European Spa Tour Part 3: Public sauna and pool complexes.

Get caught up on my European Spa Tour with the a group of midwestern massage therapists by starting with my first post! Click here.

Public saunas and thermal pools are an important part of everyday wellness in many European countries, including Switzerland, Austria and Germany. When a town has the word “Bad” in the name, it means it is a spa town, yes. A town for healthy living with a geothermal baths and saunas in the middle. Awesome, right? Many of these towns are in the most incredible settings too, surrounded by mountains and nature.

We visited two spa towns with Sauna complexes, Thermalbad Zurzach in Bad Zurzach, Switzerland and Alpentherme in Bad Hofgastein, Austria. Both of these complexes had rehabilitation centers attached, which I’ll describe in further detail in a future post. The public pools and saunas will be more than enough for one entry! The coolest aspect of both of these facilities is that they are not necessarily a special treat for people, but integrated into a regular health and wellness routine.  Some of these facilities are huge! Below is a map of Bad Zurzach thermal complex.

Map of Bad Zurzach facility from https://www.thermalquelle.ch/en/

Your visit starts with check-in where you get a wrist band that opens your locker and allows you to charge purchases. Food and drink (and beer!) are available at many sauna complexes. If you opt to receive a spa service or use special areas that cost extra, you can charge those to your wristband too so you don’t need to carry money. You’ll want to bring your own bathing suit,  towel and sandals or you’ll need to rent them. At some complexes you can rent everything you need, but not at all.

The locker rooms are large and may or may not be co-ed. In the first complex we visited the locker rooms were segregated. In the second, there was just one locker room, but people were expected to dress in private dressing closets and showers were segregated so the co-ed thing was a non-issue. In a third smaller urban complex (that half of the group visited) the lockers and showers surrounded the pools so there was no room for modesty.

Co-ed locker room with changing stalls.

Once you get through the locker room, these places are nothing short of magical. The natural thermal waters are incredible. There are pools of varying temperatures, indoors and outdoors. Some of the pools have features like back massage chairs or high pressure waterfalls that offer an incredible shoulder and neck massage. The photos don’t do them justice, but I’ll try!

The above sensory float pool in Bad Zurzach was one of the coolest features. I wanted to respect other patrons this is the only photo I took. It feels like a cave. You walk through a hot water shower into this trippy shallow pool with a high salt content. It is like a float chamber, but bigger. Silence is required except that they have nights in this float pool with a DJ too. The colors change and people just all float together. It was awesome. To see better pictures, click here for the website.

At the sauna complex in Bad Hofgastein in Austria, one of the pools was regularly used for water aerobics classes both for the pubic and for people staying at the rehabilitation clinic. I did a 20 minute class to help work off the gigantic pizza I ate in the snack bar. Speaking of which, it was awesome to see groups of women having a nice day together, sitting around in towels and bathing suits eating and laughing without worrying about hair, make-up, or “sucking it in.”

This man made lake in Bad Hofgastein was fed directly from hot springs. The water at entry was chilly, but I was rewarded for swimming out to the sculpture where there was hot water pouring at a high force. It was the best upper trap massage ever. The facility is situated in a valley and residents in their rehabilitation center are encouraged to go for walks to get fresh air and exercise. The view was the best amenity of all at this facility.

The saunas were another main attraction, but because of nudity in the saunas, I didn’t take photos. Both large facilities had saunas and steam rooms with a variety of temperatures. For the most part, the saunas didn’t permit bathing suits, though you need to sit on a towel and nobody judged if you stayed wrapped in your towel. In some saunas people would do infusions and fan essential oils and herbs through the air. It is bad etiquette to open the door during these infusions (unless you have to leave because you’re overheated) because it lets the aromatic steam out. Click here for a panoramic of my favorite sauna at Bad Zurzach. This is a virtual tour of the “Sauna World” at Alpentherme in Austria.

I can’t really think of a fair comparison in the states. As far as a spot where all ages are invited to regularly enjoy health and wellness pursuits in an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere, these kind of remind me of a way more relaxing version of a YMCA (the vibe, not the actual amenities). I know that in some mountain resort areas there are facilities like this, but not to the same extent and not with such a heavy emphasis on saunas and cater more to tourists. In the luxury resort spas in America that have sauna, steam, and water amenities the cost to use the facilities make it prohibitive for most people other than as an occasional treat when on vacation. Korean spas in larger America cities are one other potential option with similar rates, but tack the mountains,  fresh air, and general support of the national medical community.

Walking trails in the fresh air outside of the Alpentherme spa in Bad Hofgastein. Lots of healthy living shops and the most incredible vegetarian restaurant in the town too. It is all about wellness there!

The sauna complexes in the countries we visited were not a terribly long train ride from metropolitan areas and the price of admission made them accessible to most residents. Their proximity to health rehabilitation clinics make them a routine part of health and wellness services for people from children to seniors.

Click here for part 4: Rehabilitation and medical services.

 

European Spa Tour Part 2: Avert your eyes!

Have you read part 1 of my European Spa Tour entries? Click here to get caught up!

Before I get too deep into any other entries, I’ll address the elephant in the sauna: nudity. I think it is fairly common knowledge that in Germany and some other European countries, children aren’t raised with the same body shame we are in America. This is referred to as Freikoerperkultur or Free Body Culture (Click for a GREAT recent article on the background of nudist culture in Germany).

This way of life and body acceptance is definitely a very cool, but very foreign concept to this Iowa lady. Even parks in Munich have large nudity areas, though they were more widespread before the Munich Olympics. (Our bike tour guide: “Germany didn’t think worldwide tourists would be great standing in line for a beer with naked strangers”).The sauna complexes we visited in Switzerland, Austria and Germany were part of the Free Body Culture, with nudity being a normal element.

This is a dramatization of my anxious brain’s image of the European sauna before my visit. Obviously I didn’t take photos in the saunas we enjoyed. I promise, they were nothing like this.

I wondered aloud for months how I’d handle the nudity and get over my own issues, growing up swimming 3-4 hours daily wearing practically translucent competition suits, I’m not sure how I acquired so much Midwest prudishness about nudity, but I did. I even joke about my issues at work. I realize this normally would not be workplace appropriate, but remember, I own a spa that does Brazilian waxing. I’ve been a massage therapist since 2005 but still keep my undies on when I get a massage (I know, I know…but WHAT IF THERE IS A FIRE?) Our German massage therapist Conny cornered me before my trip and urgently pleaded with me “Promise me you vill NOT vear your bathing suit in za sauna. Vee think zat is very unsanitary!”

That being said, you can wear a towel and you most definitely should sit on a towel in saunas and steam rooms. In fact, during the pool and sauna facility tours we received, the guides expressed that the reason they are so anti-bathing suit is that they don’t feel bathing suits are properly cleaned in the wash and that they harbor bacteria. It is quite a contrast in policy to the spa and thermal waters complex my friend just checked into in New York where the website clearly stated “Bathing suits are required. If you do not bring one, we will provide one free of charge.”

Now, in all but one of the complexes visited on the group, bathing suits were fine (and required) in most pools, but there were some separate pools where they were not allowed. I’ll be honest, I stuck to the bathing suit pools. They were more fun anyway. I mean, LOOK at this thermal pool that shoots you around like a high powered, warm water lazy river!

As far as the saunas went, I was fine being wrapped in a towel and didn’t feel judged. Honestly, I max out at about 3 minutes in a Sauna anyway. The facility we visited in Austria even had a female-only sauna and steam facility in addition to the co-ed sauna complex. The co-ed complex was age 15 and older but they have hours where families and children of all ages are welcome. I skipped the smaller more urban sauna complex in Munich (to visit a different spa) but that pool and sauna were all nude, with showers and lockers all around the pool’s perimeter so privacy wasn’t an option there.

The spa facility in Switzerland had two saunas that permitted bathing suits, but the gist of what we heard on the tour was was “I mean, if you want to sit in the ‘basic’ gross saunas for people in dirty, bacteria-ridden bathing suits, go ahead. But the cool nude saunas have a day of activities including a person cooking SOUP on the sauna coals! Bamboo Massage! Free refreshments! But whatever.” I was surprised how fast I made a beeline to the cool nude sauna because REFRESHMENTS!

The pool and sauna complex in Bad Zurzach Switzerland. This pool is indoor/outdoor. To the top right is the “cool” detached sauna complex where the nude people get to hang out and eat snacks.

As much as I was anxious about the culture shock of being around lots of naked people, I found it fascinating to hear from one employee at a thermal pool facility about the modern day issues they face in their long history of body acceptance and open nudity. With international tourism and new residents who come from countries with a far less of an acceptance of public nudity than even this Iowa lady, it sounds like they face a delicate balance between honoring traditions and helping all guests to feel comfortable. I’m curious to see how, over time, these facilities manage to do that and hopefully it won’t be too long until I’m able to go back for another visit to find out!

Continue reading part 3: Public Sauna and Pool Complexes here!

European Spa Tour Part 1: “Midwestern massage therapists go to Europe”

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with other Midwestern Massage Therapists to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany and visit spas and massage clinics in each country, speaking to therapists, spa managers, and citizens about their experiences receiving massage therapy. I was excited to learn the truth about a belief commonly held by American massage therapists and their clients: “In Europe, everyone gets massage and it is covered by their health insurance.” On our tours and visits I received tons of great information, but with language barriers and info overload, I think I returned with more questions than I had when I arrived in Europe. My research continues!

Clockwise from left: Matt (my husband who was more interested in HVAC systems and mountains than massage) Dale (LMT from Kansas, our fearless leader), Melissa (LMT from Iowa), Barb (LMT from Illinois), Julia (LMT from Illinois), Erin (LMT from Illinois, and Emily (Along for the ride!) and me (Cassie, LMT from Iowa)

For example, on our last night, I visited with a great German couple over dinner and asked if they had ever personally received massage therapy covered by their insurance. The husband stated that his physician prescribed 10 medical massages by a physiotherapist (I’m not sure if this is a physical therapist or medical massage therapist based on what he described) to recover from knee surgery. He has private insurance in addition to the government insurance, so his treatments were covered, but not all massage therapy and not all massage therapists are covered by health care.

I asked our new friend if he understood different licensing and training between the therapists who provide insurance-covered massages and relaxing massages. He stated “Spa therapists are like on Baywatch”  (Record scratching…”WHAT?”) His wife went on to explain “Yes, like, lifeguards. It is the same kind of training. In the spas the massage therapists are also the lifeguards.” (Pro tip: DO NOT Google “German Lifeguard Massage”) Honestly, I think that our new German friends just wanted to perpetuate a stereotype and found any reason to casually steer the conversation to David Hasselhoff.

NOT a massage therapist.

It took awhile to Google the correct phrases, but I eventually realized that, at least in Germany, a 2+ year training program is required to become an accredited massage therapist and “medical pool attendant,” which makes sense because the medical massage therapists we met could do really great therapies in the many warm water pools and could prescribe hydrotherapy. If they continue a year to a year and a half in their training, it appears they would be working toward their physiotherapist qualifications. It seemed like that was similar to the case in other countries we visited. The medical massage therapists typically had a higher level of training than in the U.S. but physical therapists seemed to have a slightly lower amount of training than in the U.S. so the occupations didn’t have quite such a qualification gap.

In this blog series you’ll learn about my spa, massage clinic, and pool/sauna complex visits and experiences our group of midwestern licensed massage therapists enjoyed on our European spa tour!

Click here to read part 2: Avert your eyes!

 

Massage acceptance, a step backward?

I try to keep politics out of the spa (politics is about the least relaxing topic ever). However, our guests value massage therapy and right now massage therapists are caught in a precarious battle to maintain their professional credibility and guarantee clients safe, convenient access to massage as healthcare.

I’ve been on an amazing tour of European massage therapy clinics, spas, and wellness centers with licensed massage therapy colleagues from Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas this week. It has been fascinating to learn the long history of therapeutic and medical massage and how it is an integral and accepted part of European healthcare.

In stark contrast, I woke up two days ago to some distressing news. A city ordinance proposed in Clive, IA would impose additional regulations on legitimate massage therapy businesses in that city. This is a trend in Central Iowa in response to the alarming number of illigitimate businesses, however there are already laws in place regulating licensed massage therapists AND laws against human trafficking and prostitution.

In my visits to the wellness clinics in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, I’m learning how public visitors can enjoy relaxing massage therapy for stress relief and overall wellness, and patients recovering from surgery, injury, workplace strain, and living with disabilities receive prescribed medical massage alongside physical therapy, exercises, hydrotherapy (soaks in pools and theramal water) and more. These facilities are very accessible and are frequented by senior citizens, families with children, and the population in general.

Meanwhile, back in Central Iowa my colleagues received letters from the police department informing them of proposed restrictions on their business hours (this could especially impact therapists serving shift workers and athletes who like early morning massages before work or in conjunction with gym schedules), additional background checks, fees and more. Seeing the acceptance of massage therapy in Europe compared with our regression in central Iowa was particularly painful.

I agree that human trafficking is a huge problem in the United States and there are an alarming number of illicit human trafficking operations in Central Iowa, but Licensed Massage Therapists are educated, trained healthcare providers that benefit the lives of many of their clients. The State of Iowa licenses massage therapists and has laws regulating the professional, ethical, competent practice of massage. The illicit businesses are easy to spot already, bars on the windows, inappropriate advertisements online, and not following licensing laws. One such business has a handwritten sign instructing cars to park behind the building (out of view of the street, presumably).

I’m hopeful that we can come to a compromise that doesn’t restrict ethical practitioners and the public will continue to receive massage therapy that is convenient, as an effective means of reducing stress and pain. I hope that the municipalities proposing (and passing) additional restrictions on legitimate massage therapy businesses don’t discourage therapists from opening in their areas, making it less convenient for residents to use their services to enhance their quality of life.

If nothing else, I’m thankful to start the conversation. The public needs to be aware of the benefits of massage therapy and learn to speak out against unethical human trafficking operations without damaging the licensed professionals who have the primary goal of making life easier, less stressful, and healthier for the citizens of their communities. I applaud municipalities for making the fight against human trafficking a priority, but please recognize that license massage therapists are heartbroken that these illegal and unethical businesses are masquerading as a profession we love. It adds insult to injury for these legitimate therapists to feel as though they are being punished and lumped in with the people perpetuating these crimes against the victims of human trafficking.

Traditional Cupping Therapy

Our Licensed Massage Therapist Jamee (Left) recently advanced her Shiatsu and cupping education in Hawaii with esteemed instructor Shinzo Fujimaki (right). Jamee has been incorporating cupping and Shiatsu into her sessions with her regulars and many of her co-workers have become hooked on the traditional Eastern cupping therapy. I asked Jamee to share a bit about this therapy, how it benefits clients, and answer some FAQs.

What is Cupping?

Cupping can be a stand alone treatment of used in conjunction with acupressure or Shiatsu therapies to monitor progress. It involves using a suction cup instead of direct pressure. There are several types of cups, I use both silicone and traditional Chinese Medicine Cups depending on the type of service.

Traditional Chinese Cupping Therapy at East Village Spa

How do the cups help?

Cupping creates a deep myofascial release by separating bound muscle fibers and fascia while increasing circulation to the targeted area. I use silicone cups in sports massage to move over the tissue to promote healing of injuries, reduction of scar tissue, and improved range of motion. When I use the traditional Chinese cups, I leave them stationary and to stimulate acupressure points to address a specific issue or get an overview of your general condition. I may also use magnets to achieve an effect closer to acupuncture…minus the puncture.

What are the marks left after cupping?

Marks left immediately after cupping session

There are not usually marks left behind with silicone cups used in motion in a sports massage. When the cups are left in one place (typically the traditional Chinese cups), they often leave circular marks that may last up to a week or more. These are not bruises. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), these marks are an indication of things happening in your system. The TCM belief is that a balanced point will simply be pinkish. Different colors or markings are believed to show stagnation, deficiency, congestion, and more.  The markings may vary from point to point and ideally, after multiple sessions, you will see fewer markings, indicating balance. The marks are rarely sore.

Marks a day after cupping, notice the difference in color and intensity. The client reports there is no pain when these marks are pressed.

Does cupping hurt?

Because cupping lifts with suction rather than pushes with direct pressure, the sensation is a little different than massage. You may feel a pulling, but if it is a pinching or throbbing, tell your therapist so she can decrease the suction. Generally you will feel deeply relaxed or euphoric. Afterward, you might want to take a nap. If there is any residual soreness, it would be related to a specific point needing work and would be short in duration. As with any meridian work, there may be emotional release, so be cognizant of the fact that short-term changes in mood could be related to treatment.

How do I book a traditional cupping session?

We don’t currently offer this as an “official” service, but Jamee can incorporate traditional Chinese cupping into a service for her regular clients. We recommend scheduling a 60 or 80 minute Athletic Edge Massage with Jamee first to get to know her and learn more about this treatment and allow her to develop a plan for incorporating cupping, acupressure, Shiatsu or other modalities into future sessions. In a 60 minute service, she can do cupping only. If you want cupping combined with other types of massage, book an 80 minute. To book with Jamee, call (515) 309-2904 and specifically request her, or book online (indicate “Specific Therapist” and select her name from the drop down menu or it will not show as a request for Jamee.)

 

Get to know Hannah M!

We welcomed Licensed Massage Therapist Hannah Mapes to our team last month and within a month, she has already developed a loyal following of athletes and people who love a deep massage AND won our team’s employee of the month for her incredible attitude! She joined us from a spa primarily working with male clients and is happy to offer more diverse treatments and work with different health concerns at East Village Spa. Thank you for getting to know her better!

How long have you been a massage therapist?

I received my license in early 2017 after graduating from Body Wisdom School and started working full time immediately.

Why did you choose to be a massage therapist?

I had chronic back pain growing up. I had been in a few car accidents and had fallen on my back. I started receiving massage therapy when I was a teenager. I was amazed by what it can do for pain. I had always wanted to help other people, and going into massage was the right fit for me to do that.

What is your favorite massage service to give?

I love doing specific injury work so the Athletic Edge Sports Massage, which is also my favorite kind of massage to receive.

What is your favorite retail product?

Rapid Fire is pretty great!

What is your favorite self-care suggestion?

Never underestimate the power of an amazing bath with a cup of tea by your side!

Do you have a fun fact or talent that clients might enjoy knowing about?

I was born in Ghana, West Africa and I lived most of my childhood there until I was 14.

Why should clients visit YOU?

My passion and goal in massage is to help you with chronic pain relief and injury management. I genuinely care about your pain and I want to help!

Want to book with Hannah? Click here and choose “Specific Therapist” from the drop down menu, then click Hannah’s name to register your booking as a request. Or, call (515) 309-2904 and we’ll get you scheduled! She offers sports and deep tissue massage, EV Signature massage, seasonal specials, hot stone massage, and body scrubs.

Pumpkin, cranberries, and spice…our fall specials are pretty nice!

Print available in the super cute ALittleLeafy Etsy shop

I hate to be a cliche, but fall spices (and the gourds they fraternize with) are pretty awesome. We took stock of our favorite pumpkin, cranberry, and spice products to make our top picks for cozy fall recommendations.  All of these products will be 10% off in October to help you cozy up to the season of pumpkin, spice, and everything nice.

Rhonda Allison Pumpkin Cleanser

If you are a pumpkin spice lover, you must have the Rhonda Allison Pumpkin Cleanser. This is a powerful anti-aging cleanser so depending on your skin type, you can use it a couple of times a week or once daily, alternating with a gentler cleanser. Ask your esthetician to advise you. This cleanser is available in a travel size and full size. I love using it before bed because when I work out in the morning, I can STILL smell the yummy fall scent on my skin.

Rhonda Allison Grapeseed Serum

This serum is great to firm, tone, and hydrate skin. It is safe for most skin types and can be used as a moisturizer for people who have oily skin, or in addition to a moisturizer for extra antioxidant benefits for people who have more dry skin. This serum has clove oil and smells like fall in a bottle.

Farmhouse Fresh Splendid Dirt Mask

This face mask is great for people with clogged pores and oily skin. The vitamin rich pumpkin nourishes skin, clay draws out impurities, and yogurt soothes inflamed skin and helps with bacteria.

Farmhouse Fresh Honey Chai Steeped Milk Lotion

This is a lightly scented lotion available in two sizes that makes a beautiful fall gift and would be a perfect hostess gift for autumn events or Thanksgiving!

Farmhouse Fresh Ginger Sorbet Body Milk

This is a zippy gingery lotion that absorbs quickly into hands and body so is great to keep at the office or apply after your morning shower for a pick-me-up. It is one of our best selling scents year round but is especially fun in fall.

Pure Inventions Cranberry Elderbery Mix

This mix is so easy to use! Just shake the bottle and add a dropper full of concentrated cranberry elderberry fruit to your hot, cold, or sparkling water! Our FAVORITE way to serve this is hot with a cinnamon stick and a few cloves from allspice for a festive fall drink with no sugar or calories. I personally like to serve it this way at parties with a splash of Jameson and an orange wedge for a pretty, seasonal hot toddy.

Clockwise from left: Farmhouse Fresh Splendid Dirt Mask, RA Grapeseed Hydrating Serum, RA Pumpkin cleanser in full and travel size, Farmhouse Fresh Ginger Sorbet glass jar and hand cream tube.

Stop in to take 10% off of all in-stock fall pumpkin, cranberry, and spice items in October 2017! Learn more about our services or book online at www.EVDaySpa.com.

See you at the spa!