Don’t even bother to use the words “luxury” and “pampering” around spas these days. The new mantra is “health and wellness.”

At the Leading Spas of Canada Conference held earlier this month in Toronto, Susie Ellis, president of Spa Finder Inc, confirmed it — increasing stress is one of the macro trends fuelling the spa industry.

With health and wellness at the forefront, it makes good sense that an increasing number of mainstream spas are offering not-so-mainstream therapies mixed in with massages, facials and mani/pedis. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find at four Canadian spas:

Eye spy
Along with reflexology, Reiki, Thai stem massage, acupuncture and an ion cleanse, the Wind-in-the-Willows Spa at the Wig-a-Mog Inn in Haliburton, Ont., is one of a very few Canadian spas to offer iridology as a treatment. Dating back to the early 1800s, the practice of iridology is based on the belief that the iris can be scientifically read to “reflect” both the health and inherent weaknesses of the various parts, organs and systems of the body. It’s an easy painless diagnostic session that feels more like an eye exam than a spa treatment, and it’s a perfect example of how such wellness tools are moving into the spa environment;

Good vibrations
At Holtz Spa, in downtown Ottawa, the newest offering is an 80-minute treatment called Spirit of the Forest — A Vibrational Healing Experience. It includes a one-on-one health assessment, a small drink of a selected tree essence dissolved in water (it tastes like a very mild, floral-flavoured tea), a full brushing of the skin, a light massage with oils combined with essence of trees, and therapist-guided energy work to help with the release of whatever negative energies are blocking or resisting the healing process. You can also expect the treatment to trigger a little emotional detox. While vibrational healing may seem a little out there, it is scientifically based, linked to homeopathy and has been used in healing practices by various cultures for centuries;

Dosha driven
At Vida Spa at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler the signature Ayurvedic Swedana begins with a personal dosha analysis — using the three Ayurvedic principles known as Vata, Pitta or Kapha to determine your mind-body state — so the treatment can be customized. There’s a massage with selected Ayurvedic oils, then a system cleansing (with the dosha-driven appropriate herbs) in a cedar steam cabinet.

Cocooned in the steam cabinet, the heat can get rather intense, but the therapist remains with you to apply cold cloths to the forehead and offer sips of water to help keep the body hydrated. Once out of the cabinet, the body is sprinkled with flour — barley, corn or chickpea — to soak up the oils, sweat and toxins. A dry brushing and a shower follows. The 5,000-year-old lifestyle science of Ayurveda is all about balancing the systems of the body for maximum health;

Limber legs
At Amerispa in the Chateau Bonne Entente (a short drive from Old Quebec City), you’ll find a Pressotherapy Room where clients relax in lounge chairs with legs slightly elevated. A therapist helps you slip into long, white "socks," then guides you into thigh-high, fishermen-like boots (but with the toes cut off.) Lights are dimmed, music plays softly and you lay wrapped in a cozy blanket as the computer-controlled Pressotherapy system goes to work. The treatment is good for blood circulation, the lymph system, muscle aches, tension pains in the legs and a condition known as “heavy legs.”

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• Anne Dimon is a spa journalist and publisher/editor at

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