In recent years, Canada has seen the revival of the water spa, which has its foundations in Roman times. They function on the ancient concept of moving between waters and steam baths of different temperatures to promote sweating and the release of harmful toxins. In antiquity, visitors started in a cold room (frigidarium), and then progressed to a warm room (tepidarium) before entering the hottest room (caldarium). Some baths also had a laconium or dry room for resting, which was meant to finish the process.
From the big city to the wilderness, there are many places in Canada to experience the centuries-old tradition of hydrotherapy. One of the most impressive is the Scandinave Spa in Whistler (which also has locations near Mont Tremblant in Quebec and Blue Mountain in Ontario), located a few kilometres north of the village. It is a “green” spa dedicated to sustainable practices, and the setting in Whistler is absolutely breathtaking. The pools are nestled on the slope of a mountain, with exquisite views of the surrounding mountain range. In the autumn, this is especially beautiful, as the lines of evergreen trees are sporadically interspersed with the yellowy-orange leaves of deciduous trees.
Unlike ancient times, males and females are allowed to mingle at the spa, but communication must remain non-verbal. This maximizes relaxation, but still allows for quality time with friends and family. The pools and hot air baths are meant to be done cyclically, and are in a slightly different order than the Roman method (it is a Finnish spa after all), but the overall result and concept is the same.
Patrons can start at one of the following to open their pores: the eucalyptus steam bath, wood burning Finnish sauna or thermal waterfalls. This also stimulates blood circulation and releases toxins. The next step is to cool the body quickly to close the pores via cold bath or shower, which is meant to strengthen the immune system. Going back and forth between the two makes each one more effective. To complete the cycle and slow down blood circulation, you can relax in either the solarium, on the terrace by the fire, or in a hammock overlooking the entire spa.
The natural setting trumps any indoor spa, not only for the views, but also for the outdoor fireplaces bordered with Muskoka chairs, and for the two solariums that remain just above room temperature (they are a perfect place for having a quiet nap in the sun during your stay). It is the ideal place for dolce far niente – pleasant idleness or inactivity – a term that was often associated with Bath in the 18th century.
Even so, if you live in the city and need a quick getaway to de-stress and rejuvenate the senses, visit Body Blitz in Toronto, only a few blocks from the bustling downtown core. Only women will be able to enjoy this spa, however. There are a number of typical spa services available, but the main part of the warehouse building has been turned into a haven for water therapy. There is a sizable Dead Sea salt pool, hot green tea pool, and cold pool to dip into between the warmer therapies.
Body Blitz employs the same concept as the Scandinave Spa and includes an aromatherapy steam room in addition to a sauna for the ‘hot’ portion of the cycle. You can enjoy a powerful anti-oxidant and immunity building fruit smoothie during your 2-hour stay, and can catch up with close friends and family while immersed in the different pools.
Anyone who suffers from the stresses of dealing with the work-life-family-friends-charity-community balance can benefit from a visit to the water spa. Annique Aird, General Manager of the Scandinave Spa in B.C. notes that “While the baths have a rich history, the concept is still surprisingly unknown in North America. This is why we have decided to offer this unique hydrotherapy experience in Whistler to people seeking a better physical and spiritual life balance.” Hydrotherapy is an age-old tradition that capitalizes on the timeless wisdom of Mother Nature, and has proven to heal the mind, body and spirit.
1. “Ancient Roman Bathing.” Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia. 20 October 2010. Web. 7 December 2010.
2.“The Experience.” Scandinave Spa Whistler. Spas Scandinaves. 2010. Web. 7 December 2010.
3.Fawcett, Trevor. Bath Entertain’d: Amusements, Recreations, Gambling at the 18th-century Spa. United Kingdom: Ruton, 1998. Print.