The Healing Power of Water

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Credit: Tomas Rodriguez/Corbis

At the center of most spas’ philosophies, hydrotherapy is the centuries-old use of water to treat various ailments and aid in relaxation. Here’s a roundup of our favorite therapies and the spas that showcase them. 

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Fonteverde Tuscan Resort & Spa

With several mineral water pools and the ever-popular Bioaquam circuit, Fonteverde Tuscan Resort & Spa in Italy has a number of hydroptherapy stations (there’s even a thermal pool just for pets) in its full-immersion wellness center.

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Stress-Relieving Soaks: Spa Baths

What They Are: Going beyond your standard at-home tub soak, spa bath rituals are gaining popularity on spa menus for their ability to provide full-on experiences. 

What They Are Good For: Like any long soak, spa-based baths help relax the body and can be incredibly beneficial when used in conjunction with other treatments, such as a prelude to a massage. 

The Experience: Depending on the type of bath, (there may be some time spent in a steam room or you may go straight to the soaking portion) most spa baths use an oversized tub and may include an exfoliation element and some sort of moisture component. The key focus here is heat; usually, a bath will end with a cool drink to help replenish and rehydrate.

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The Ranch at Rock Creek

Although it specializes in the outdoors, The Ranch at Rock Creek’s Spa in Montana also has the luxury relaxing routine down. The spa offers customized facials and massage treatments, but recommends the Saddle Sore Soak for when a little more “unwinding, balancing and calming” is needed. The 75-minute bath features a custom blend of aromatic and healing herbs (infused with comfrey, sage, burdock, rosemary, lavender, chamomile, spearmint, elder and licorice) designed to soak away muscle soreness. 

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Hotel Le Toiny

Like the name suggests, The St. Barth Dream at Serenity Spa Cottage at Hotel Le Toiny, St. Barths, aims to create conditioned, velvety-soft, silky skin through a 30-minute relaxing soak. With a concoction of coconut-vanilla, avocado-tiare and coconut-lily, the scent is heavenly, while the skin is supplied with a slew of minerals and vitamins that your therapist carefully creates specifically for your skin. 

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Healing Helper: Watsu

What It Is: A combination of the words water and shiatsu, Watsu is a massage done in a warm, shallow pool. (You and the massage therapist both wear bathing suits.)

What It’s Good For: Those in need of a bit of gentle kneading since this massage is designed to relieve stress, muscle tension and pain. 

The Experience: Besides the comfort of being enveloped by the warmth, the medium of water allows the therapist to position you in stretches and poses that can’t be done on your typical massage table. 

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Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

Featuring a number of locally inspired offerings with a focus on all things water, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa is one of the few spas in the U.S. to feature natural thermal mineral waters, which flow 1,100 feet directly below the inn. Try the non-basic Nurturing treatment, a Shiatsu massage that comes complete with relaxing stretching, supported by your massage therapist as you float in the pool. 

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Bagni di Pisa Palace & Spa

Few spas have as long of a history with hydrotherapy as Bagni di Pisa Palace & Spa (the hotel is located on the site of an ancient spring once used by the Romans); today, the tradition of soaking in mineral waters—and enjoying steam from the natural thermal cave—is still alive and well at the Tuscan spa. Their version of Watsu takes place in the secluded grotto and involves two therapists. 

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Kohler Waters Spa

Invigorating Treatment: Vichy

What It Is:  The springs of Vichy, located in the mountainous Auvergne region in France, are the inspiration behind this shower-like treatment, “discovered” in the 1800s. Today, the Vichy Shower is a sophisticated multiple-jet showerhead mechanism that is suspended over a cushioned wet-table and used as part of various treatments such as seaweed wraps and scrubs. 

What It’s Good For: While it may look like a complicated contraption that can be used to rinse treatment products, the Vichy Shower also stimulates circulation through varied pressure and water temperatures. 

The Experience: This type of treatment is both invigorating and relaxing, but it isn’t for the modest—this is one treatment where draping the body with towels in just the right places can be challenging.

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Mii amo

Using locally grown ground corn as an exfoliator (according to the spa, Native Americans used the vegetable to help to cleanse and purify the skin), the Blue Corn Body Polish at Mii Amo is a vigorous scrub performed in conjunction with seven Vichy showerheads and a massage. 

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Kohler Waters Spa

A great place to experience water in all its forms is at Kohler Waters Spa in Kohler, WI. From hydrotherapy pools and Vichy showers to unique Acoustic baths with underwater music and vibration and RiverBaths, the options are as varied as technology used in the Kohler bath faucets we know so well. The spa’s 80-minute Complete Harmony ushers guest through the Stillness and Harmony wet rooms, combining Vichy Shower, bathing and body treatments for total relaxation. 

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Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz’s Tamina Therme thermal hot spring complex—which features a circuit of indoor and outdoor pools, hot and cold grottos, saunas, steam baths, and even whirlpools, all which flow with water sourced from the Tamina Gorge, a natural thermal spring that’s been supplying the resort with water since 1840—has spa-goers taking the plunge. 

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With the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, restoration and renewal trough water is at the heart of Lapis, the Spa at Fontainebleau in Miami. Designed around the signature (and self-sufficient) Lapis Ritual Water Elements, the spa’s hydrotherapy offerings include a coed seaweed extract-enriched mineral pool and water jet bath, elements rain tunnel, deluge shower and rain room with shower—each of which can be mixed and matched. No matter what path you take in the circuit, don’t miss one of the spa’s water-thermal therapies when you are done. 

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