, and stressful lives is a challenge," she says. One way to gently introduce spiritual services to a skeptical public is to bundle them with traditional treatments. For example, at The Spa at Loretto, the Native Reflections ($225, 1 hour 50 minutes) ritual involves a stone massage that begins with sage smoke to clear the room of negative energy and ends with a smudge-stick take-home gift. Grand Wailea's Spa Grande (Maui, HI) incorporates color crystals with a massage for positive energy. At the Spa at Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara (CA), the Stone Therapy and Energy Balancing Ritual ($220, 80 minutes) combines a stone massage with Native American cleansing rituals and energy work. Mind-Body Packages at Spring Creek Ranch's Wilderness Adventure Spa include a massage or fitness-training session, along with a Soul Reading—and you can probably figure out what the Sole to Soul Package (price varies) includes. Guests of Las Ventanas al Paraiso (Los Cabos, Mexico) can sign up for the Holistic Twilight Ceremony ($275, 2 hours), which includes a sage-burning cleansing ritual, feather wands, the playing of crystal bowls, and meditation—along with a 90-minute personalized spa journey. "Spiritual treatments are a natural extension of the spa menu," says Lea Cordon, Las Ventanas's spa director. "By incorporating ancient healing rituals from Baja along with their favorite treatments, we give our guests one more way to relax, heal, and get peace of mind."