A Different Spin on Spa

By local contributor
Dena Roche

Some people are wine connoisseurs or foodies, but if you’re a spa aficionado who is always on the hunt for the unusual, you’ll find nirvana in Scottsdale. With the highest concentration of resort and day spas in the country, the breadth of spa experiences here is unrivaled. I recently tracked down some of the best and most unusual services to enjoy during your stay.


Animal Spirit Meditation

What could be more Southwest than a meditation in a Tipi with a Shaman? That was exactly what awaited me at the Spa at the Boulders Resort. As we walk to the tipi she stops and explains that it’s important to observe the sights and sounds of nature - babbling water, birds chirping and the butterfly that flies by us.  She tells me that her ancestors would do three-day vision quests, working through a problem and fasting before coming to meet the medicine woman. She asks me to focus on an area of my life I need clarity, and we make an offering of cornmeal and salt to the spirits before entering the tipi. Once inside, the shaman hands me a deck of animal spirit cards and asks me to pick one. I draw the salmon. My first thought is “Oh geez, I ate my spirit animal last night!” When she asks me what the card means in the context of my problem it immediately pops into my head that like the salmon, I’m swimming upstream. I’m fighting the flow of the universe. I need to let go. We do a meditation where she asks me to consider the salmon and its characteristics. During the meditation more things become clear. The service ends with the Shaman walking me to the nearby labyrinth, explaining it and leaving me to walk it at my own pace.


Tui Na Twist

Tui Na massage has been used for over 2,000 years in China to effect energy. At Agave, the Arizona Spa at The Westin Kierland the treatment follows the ancient art of rhythmatic compression along the body’s meridian channels to unblock stuck Qi (energy) to return balance to the body. The massage has an odd effect of relaxing and waking up the body at the same time. It is a modality that is especially good for chronic pain, which is the reason I select it. The therapist uses gliding, kneading, pulling and rocking techniques to encourage Qi to flow freely through my knotted neck and shoulders. While Tui Na feels a lot like a Western massage, it works at a deeper level because it effects not only muscles, but also energy meridians. I leave feeling more movement in my upper body than I have in weeks.


It’s in the Cards…and numbers

Joya Spa offers a host of unusual spa services including tarot and numerology. My spiritual consultant begins by using my birthdate to determine my life path. As a 28/10 she tells me I’m in the company of Steve Jobs and I’m a born leader and innovator. I’m liking this so far! We run the numbers of a few people in my life and uncannily, it seems to explain some things. Tarot and numerology work in tandem, as your numbers relate to archetypes found in the cards. We start the Tarot reading doing a traditional Celtic Cross, or 10-card spread. As soon as she flips over my first card she laughs and says we can just go have mimosas by the pool because life is going to be good. The rest of the reading centers on how the work I’ve done is being rewarded and now is the time to make my dreams happen. The universe is ready to deliver abundance and the only thing holding me back are my own doubts. She tells me to stop waffling and just do it. We end the session using a 5-card tarot spread to answer specific questions I have.


Life in Balance

With everyday stress and travel, it’s not hard for me to get out of balance so I opt for the Centre Yourself Chakra Balancing treatment at the spa The Phoenician. The treatment uses flower essence and Reiki to soothe the mind and balance the seven energy centers of the body. The first thing my therapist has me do is look at a picture of flowers and pick the one I’m drawn to in order to determine the aromatherapy used. I get Joy Juice. Apparently, I need to add more joy, playfulness and fun into my life. I make a note to skip work tomorrow. The therapist begins at the root chakra, holds my body at specific points, says an affirmation, and sprays the joy juice as she uses Reiki to balance body and mind. She repeats the process at the other six chakras. I can tell which of my chakras are blocked by the tension I feel as she holds different points. I also experience heavy tingling in my third eye when she works it, and I’m able to visualize what she is asking me to throughout the treatment better than I have in past energy work.


Thai One On

Experiencing a variety of Thai massage in Thailand made me a lifelong fan of this stretching massage that my therapist at Sanctuary Resort and Spa jokingly called “lazy man’s yoga.” The 90-minute table Thai service follows the very specific patterns and movements of traditional Thai massage including manipulation of energy lines (sen) and stretching. The massage is done wearing loose clothing and throughout the service my body is pulled, stretched, rocked and manipulated by the therapist using her hands, knees and feet. I was nursing a lower back muscle pull so she paid extra attention to both my back and hips and gave me some tips to stretch some supporting muscles to help alleviate my pain.