A tour of global spa rituals, without ever leaving France

26 February 2020

The spa, between East and West

When the world of hammam meets Nordic influences

A centuries-old institution in the Maghreb and the Middle East, the hammam is reinventing itself in spas throughout the world. Traditionally, this cousin of the ancient thermal baths is a place for relaxation and socializing. From Morocco to Turkey, friends would go there together for a massage or a body scrub using olive oil soaps, such as the famous Aleppo soap.

It was this world of hammams that inspired Domaine des Vanneaux, a modern haven on lush Isle-Adam. Discover a relaxing ritual with a Middle Eastern massage and scrub using Beldi black soap.

The people of Finland also believe sweating helps eliminate toxins, which then allows a deeper cleansing of the skin. In addition, they have a custom of rolling in the snow after spending time in the sauna's beneficial heat... truly invigorating! Another Nordic ritual is the Swedish massage, where five types of sweeping strokes – effleurage, petrissage, friction, tapotement and vibration – loosen and tone muscles.

To prolong the relaxation, numerous treatments combine several ancient philosophies.

The Americas: shaman roots and novel approaches

At the crossroad of influences, the diversity of the New World is reflected in its rituals

Native American healers take heated volcanic rocks and place them strategically on the body to relieve tension. Deep-tissue massage – born in the United States – is like a Swedish massage but more intense.

As for the Californian massage, this treatment explores the notion of body memory with slow, fluid strokes that release buried emotions. This is a philosophy typical of the 1970s, when the West rediscovered Asian traditions and their holistic approach to physical and spiritual wellness. At Balthazar Hotel in Rennes, you can sample these delicious moments of relaxation at NUXE Spa, a magical and timeless place.

Asia: a (re)discovery of ancestral knowledge

Ayurveda, acupuncture and shiatsu inspire numerous treatments

With its roots in ancient India, Ayurvedic medicine is first and foremost about harmonizing the doshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha, three primal energies that are rebalanced by using the healing properties of herbs, spices and metals.

The ancient Chinese saw the world as having five fundamental elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Acupuncturists associate those elements with the liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys, respectively. By stimulating the points that correspond with those organs, treatments improve the circulation of vital energies.

This notion of chi is equally at the heart of Japanese shiatsu, which literally means "finger pressure". The hands, especially the thumbs, serve to stimulate and rebalance the flow of energies, with excellent results that relieve stress and muscle pain.

Entirely facing the bay of Sables d'Olonne, Côte Ouest spa hotel invites you to travel via its rituals, such as Ayurveda-inspired Kansu foot massages, fragrant Shiatsu massages and Native American massages with hot stones. Certain treatments derive their benefits from the oceans, notably Hydration des Lagons and its minerals from tropical seas. Also from Polynesia, the tiaré flower (Tahitian gardenia) massage is a pleasure for the senses. Another gourmet treatment is the Escale Madagascar, which combines massage with a body scrub using local spices and fruit seeds.

The island lifestyle never ceases to fascinate. Both crossroads and refuge, open yet isolated, gracing the shores of each continent, the unique island ambiance can be found in unlikely destinations on this global tour.

Mauritian warmth in Normandy, Balinese traditions in Lyon

The islands inspire signature treatments at Grand Hôtel Cabourg and Carlton Lyon

The writer Marcel Proust was a regular guest at the Grand Hôtel Cabourg, facing the English Channel, where the scents of honey, vanilla and chestnuts combine yet today in a sugary Mauritius body scrub.

In Lyon, the legendary brand Carlton and the laboratories of Codage Paris invite you to rejuvenate with a Balinese ritual that combines soothing massage with gentle stretching.

Soothing or revitalizing, relaxation or health, wellbeing or beauty... the wealth of rituals bear witness to the diversity of cultures that gave rise to them. What will be your next wellness destination?