Water is essential to our overall well-being, and it can do more for the body than cleanse and hydrate. Even the sound of flowing water or rain is a soothing natural sleep aid. Many spas incorporate water-based services to achieve similar calming and restorative benefits for both mind and body. Reduced stress and anxiety, detoxification, increased blood flow, and alleviated aches and muscle tension are just a few results of hydrotherapy.
"Hydrotherapy is really one of the most powerful spa treatments," says Lynda Torrey, director of research and development at The Woodhouse Day Spa (4030 Canal St., 482-6652; www.neworleans.woodhousespas.com). Water therapy can aid in firming and toning. "It helps with the elasticity of skin, because with hydrotherapy you are actually contracting and relaxing skin with the water," says Torrey, who's in charge of the Woodhouse's water therapy training. "This is what helps create the toning effect."
Spa treatments that involve water also can detoxify the body. "When we talk about firming and toning with hydrotherapy, what's able to happen is a detoxification through the use of water," Torrey says."We can use an alternate hot-cold, which creates a pumping in the body and allows that detoxification." Going from hot to cold helps loosen and move toxins to the core of the body, where they can then be released. The pumping action also relieves water retention by allowing excess fluid to move through the body for elimination.
Treatments are not limited to alternating hot and cold water. Moderate temperatures are often used to relieve muscle tension, soreness, and achieve a relaxed mental and physical state. "The neutral temperature actually acts on the nerve endings and helps balance the temperature of the body and the nervous system, so it's perfect for relaxation and renewal," Torrey says.
Another easily overlooked advantage of water therapy is that it can minimize physical contact, which can be a selling point for some clients. "You can get the benefits of pressure therapy without being touched," says Maggie Jones, esthetics trainer for Paris Parker Salon and Spa (4900 Prytania St., 891-8874; 4900 Hwy. 22, Mandeville, 985-845-4404; www.parisparker.com).
The Woodhouse Day Spa's Vichy shower is located in an elegantly tiled room with a table that sits under a rain bar equipped with six shower heads. "The shower of water has a direct effect on the nervous system as it cascades over the body," Torrey says. "Historically, the Vichy shower has been used to relieve pain and relax. The Vichy showers that we use were created in Vichy, France as a clinical hydrotherapy treatment for treating sore muscles, anxiety, and for those needing detoxification. Today, it's used for the same reasons."
Clients interested in the service can choose from a number of body treatments like seaweed wraps and mud scrubs, which range from $85 to $110. Once the treatment is complete, a therapist ends the session with 15 minutes of Vichy water therapy. Torrey recommends making the service a fixture in one's health routine.
"Just as exercise provides cumulative results, so do body treatments and hydrotherapy," Torrey says.
Steam & Shower Room
"Our steam shower has multiple pressure nozzles with a waterfall shower head," Jones says of the facilities at Paris Parker Salon and Spa. "It is a truly relaxing experience."
Steam showers open pores, which supports the skin's ability to soften and flush out toxins. "They can help ease muscular pain, stimulate blood circulation, relieve sinus pressure, boost the immune system, as well as help improve sleep," Jones says. These treatments are not suitable for all skin types. Individuals with sensitive skin, rosacea, broken capillaries, respiratory and heart conditions, or who are pregnant should avoid steam rooms.
The spa offers two body treatments that incorporate the steam shower ($65 to $95). "Our first treatment is the Aqua Polish with steam," Jones says. "This treatment lasts one hour and includes exfoliation with salt."
Once that portion is finalized, clients are placed in the spa's steam tent for 10-20 minutes. A scalp and facial massage is administered in the tent using cool stones and a gel masque. "Our second treatment is the Rosemary Mint Body treatment," Jones says. "This treatment also lasts for one hour and includes a dry exfoliation with gloves, a light effleurage application of our rosemary mint body lotion, and the guest's choice of being placed in our steam tent or wrapped in our thermal blankets."
Still Bath & Jacuzzi Tub
"A still bath is a nice, quiet herbal bath in a private room. It's very tranquil and relaxing," says Kate Spears-Womack, retail manager at Belladonna Day Spa (2900 Magazine St., 891-4393; www.-belladonnadayspa.com). "It's not a super-hot bath because that's not necessarily therapeutic. That can actually dehydrate your skin." Clients receive 30 minutes in the bath for $25, and it incorporates rosemary, lavender, or eucalyptus aromatherapy. "It's something nice to add to any service, especially a massage or facial. It helps you get in the zone," Spears-Womack says. Belladonna also has an outdoor Jacuzzi tub (30 minutes for $25) that accommodates two people per session. "We have two Jacuzzi tubs — one is covered, private and clothing optional. The second is also private but has an open top so you can enjoy (being) outside."
Although the Jacuzzi tub can be booked without a spa service, it can also be incorporated into a spa package. "You can absolutely do it before a service," Spears-Womack says. "Anything that's warm and gets your body prepared for a service is highly recommended."