By Ellen Ashton-Haiste
From the mystic temples of Thailand, where the sweet smell of spices and herbs drift on warm breezes, to the wild reaches of the Australian Outback, where an Aboriginal population still follows a timeless culture, lies ancient knowledge of the healing power of the land and the elements; knowledge learned by the Spa Care Experts™ at Elmwood Spa and crafted into exclusive signature body treatments that promote the well-being of body, mind and spirit.
The spa’s Siam Treatments, including Deep Siam Massage and Siam Herbal Tension Release, are unique to Elmwood Spa, developed by their spa care experts. The LI’TYA Healing Rituals (pronounced le-dee-a), based on philosophies of Australia’s indigenous people, are sanctioned by the founding LI’TYA company in Australia and exclusive to Elmwood Spa in Canada.
“These treatments were chosen for their uniquely holistic approaches to achieving health, wellness and well-being through the avenues of body, mind, spirit and the five senses,” says Marie Picton, Executive Manager, Spa Services. “While therapeutic, both are intended to also be experiential journeys that awaken every level of self.
“We have something very special happening at Elmwood Spa and these are two journeys that definitely set us apart,” she maintains.
The Siam treatments grew out of an expedition by several staff members to Thailand in 2003. While there, Elmwood’s Spa Care Experts visited herb farms, learning what plants are grown and their health benefits; they also went to the temples where various types of massage are offered. The culmination of those experiences was the decision to create this kind of journey for Canadian guests.
The treatments, based on the traditional Thai healing philosophy of harmonization of the four elements – earth, wind, fire and water – as they are present in the body, use rituals that focus on restoring balance to the body’s energies to ease stress and muscle pain.
The Deep Siam Massage – effective for athletic muscle pain, stress-induced muscle tension, fatigue and even recovery from the common cold – features a heated Thai herbal compress, coupled with deep pressure massage. The heat restores and redirects energy while the herbs and essential oils repair the body by balancing the senses, calming the nerves and revitalizing the skin and tissues. Herbs used in the compress include lemongrass, good for asthma, plai which relieves cramping, tumeric, which reduces inflammation, and Kaffir lime which has detoxifying properties.
Picton says it was intriguing to discover that these herbal compresses were used in Thailand as long ago as the 14th century, to treat soldiers returning from wars. “Today we have urban warriors,” she notes. “We call it an urban jungle and there we battle every day. We need to treat that, to restore ourselves, to re-energize. This is a perfect way.”
The Siam Herbal Tension Release consists of a spice body scrub plus the heated herbal compress and a massage with essential oils which leaves the recipient feeling soothed and relaxed.
LI’TYA means “of the earth” and its healing rituals harness the earth’s healing elements: earth, water, wood, air and fire. Aboriginal culture recognizes the significance of these elements in physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental well-being and the LI’TYA spa experience is designed to balance the elements by combining a range of sensory therapies that purify, nourish and harmonize the body.
The treatments utilize Australian-sourced peat, clays, muds, plants, herbs, fruits, sea salts, kelp, Tasmanian soils and 98.5 per cent pure essential oils and natural botanicals from the medicinal bush lands. To ensure the quality and purity of the products, the native ingredients are sourced exclusively through Indigenous Australian Foods, an Aboriginal-owned and controlled company, representing members from the Central Desert, Amhem Land, far north Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
“I’m inspired by nature. Our skin is the interface between the world and us. How we feel about our skin may be an indication about how we feel about our relationship with our world,” says Gayle Heron, LI’TYA company founder. Heron, daughter of an industrial chemist for a major cosmetics house, has successfully combined modern scientific and chemical knowledge with ancient wisdom to create her company’s products.
Following a visit to Australia and discovery of the LI’TYA concept by Elmwood’s founder, Picton met Heron and an Aboriginal elder at a spa conference. “LI’TYA already existed; these are their rituals, and their philosophy was very much aligned with our objectives,” Picton says.
The ultimate LI’TYA ritual is called “The Dreaming,” a three-hour treatment that embraces traditional Australian Aboriginal healing techniques and combines the Miji Jina Foot Treatment, Mala Mayi Body Treatment, Kodo Body Massage, Paudi head massage with a facial massage, and a hand and foot ritual. Combining deeply therapeutic treatments with a healing approach, skin is cleansed, invigorated, restored and nourished, tired muscles are eased and energized and all body systems are rebalanced and rejuvenated.
“You drift off and give yourself over to something else,” Picton says. “You’re on a journey and you come back re-energized, refreshed and in bliss.”
As part of the exclusivity, Elmwood is able to offer the LI’TYA Binhumarri Body Ritual, consisting of a full-body desert salt and aromatic oil exfoliation, accompanied by a Miji Kodo body massage with native flowers and plants used to heighten the sensory experience.
“Binhumarri means ‘to greet’ and both body and soul will emerge ready to welcome the day,” Picton promises.
Other elements of LI’TYA include the Kodo Body Massage, a rhythmic massage inspired by traditional Aboriginal techniques that tones and realigns energy flow to enhance mind and body balance, and wellness. A combination of pressure points and spiraling movements ground and uplift, leaving the body’s energies “laughing with joy.” Kodo means “melody” and aromatic oils will rejuvenate, harmonize or detoxify.
Finally there is the Mala Mayi Body Treatment. Mala Mayi means ‘clan food’ and the treatment allows you to unwind, invigorate and be energized and nourished with a full-body aromatic oil and desert salt exfoliation, followed by a cocooning warm Mapi body mud that calms and revitalizes the spirit and cleanses as it delivers essential nutrients to the skin, along with Aboriginal massage techniques such as the Paudi scalp massage and rhythmic Miji Kodo massage.
“There’s an old saying that’s what is old is new again,” says Picton. “Today, we have the ability to do research; so people held a belief that they derived health benefits from these muds and earth products, and in fact, we’ve discovered that the properties in them are conducive to well-being and good health. That’s exciting.”
Picton also points out that an Aboriginal elder was brought to Elmwood Spa to train Elmwood’s Spa Care Experts in the techniques of the healing rituals and adds that the spa recruits staff who have “a kinship” to the philosophy.
“What our Spa Care Expert brings to the experience is very important for the energy levels; for what they pass along to the client. We look for people who respond to and believe in the philosophy, so that the positive, healing energy comes through.”
Together, says Picton, the Siam treatments of Thailand and the LI’TYA rituals of Aboriginal Australia offer “a collection of well-rounded spa experiences for guests who wish to engage in a holistic approach to health and wellness.”