Energy Surge


An alternative therapy that is becoming increasingly popular, acupuncture originated in China more than 5,000 years ago. Licensed acupuncturists treat conditions like fatigue, stress, headaches, anxiety, skin problems, and more. Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practice of acupuncture in the United States is regulated on a state-by-state basis. Regulating agencies and licensing boards in individual states determine who is allowed to practice acupuncture and the training required. According to Troy Petenbrink, spokesperson for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), 39 states and the District of Columbia have licensing boards that allow the practice of acupuncture by non-physicians. Other states, allow only licensed medical physicians to practice or have yet to even recognize acupuncture as a medical treatment. Legislation remains pending in many states. In those states that allow acupuncture by non-physicians, most require practitioners to have either passed a national exam or achieved certification from an accredited college program.

As spas across the country expand their menu offerings to include wellness services, acupuncture is making more frequent appearances. At Rezvan Beauty Therapy, a day spa in San Francisco, for instance, acupuncture is used to address a wide variety of conditions, including addictions, allergies, chronic fatigue, depression, digestive disorders, stress, and tension. Licensed in the state of California and nationally certified in acupuncture and Chinese herbology, Lisa Marie Zeppegno treats approximately 16 people a week at the spa. An initial visit is priced at $125 for 90 minutes, and follow-up visits are $75 for 60 minutes. Zeppegno says a wide range of clients are drawn to acupuncture. Some read about it online while others get referrals from their chiropractors. The spa also offers the Acupuncture Pearl Facial ($100, 75 minutes) and Facial Rejuvenation ($125, 90 minutes). According to Zeppegno, the acupuncture facials help increase circulation and minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles. She performs approximately four to five a week.

For people afraid of needles, Miraval (Catalina, AZ) offers Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which the spa menu describes "as an emotional form of acupuncture without needles." Found effective in treating trauma, abuse, anxiety, fear, depression, and more, EFT can also be used to enhance self-image and sports performance. It helps release blocked energy patterns with the use of tapping the fingertips on specific meridian points. According to James McIlrath, director of the spa, management, the $150, 90-minute treatment is a popular one with three to four being performed a day.

Color and light therapy

Long reputed to possess the power to transform, color and light therapy is used to help balance the body, reduce stress, and more. Ideal for delivering a sense of well-being, it has begun to play a major role in spa development. In fact, it's become such a key element that some spas like Maximus on Mercer (New York City) have even taken to employing light therapy experts to create just the right type of room conditions. Treatments that utilize color and light therapy have also grown in popularity.

One such treatment is the Color and Light Therapy with Aura Imaging at The Spa at The Grove Park Inn Resort (Asheville, NC). This mood-altering treatment is personalized to fit each individual. Using an aura camera that measures human energy patterns, the therapist photographs the client and then gives a reading based on the resulting photograph. Looking at the seven chakras and the colors emanating from them, the therapist is able to determine clues as to how the client might be feeling from the colors displayed. For example, the presence of red may indicate that the client is either stressed or is a passionate person by nature. Next, the client opts for either a Color Therapy Bath or Color Pod Wrap. The bath involves a dry exfoliation, a relaxing 20-minute soak in a hydrotherapy tub with sea salts and aromatherapy oils while wearing colored glasses, listening to music, and receiving a soothing scalp massage. The tub is programmed to emit selected colors based on the particular chakras the client wishes to stimulate. If a client wants to feel more spiritual, for instance, he or she may choose an indigo bath or green if love is the desired feeling. The Color Pod Wrap also includes a dry exfoliation, which is followed with the therapist covering the client with colored clay from Rainbow Power. Again, the color or colors are based on the particular chakras the client wants to stimulate. He or she is then wrapped in Mylar and left in Sybaritic's Sunspectra 9000 ColorSpectrum Light System, which features full spectrum light, for approximately 20 minutes. A special CD from Rainbow Power plays and a pleasing aroma is emitted from the pod. Clients then wash off the clay in a nearby shower. After either the bath or wrap, clients are once again photographed with the aura camera to discern how their aura has changed based on the color and light therapy. According to spa director Ellen McGinnis, the spa does anywhere from six to eight of the treatments a week. "You'd think it would attract the more daring and adventurous, but we're getting a lot of mainstream spa-goers," says McGinnis. "It's fun and different." The spa offers both 50-minute treatments for $130.


Craniosacral is a hands-on therapy that focuses on the bones and surrounding tissue of the head, spine, and pelvis. The goal of the therapy is to increase the flow of cerebrospinal fluid. The underlying belief is that an imbalance in this system can adversely affect the development and health of the brain and spinal cord, with resultant sensory, motor, and neurological dysfunctions. It was first developed by an osteopathic physician, Dr. William Sutherland, in the early 1900s. The discipline was expanded in the 1970s by another osteopathic physician, John Upledger, who founded the Upledger Institute.

In addition to those trained in the medical professions, body work and massage therapists can also become certified craniosacral practitioners. It is suggested that practitioners have at least 30 hours of continuing education credits in craniosacral therapy every two years. Because the treatments often induce deep relaxation and other therapeutic benefits, many spas now offer it on their menus.

The spa menu at Lake Austin Spa Resort (Austin, TX) describes their $85, 50-minute craniosacral treatment as "encouraging self-healing by releasing energy blocks due to physical or emotional stress." Jeff Metzger, spa manager, says that the treatment is very popular. "We get a lot of folks out here who are interested in alternative treatments," he notes. "We give at least one craniosacral treatment a day." Metzger says that craniosacral treatments are great for those who need general balancing or who need an emotional outlet. "Most of our other treatments are more passive," Metzger adds. "With craniosacral, you're taking a more active role emotionally in the treatment. It's amazing how everybody reacts to the treatment differently, and even the same people react differently from treatment to treatment based on what's going on in their lives." Guests at the Lake Austin Spa Resort usually stay three to five days, and they'll generally get one type of treatment once and then try others. Says Metzger: "We get an amazing percentage of return guests, and they are getting the craniosacral treatments again and requesting the same therapists year after year. In this type of treatment, the client develops a stronger bond." Metzger considers craniosacral treatments a form of energy balancing and refers to it as "spring cleaning of the emotions." He says that he's seen an increase of these types of treatments over the years and attributes it to the growing popularity of Eastern modalities.

Melissa Murphy, lead therapist at the resort says that guests love the way they feel after a treatment. "It's just like bliss," she says. "It puts you in a very relaxed, deep, meditative state. It helps get rid of stress out of the body. Physically, it's excellent for migraines and headaches and anything from vertigo to a number of things. It also works on your emotions. Some people will have healing responses either during the session or afterwards." Ten massage therapists at the resort are trained in craniosacral.

Mariann Roberts, assistant spa director at The Spa at The Sagamore (Bolton Landing, NY) says that their craniosacral treatment, which costs $95 plus 18 percent service charge for 50 minutes, is becoming more popular. Roberts says that the clients who ask for this treatment come with a knowledge of it. The Spa's menu describes the treatment as "a gentle non-invasive technique that balances the rhythm of the craniosacral system and facilitates the release of soft tissue or structural restrictions." After learning that they would be losing the two spa therapists who were certified, Roberts said that they decided to pay half the cost of schooling at the Upledger Institute for interested staff members. "Last year we sent about six therapists," Roberts says. "It's not in our top three treatment requests, but it's up there. We wanted to keep it on our menu. The guests who have had it are amazed at the results because there was barely any touching, and the moves were so slight. Sometimes lighter is better."

Magnetic therapy

Intended to speed the healing process and ease pain, Magnetic Therapy at Cal-a-Vie Spa (Vista, CA) is purported to increase circulation and bring blood to the tissues. With the guest lying face down on a magnetic mattress and pillow, the treatment begins with the therapist placing negatively charged magnetic pads from Nikken, a company specializing in advanced magnetic technology, on the client's midline or chakra areas. According to spa manager Karen Sevene, blood has a magnetic component that is attracted by the magnets. The magnets help increase blood flow as does a magnetic roller that is run along pressure points. The treatment also involves some shiatsu and energy work to assist in the movement of energy. The spa recommends this $95, 50-minute therapy to those suffering from chronic pain or muscle soreness. According to Sevene, it's a treatment that is generally chosen by those guests who are looking for something a little different or as a complement to more traditional treatments.


The culmination of the life work of osteopath, naturopath, and chiropractor Dr. Randolf Stone (1890–1981), Polarity Therapy combines Eastern and Western philosophies into an energy-based healing modality. Polarity Therapy consists of four primary areas of emphasis-energetic contact, diet, exercise, and lifestyle awareness. The American Polarity Therapy Association recognizes two levels of certification: An Associate Polarity Practitioner (APP) goes through 155 hours of training, and a Registered Polarity Practitioner (RPP) completes 675 hours.

Christie Carson, spa therapy manager at The Spa at Vista Clara Ranch (Santa Fe, NM) says that she recommends a polarity session for guests who need a more subtle adjustment. The Spa at Vista Clara Ranch is a destination spa with three-, five-, and seven-day stays, and one treatment is included per day in the cost. To make arrangements before their arrival, Carson speaks with guests beforehand and helps them choose the treatments that will best serve their individual intentions for coming to the spa. "I'll get a feel for where they're at. If there's been trauma or a lot of stress, I'll know they need some other form of therapy," she says. "I describe Polarity as one of our energy treatments like craniosacral and raindrop therapy, which we just added. It's not body work, it's subtle energetic adjustment." The Polarity treatment is $90 for 50 minutes or $135 for 75 minutes. Carson's goal is to help her guests get grounded and balanced in their everyday lives and believes that energy is part of the equation. "Everything goes hand-in-hand. When you work on the body, you're also working on the spirit and the emotions. Craniosacral and Polarity can address this. Some clients will fall deeply asleep. Others will have cathartic emotional releases," she says.

The Spa at Grandover Resort and Conference Center (Greensboro, NC) offers a $75, 50-minute Polarity treatment that's described on the menu as "a gentle healing technique that strengthens and balances energy and removes blocks in its flow to promote feelings of deep peace, relaxation, and well-being." Spa director Shelly Spear says that Polarity has been on the menu the entire three years the spa has been open. "Since it's different, it's energy work, and you keep your clothes on, it's not as popular as a full-body massage," she says. "But it does bring in a few people every once in a while."

Diane Trieste, director of spa and product development for Canyon Ranch, says that they've been offering Polarity for the past ten years. How many people are getting sessions? "Enough to keep [Polarity] in the service guide," Trieste says. "We evaluate the services regularly. When things aren't being booked, we take it off. When something is on the menu, it means it's requested weekly or at least monthly." Listed under "balancing therapies" in their program book, it's described as "a combination of ancient Eastern and modern Western healing systems. Polarity therapists view the entire body as an energy field with positive, negative, and neutral currents. The bodywork techniques used range from gentle touch to pressure point work, rhythmic rocking, passive unwinding, and resonance-of-energy work. The therapist aims to restore balance to the body's energy field, bringing about deep relaxation and emotional calming." Trieste says that it's a lovely treatment for people who are not familiar with body treatments. "It embraces many techniques into one," she says. "It can be very interactive and yet very peaceful. And it can be less-interactive from a guest's standpoint." A Polarity treatment is $95 for 50 minutes and $190 for 100 minutes.


Reiki (pronounced RAY-key) was developed from ancient Japanese teachings by Dr Mikao Usui (1865–1926) after many years of study, research, and meditation. The name comes from two Japanese words, "Rei" and "Ki," that together mean "spiritually guided life energy" and that are commonly known as Universal Life Energy. A Reiki practitioner channels Universal Life Energy to the recipient. A Reiki session helps to harmonize body, mind, and spirit. To do Reiki on another person, one must be trained by a Reiki Master.

Tammie Baker, owner of the Tyler Mason Salon Spa (Indianapolis) has been offering a $35, 30-minute Reiki session for two years. "I'm not a massage therapist myself, and before I got into this business I was skeptical of these types of treatments," she says. "Then I experienced it." Baker now has two massage therapists who are trained in Reiki. In the past three months, the spa has given nine Reiki sessions to clients. "We do not promote it much. Reiki is not in our packages, so people must have [specifically requested] the treatments," says Baker.

Sal Ornelas, spa director at Spa Pura (Chicago), says that they have had eight requests for Reiki in the past month and have offered it since they opened the day spa in November of 2001. "We wanted to offer unique services here," Ornelas says. "It's definitely something we're going to keep." Their Reiki treatment is $85 for a 60-minute session.

Combining Reiki with hypnotherapy, Noelle Spa (Stanford, CT) offers a $150, 70-minute treatment called The Journey of Intention. Jo Ann Wolff, director of the health and healing center, says that the idea for the treatment began during a discussion between Nancy Klase (who's a trained hypnotist) and herself on how to enhance the experience for clients. The two decided to work together. The Journey begins by the client coming in with an intention-whether it be as simple as adding more joy in their lives or as serious as dealing with chemotherapy. "We ask them questions about their lives and what they would like to experience differently," says Wolff. "Nancy then starts guided imagery as the client lies on the table and works with the client's unconscious mind, bringing them into a state of relaxation. She asks questions that help unlock unconscious memories that might be the source of the client's pain or problem. During this time, I administer Reiki." Wolff says that the treatment can even focus on future projections. "It's about discovering your soul's purpose," says Wolff. Noelle Spa has been offering the Journey of Intention for three years and has approximately one client experiencing it per week. 'It's popular during holiday time," says Wolff. "And wives get it for the husbands after they've experienced it."

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The Wilderness Adventure Spa at Spring Creek Ranch (Jackson Hole, WY) offers Reiki on Horseback. The sessions cost $225 for 90 minutes and have been offered since the spa opened this past August. "The therapist who does it is a Reiki Master and is very skilled in working with horses and therapies," notes spa director Grace Mahoney. "She will either put the person on the horse and sit behind them, or she'll lead a group and do a Reiki circle on horseback." Mahoney says that doing the Reiki with a horse adds to the strength of the energy. The treatment begins with a silent, meditative walk into the wilderness. "Then you get off the horse and connect with it," Mahoney says. "You can actually see the horse closing it's eyes as it's relaxing; it knows the energy work is going on." Then the participants get back on the horses for more Reiki and do a silent meditative walk back from the wilderness. Says Mahoney, "It's dead silent out there, so it makes it easy to concentrate on the energy circle. It's a really powerful treatment."