Spa and Wellness Glossary



Traditional Chinese pressure-point massage (massage where fingers are applied to key points on the body) used to stimulate energy flow in the body, ease muscle tension, relieve pain, and promote relaxation. Often referred to as “acupuncture without needles.”


Traditional Chinese healing technique meant to maintain or restore the body’s balance of energy. Administered by inserting fine needles into energy centers (meridians) to stimulate energy flow. Used to treat underlying causes of conditions including addiction, asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, headaches, lower back pain, menstrual irregularities, arthritis, allergies, high blood pressure, and sciatica.

Alexander Technique

Method of re-educating the mind and body to improve movement. The focus is on applying the appropriate amount of energy for each activity in order to improve posture and balance, and to eliminate stress-inducing habits.


Seaweed bath that is a form of thalassotherapy.


Opposite of aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise — such as weightlifting and bodybuilding — involves muscular work that causes the body to use more oxygen than it takes in.


Product or treatment that combats or defends against the aging process.

Applied Kinesiology

Study of muscles, especially the mechanics of human motion.

Aqua Aerobics

Aerobic exercises performed in a pool using the support and resistance of the water to burn fat, strengthen bones, and increase cardiovascular health and endurance. The buoyancy of the water greatly reduces the chance of injuring joints or muscles.


Treatments such as massage, facials, body wraps, or hydrobaths that include the application of fragrant essential oils. Different oils are used for different therapeutic benefits.


Various yoga postures or poses. The practice of these physical poses is a fundamental stage in many branches of the yoga system.

Ayurvedic Massage

eye-ur-VAY-dik Deep, therapeutic massage meant to release toxins, invigorate, and relax. Uses massage oils chosen to balance a person’s doshas (see definition). Balancing the doshas is the basis of the ancient Indian system of Ayurvedic medicine, which incorporates nutrition, herbal medicine, aromatherapy, massage, and meditation.


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The use of water to restore and revitalize the body. Since antiquity, balneotherapy has been used to improve circulation, fortify the immune system, and relieve pain and stress.

Behavior Modification

Change in personal habits through repetition of desired behaviors. Most spas incorporate behavior modification into their weight loss programs.


Bodywork combining exfoliation, herbal treatment, and light massage.


Treatment method using real-time measurements of physiological functions (muscle tension or heart rate) to teach people how to consciously control them. Used to treat headaches, anxiety, pain, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, epilepsy, and more.

Blood Pressure

Pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the body’s arteries. Normal blood pressure is usually 120/80.

Body Conditioning

Any exercise program that focuses on overall conditioning of the body. A body-conditioning routine might combine exercises for strength and flexibility and use both strength-training equipment and floor exercises.

Body Sculpting

Fitness program using weight, flexibility, and endurance training; but not running or jumping, to shape hips, thighs, upper arms, and buttocks without creating bulk.

Body Wrap (also Herbal Wrap)

Treatment in which strips of cloth are soaked in herbal teas and cocooned around the body.


Plant part or extract used in hair or skin products.

Brush and Tone

Dry brushing of the skin intended to remove dead layers and impurities while stimulating circulation. This is one of many exfoliating techniques used as a pretreatment for mud and seaweed body masks that are formed by the application of a moisturizing lotion.


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kal-DARE-ee-umHottest room in ancient Roman baths where people would soak in steaming water to detoxify. Modern versions may not have a pool of hot water, but all use humidity or steam, sometimes infused with essential oils.

CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine)

Includes health-care systems, treatments, and products that exist outside of conventional medical practices. Complementary medical techniques are used in conjunction with conventional medical therapies. Alternative medicine, in contrast, replaces conventional therapies.


Combination of acrobatics, dance, boxing, and martial arts invented by Brazilian slaves. Widely played in South America and gaining popularity in the United States.

Casino Spas

Spas with a casino on premises. These spas tend to be luxury-oriented and often do not admit guests under 18 years of age.


Deposits of lumpy fat and fibrous tissue that cause dimpling of the skin in the thighs, hips, and buttocks of some women.


SHAW-kra Sanskrit for “wheel.” Ayurvedic term for an energy center. It is believed that there are seven chakras located along the spine, each with specific qualities.

Chi Gong (also Qigong)

CHEE gong Ancient Chinese method of maintaining health by guiding and balancing energy, or chi, through breathing, movement, and meditation.

Circuit Training

Exercise plan utilizing six to ten exercises that are completed one after another on weight-resistance equipment to increase mobility, strength, and stamina. Each exercise is performed for a certain number of repetitions.

City Hotel (or Urban Spa)

Located in metropolitan hotels, some of these spas are open only to hotel guests, while others are accessible to the general public.

Cold Plunge

A circulation-stimulating pool of frigid water designed to be used in conjunction with sauna or steam room sessions.

Collagen Therapy

Injection of collagen beneath the skin with a fine needle to fill out wrinkles and lines.


Intense irrigation of the colon using water, intended to flush trapped impurities and prevent the recycling of toxins into the bloodstream.

Color Therapy (also Chromotherapy)

Based on the concept that color has vibrational energy that can help correct imbalances in the body, color therapy uses color in rooms, lights, crystals, fabrics, etc., to treat mental and spiritual health. Dates back to ancient Egypt.


Topical cosmetic-pharmaceutical combinations intended to improve health and appearance of skin. Not recognized or subject to review by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Cranio-sacral Therapy

Treatment that aims to improve function of the central nervous system by balancing the fluid and membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Performed through gentle palpitations of specific areas. Used to treat a range of conditions, including stress, insomnia, headache, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and head, neck, and back pain.


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Aerobic workout to upbeat music using steps and patterns derived from modern dance help improve range of motion, endurance, aerobic capacity, flexibility, and strength.

Day Spa

Establishment that provides beautifying, relaxing, or pampering experiences that can last an hour or may take a whole day. Can be freestanding or connected to health clubs, hotels, or department stores.

Dead Sea Mud Treatment

Application of mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea in Israel. Used to detoxify skin and body and to ease painful symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis.

Deep-tissue Massage

Massage method focusing on aligning the deep layers of muscles and connective tissue (called fascia) through kneading and applying slow, intense pressure. Benefits include improved range of motion and posture, and stress and pain relief.

Destination Spa

Establishments that focus exclusively on lifestyle improvement, health enhancement, and self-renewal in the company of like-minded people.

Detoxification (also Detox)

General term used to describe a variety of treatments intended to cleanse the body of poisons or toxins.

DNA analysis

Any number of procedures that collect and analyze an individual’s DNA and compare it against known genetic markers to recommend lifestyle and nutritional changes.


DOE-sha Ayurvedic term for three mind-body qualities–vata, pitta, kapha–all people are presumed to possess. Most people are a combination of all three types, though one or two usually predominate.


Rhythms and sounds, used by spas to promote emotional and spiritual release. Drums may come from African, Middle Eastern, Native American, and South American musical traditions.

Dry Brush

Procedure using a natural-bristle brush to remove dead skin and impurities while stimulating circulation. This is one of many exfoliating techniques used prior to mud and seaweed body masks.

Duo Massage

Massage treatment performed in simultaneously by two therapists.


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Spas set in natural or protected areas that incorporate organic landscaping, water conservation, and ecological building design. They encourage sensitivity to the natural environment and wildlife, and may also promote the traditions of local people and culture by preserving indigenous healing rituals and ingredients.


Massage technique involving quick, long strokes used at the beginning and end of certain treatments.


A method of lasting hair removal that involves the use of electricity or radio wave energy to damage hair follicles. This method can sometimes require some form of pain relief.


French massage therapy said to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Essential Oils

Aromatic liquids extracted from flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, or trees. The oils maintain the odors and tastes, and thus the essence, of the plant they are extracted from.


Generic term for any steroid hormones secreted chiefly by the ovaries and placenta. Promotes the development of the female secondary sex characteristics and affects female reproductive system.

European Facial

Treatment that begins with deep cleansing, steam, exfoliation, and professional massage of the face, shoulders, and chest area, followed by special mask that hydrates the skin.


Procedure to slough top layer of dead skin cells off the face or body. Dry brush, loofah scrub, and salt glow are among the techniques used in conjunction with ingredients including grape seed, sugar, clay, and salt.

Experience Shower

A shower that suggests or evokes a natural element (e.g., a tropical storm or rain forest) through changes in lighting schemes and water pressure, often with an infusion of aromatherapy.

Eyebrow Threading

Ancient method of hair removal developed in the Middle East and Asia that uses a cotton thread to pull out unwanted hair at the root.


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Generic term for treatment of skin in the face that usually includes massaging, cleansing, toning, steaming, exfoliating, and moisturizing.


FAN-go Italian for “mud.” Treatment in which mineralized mud, mixed with oil or water, is applied to the body as a heat pack to detoxify skin, stimulate circulation, and soothe muscles.


The Feldenkrais method is named for its Russian-born originator, Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. An education-based system for restoring physical function to a burdened or impaired body, the method consists of intensive verbal and touch-therapy workshops designed to reorganize the body’s fundamental movements and relationship with the central nervous system. Certified practitioners must complete 800-1,000 hours of training in a three- or four-year period.

Feng Shui

fung SHWAY Chinese art of arranging buildings, objects, and furniture in optimal positions for achieving a harmonic flow of energy between a place and its inhabitants. Believed to influence health, happiness, wealth, and relationships.

Fitness Profile/Assessment

A test administered by a fitness instructor to evaluate aerobic capacity, flexibility, and strength, as well as resting heart rate, resting blood pressure, and body composition.


A room in ancient Roman baths where bathers plunged into a cold pool of water to refresh and close pores after visiting the warmer areas. Modern versions similarly revitalize visitors after they undergo heat treatments.

Functional Foods

Foods that have been fortified with herbs, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements.


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Cleansing, rehydrating treatment using creams that are applied in long movements, similar to a massage.


Concerned with or promoting environmentalism by recycling, making bidogradable products, or limiting pollution.

Green Tea

Tea whose leaves come from the same shrub as black tree but are heated before oxidation (called fermentation) is complete. It may reduce risk of cancer and help prevent cardiovascular disease.


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Traditonal Japanese form of poetry consisting of three lines, which have 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively.

Hammam (also Turkish Bath)

hah-MAHM Traditional Middle Eastern bath house. Modern versions involve a series of steam rooms of increasingly elevated temperature, wherein bathing rituals often include a massage, a cold shower, or time in a relaxation area.

Hair Extensions

Synthetic fibers or real human hair that is woven (sewn) or braided into existing hair to increase length, volume, or color.

Hatha Yoga

Branch of yoga that is devoted to the physical processes (as opposed to others that focus on wisdom, meditation, service, etc.) and involves breathing and physical exercises. There are many types of physical yoga.


Dye from a natural plant substance used especially in Middle East in many cultures to decorate skin as part of ceremonial rituals. It is used also to color hair in West.

Herbal Wrap

Treatment using strips of cloth soaked in a heated herbal solution to wrap around the body. It is used for relaxation and said to eliminate impurities and detoxify.

Holistic Medicine

System of heath care that looks at the entire person, taking into account physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual and lifestyle values, and avails itself all modes of diagnosis and treatment including drugs and surgery in the absence of a safe alternative. The patient is urged to make personal efforts to achieve balance and well-being.


ho-mee-AH-pa-thee Form of medicine based on the principle that “like cures like.” To stimulate healing, patients are treated with minute quantities of natural substances that cause symptoms much like those of the disease they are meant to cure.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Medication containing one or more female hormones (usually estogen) used to treat women experiencing symptoms of menopause or amenorrheoa or women who have had partial or full hysterectomy. Medical opinion about the risks of this kind of therapy is divided.

Hot Stone Massage

Treatment in which smooth heated stones are placed on or used to stroke areas of the body, such as the back, palms, and between the toes. This type of massage is intended to relax tight muscles.

Hot Stone Therapy

Relaxing, therapeutic treatment in which dark, smooth stones heated in hot water or hot spring pools are placed or stroked with light pressure on areas of the body such as the back, in the palms, and between the toes. Cold stones may also be used.


General term for therapeutic procedures that use water for a variety of purposes, from relaxation to disease treatment. Methods can include Kneipp baths, underwater jet massage, specialized or experience showers, mineral baths, thalassotherapy, and more.


Cosmetic products alleged by manufacturer to create fewer allergic reactions among those who are sensitive. However, no federal standards govern the use of this term.


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Indian Head Massage

Massage based on Ayurvedic principles that focuses on the scalp, face, neck, and shoulders to relieve stress and tension and nourish the scalp.

Infrared Treatment

Treatment that uses far-infrared light to mimic sunlight without the exposure to harmful ultraviolet light. Applied using lamps or through infrared saunas to relieve sore muscles and joints and to detoxify.


General term for fillers consisting of collagen, biologic acids, or synthetic compounds that are injected under the skin to eliminate small wrinkles and plump facial and bodily contours. Results are temporary.

Inhalation Therapy

Steam vapor treatments that are deemed especially helpful for those suffering from impaired respiratory function due to illness or a smoking habit. Vapor is often mixed with herbal elements such as eucalyptus and chamomile. This form of therapy is often found at spas with access to a mineral or thermal spring.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL)

A nonablative photorejuvenation treatment that uses multiple wavelengths of light to address fine to moderate lines and wrinkles, unwanted facial hair, pigment problems, and rosacea.


The study of patterns and structures in the iris (colored part of the eye) to diagnose disease. Though the practice is disputed by most in the mainstream medical field, but many holistic health professionals claim that the response of nerves in the iris to bodily phenomena (including disease) can be interpreted through close scrutiny of visible features in the eye. Some even believe that iridology can prevent the onset of disease by discerning warning signs in the iris.


International Spa Association, a professional organization representing all aspects of the spa industry: club spas, cruise ship spas, day spas, destination spas, resort/hotel spas, medical spas, and mineral springs spas.


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The first free-standing whirlpool bath was introduced by Roy Jacuzzi in 1968, of the famous inventing Jacuzzi family, whose members also were also responsible for advances in agriculture and aviation. Though many companies manufacture whirlpool baths today, Jacuzzi is the trademarked name for the invention.

Japanese Furo Bath (also Ofuro)

Hot, bubbling bath used for relaxation and usually enjoyed in the nude at a Japanese sento (public bath) or onsen (hot spring).

Juice Fast

Short-term diet regimen consisting of only fresh fruit or vegetable juices. Advocates claim it detoxifies the body.


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Boxing techniques, basic kicks, and martial arts moves (all self-defense tactics) that give the upper and lower body an intense cardiovascular, aerobic, and body-toning workout.


The study and science of human movement and how it relates to health. Differs from applied kinesiology, which is a system that aims to diagnose and treat disease throughout the body by testing and improving the strength of various muscles.

Kinesthetic Awareness

Sensitivity to the moment of your body through space that contributes to your ability to balance and move rhythmically and fluidly. It is sometimes developed as a self-awareness technique for spiritual growth.

Kneipp Bath

Water therapy originated in the mid-1800s by Germany’s Father Sebastian Kneipp, a holistic teacher and proponent of natural remedies. Originally involving dips in the icy Danube, the modern version involves immersion in both warm and cold water, movement therapies, massage, herbal medicine, and nutrition.


From the Hebrew meaning “fit” or “proper,” food that meets the criteria of Jewish law regarding the ingredients and the equipment used to produce it. One of the basic laws prohibits combining meat and milk.

Krauter Bath

Based on German natural remedy, this is a strong, aromatic herbal bath solution.


German for “cure.” A planned course of spa treatments that typically involves soaking in mineral waters, mud baths, body wraps, and massage. “Taking the kur” might be a process lasting ten to 20 days.


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LaStone Therapy

Relaxing, therapeutic treatment in which dark, smooth stones heated in hot water or hot spring pools are placed or stroked with light pressure on areas of the body such as the back, in the palms, and between the toes. Cold stones may also be used.

Labyrinth Walking

Following a man-made, spiral pattern path (traced on the ground, as in many cathedrals, or constructed in garden) to meditate, focus, and calm the mind. Not a maze, the path follows a number of circuits to the center of a circle and back out.


 la-CO-nee-um  Hot room with relatively low humidity that was part of ancient Roman baths. Milder than a Finnish sauna, the laconium helps users eliminate toxins through perspiration.

Laser Hair Removal

Use of concentrated beams of light to permanently remove unwanted hair. Best candidates for the procedure have very fair skin and very dark hair.

Life Enhancement

A type of spa that is dedicated to helping its guests develop a lifestyle with enhanced health and wellness. Life enhancement spas commonly employ health professionals such as nutritionists, registered nurses, psychotherapists, and personal trainers to help clients grapple with the various issues that contribute to a physically detrimental lifestyle.


 LOW-mee-LOW-mee Hawaiian massage technique derived from ancient Polynesian cultures. Sometimes referred to as the “loving hands” massage because of its gentle, continuously flowing and rocking motion. May include gentle stretches and joint rotation, as well as traditional rituals or prayers.

Loofah Scrub

Exfoliation with a sponge made of the fibrous skeleton of the loofah, a vegetable from the gourd family. Loofah is used extensively in Europe and Asia because of its effectiveness in removing dry skin and stimulating circulation.


LOO-lur Body treatment, evolved from a traditional Javanese wedding ceremony, that typically involves a coconut oil massage, exfoliation with a mix of rice and fragrant herbs, a floral bath, and a yogurt moisturizer.


The substance that makes tomatoes red, it is also a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent diseases of aging such as some forms of cancer and heart disease.

Lymphatic Drainage

Therapeutic massage technique intended to increase circulation and drain trapped water and toxins from the body through the lymphatic system using delicate, wavelike movements on the face and neck or entire body. Used to reduce swelling, detoxify, regenerate tissue, and relieve pain and stress.


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Makeup Application

Art or teaching of techniques for using cosmetics appropriate to an individual’s skin type, style, and age.


Manipulation of tissues, usually manually, to improve health and well-being by relaxing muscles, relieving tension, and improving circulation.


Any facility, usually a day spa, that offers both medical treatments and spa therapies.

Medical Spa

Destination or day spa that offers traditional and complementary medical services supervised or administered by medical professionals. A spa may specialize in diagnostic testing, preventive care, cosmetic procedures, or a combination.

Medical Tourism

Practice of traveling to a medical facility outside one’s home country to seek quality, yet less expensive, health-care services.


Practice of using mental skills to perform such feats as focusing attention on a single object for a long period of time; cultivating compassion, which involves the transforming of negative events; and creating a state of pure awareness of thoughts, emotions, and sensations without reacting. Meditation is said to increase emotional well-being and is being studied for alleged benefits to physical health.


Rate at which a body burns up fuel and transforms it into energy.

Mineral Spring

A source of thermal water containing naturally occurring elements from surrounding rocks, sand, and soil, that is used in hydrotherapy treatments.


Facial exfoliation procedure in which the top layer of skin is abraded away with ultrafine crystals of aluminum oxide or other ingredients. Microdermabrasion improves and smoothes the skin’s surface and can minimize imperfections like blemishes, fine lines, and signs of sun damage.


Non-judgmental, undistracted state that is a goal of meditation and involves being aware of oneself and one’s surroundings.

Mineral Springs Spa

Spa offering an on-site source of mineral-rich thermal or seawater that is used in hydrotherapy or thalassotherapy.

Mobile Spa

A spa with or without a fixed facility that employs professionals who can travel to a client’s home, office, or other preferred location to perform treatments.


Non-alcoholic drinks made with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Moor Mud

Mud harvested from a moor or peat marsh that is rich in proteins, organic matter, and minerals. Used as a body or facial treatment to hydrate and exfoliate the skin and in a bath to ease aches and pains.

Moor Peat Baths

Uses mud harvested from a moor or a peat marsh that is rich in proteins, organic matter, vitamins, and minerals. It is used as a body or facial treatment to hydrate and exfoliate the skin and in a bath to ease aches and pains.


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nay-chur-AH-pa-thee Holistic medical system based on the healing power of nature and the ability of the body to heal itself. Naturopathy focuses on prevention and treating causes, not symptoms, using natural foods, vitamins and supplements, exercise, herbal medicine, lifestyle changes, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and mind-body therapies.

Neuromuscular Integration

Body work and exercise system that focuses on the interaction between the central nervous system and the muscles of the body.

NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action)

Hybrid form that combines the grace and spontaneity of dance, the power and explosiveness of martial arts, and the stillness and concentration of yoga and tai chi in an energetic, low-impact full-body cardiovascular workout.


Natural chemical compounds added to foods to prevent or treat disease and improve health. Also known as functional foods, or phytochemicals.


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Food produced with the exclusive use of feed or fertilizer of plant or animal origin and without the use of chemicals in any fashion, including growth hormones, pesticides, fertilizers.


From “porous bones,” progressive disease in which bones become weaker. It most commonly affects post-menopausal women. Weight-baring exercises are helpful in maintaining bone health, as is sufficient intake of calcium.

Oxygen Facial

Treatment that involves oxygen and other nutrients being applied or sprayed onto the face. Said to reduce the signs of aging.


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Professional Association of Diving Instructors; PADI courses are often offered by resorts to certify beginning scuba divers


Cleansing and rejuvenating program for the body, mind, and consciousness based on Ayurvedic medicine and meant to clear the body of toxins, restore balance, strengthen the immune system, and promote calm. May involve massage, sweat therapy, yoga, diet, etc.


Volcanic mud is mixed with paraffin wax to alleviate aches and pains caused by such illnesses as rheumatism and arthritis.

Paraffin Treatment

Heated paraffin wax is brushed over the body to soothe muscles and, by drawing out the dirt, removing the dead skin, and drawing out perspiration through the head, leave skin clean and soft.

Photo Rejuvenation

Series of gentle laser treatments that stimulate new collagen, smooth fine wrinkles, and diminish the appearance of age spots, broken capillaries, and rosacea.


pih-LAH-tees Body conditioning program meant to develop flexibility and strength via a system of controlled exercises. Developed by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s, it can be performed on a mat or on specially designed equipment.


TInactive substance or treatment that has no known medical value that nonetheless creates a heath improvement that can be observed, measured or felt-called “the placebo effect”-due to patients expectation of getting well.

Polarity Massage

Therapeutic, relaxing treatment involving hands placed along the energy meridians, stretching, and light rocking to bring the body’s own energy into balance.


Consisting of a paste-like substance spread on or between layers of cloth, poultices are a long-standing traditional remedy used most often to relieve swelling and inflammation. Contemporary spas incorporate this venerable technique (often with all-natural ingredients such as muds, herbs and botanicals) into massage treatments and other therapeutic modalities.

Portion-Controlled Meals

Weight-loss program technique used to limit the amount of calories or fat consumed.

Power Walking (also Race Walking)

Aerobic, energetic, exaggerated form of fast walking to maintain cardiovascular health, burn calories, and develop stomach, thigh, and buttock muscles.

Power Yoga

Energetic workout involving a sequence of postures (asanas) that flow into one another and that emphasize building body heat and breaching mindfully. Stretches and strengthens muscle while creating a calm and clear mind.


Person who administers any of a number of spa or medical therapies on a professional level in such modalities as reiki, acupuncture, energy healing, reflexology, and more.

Preventive Medicine

A holistic approach to health in which a combination of conventional, traditional, and alternative methods are employed to stave off or reverse disease, as opposed to a solely conventional medical model that seeks to cure existing maladies.

Primordial Sound Meditation

Ancient Vedic meditation technique revived by Deepak Chopra and David Simon, MD. Practiced in silence, it uses a personal sound mantra to achieve deep peace, balance, and harmony.


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Qi Gong (also Chi Gung or Chi Kung)

From qi (energy) and gong (the achievement that comes from practice), a group of Chinese self-healing exercises. They combine simple movement, breathing, and mental imagery to relax and strengthen the body and the mind.


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Race Walking (also Power Walking)

Aerobic, energetic, exaggerated form of fast walking to maintain cardiovascular health, burn calories, and develop stomach, thigh, and buttock muscles.

Rassoul (also Rhassoul)

rah-SOOL  Traditional Arabic cleansing ritual in which the body is coated in mineral-rich Moroccan mud that exfoliates and draws out impurities. Followed by relaxation in a steam room and rinsing mud off in a warm shower.


Introduced as zone therapy to the West in 1913 by Dr. William Fitzgerald, reflexology is based on ancient techniques that use pressure-point massage, usually on the feet but also on the hands and ears, to restore the flow of energy throughout the body. Practitioners believe that areas on feet and hands correspond to other areas throughout the body. Used to relieve symptoms of such conditions as back pain, migraines, arthritis, sleep disorders, injuries, and stress.


RAY-kee Spiritual Japanese healing technique in which practitioners lay hands on areas of the body to channel energy and promote deep relaxation, stress reduction, and well-being.

Relaxation Response

A simple form of meditation that encourages a restful physical state in order to manage the physical and emotional responses to stress.


Full-body treatment meant that uses a combination of clay, herbs, seaweed, and mud to deal with the differing cleansing and moisturizing needs of different parts of your body and face.

Resort Spa

Spa facility offering treatments and services at a vacation destination that also offers such activities, such as golf, tennis, horseback riding, skiing, water sports, and children’s programs.

Restorative Yoga

Passive yoga poses lasting up to 20 minutes, supported by pillows, towels, etc., and meant to encourage relaxation via the release of tension in the muscles and spine. Also quiets the mind, rejuvenates the body-mind connection, and doesn’t require flexibility or athletic ability of other forms of yoga.

Rolfing Structural Integration

Deep massage system developed by Dr.Ida Rolf to achieve changes in posture and structure by manipulating the body’s muscular-skeletal system. She believed proper alignment would relieve pain and chronic stress. Treatments progress from localized areas to larger body segments.

Roman Bath

A complex of hot, warm, and cold pools and rooms where ancient Romans would go to communally bathe and socialize. (See also caldarium, frigidarium, laconium, and tepidarium.)


Common facial skin disorder characterized by redness on the cheeks, nose, chin, or forehead; small visible blood vessels on the face, bumps, or pimples, and water or irritated eyes that usually affects people over 30.


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Medicinal herb taken in tablet, brewed as tea, or used as ointment believed by some to relieve mild to moderate depression. May be counter-indicated for anyone on antidepressant medication or who is photosensitive or allergic.

Salsa Dancing

Dance that combines rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock and is accompanied by Latin American music; may be used as aerobic workout.

Salt Glow

Body treatment in which skin is rubbed with coarse salt, sometimes in combination with fragrant oils, to exfoliate and stimulate circulation.

Sand Painting

Tantric Buddhism artistic tradition involving the use of colored sand on a wooden platform to create a design according to ancient iconography. Also a Native American tradition. The paintings are destroyed after a short period as a metaphor for the transitory quality of life.


An enclosed, heated room designed to promote sweating and boost circulation, relax muscles, and release toxins. Often followed by a shower or a dip in a pool to cool off. The Finnish sauna, which is heated by hot rocks, is the most common; other cultures have similar concepts, including Native American temazcals, Turkish hammams, and Roman laconiums and caldariums.


A procedure in which a solution is injected into spider veins, causing them to collapse and disappear, often delivered in a series of treatments.

Scotch Hose

Water massage through high-pressure hose while client is standing. The therapist alternates hot and cold and fresh or salt water to relieve sore muscles and stimulate circulation.

Seaweed Wrap

Body treatment using concentrated seawater and seaweed that contains nutrients including minerals, rare trace elements, vitamins, and proteins. Said by proponents to detoxify, increase circulation, and improve appearance of cellulite.

Sensory-Deprivation Flotation Capsule

Enclosed tank filled with warm water and Epsom salts in order to create a dark, peaceful environment, similar to that in the womb, to promote total relaxation.


shee-AHT-soo  Japanese for finger pressure. Japanese massage technique in which the therapist applies pressure to specific points on the body to simulate and unblock meridians (pathways through which energy is said to flow). Similar to acupressure, but involves active and passive exercises and stretching, and the therapist diagnoses the patient as the treatment is in progress.


Ayurvedic treatment lasting 7 to l0 minutes during which stream of oil is poured in the center of your forehead (on your “third eye”) in order to help you focus, concentrate, and relax your mind and body.

Silent Hikes

Leisurely solo walk or guided journey in natural setting in which participants make as little sound as possible in order to connect with their surroundings.

Sleep Health Therapy

Treatments and programming specifically designed to address the body’s sleeping processes and improve the quantity and quality of sleeping hours, as well as remedy conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia.


The International Spa Association (ISPA) defines the word spa in the following way: “Spas are devoted to enhancing overall well-being through a variety of professional services that encourage the renewal of mind, body and spirit.”

Spa Journey

A seamless treatment experience, rather than a perfunctory service, that might include a consultation, welcome foot bath, scrub, and massage in the same treatment room, thus aiming to improve the service quality of a spa treatment for guests (no switching rooms; cross training therapists in aesthetics and massage, etc.) as well the relaxation benefits.

Sports Massage

Indoor cycling on stationary bikes that allow riders to adjust resistance to make pedaling easier or harder. Class instructors guide students through a virtual hilly course and cue students about adjusting resistance.


A neologism for a vacation spent enjoying rest and relaxation at or near home, as opposed to a longer or pricier trip to distant locales, in an attempt to save money and hassle. A similar term, daycation, refers to a one-day vacation or trip taken within a day’s journey from home.

Steam Room

Room where temperatures are kept at 110 to 130° F and humidity is generated in order to soften the skin, clean the pores, calm the nervous system, and relieve tension.

Step Aerobics

Low-impact aerobic activity performed by stepping on and off a platform that usually ranges from four to ten inches high to tone hips, legs, and buttocks.

Stress Management

Combination of physical exercise, deep relaxation techniques, and visualization techniques meant to reduce the ill effects of stress on the body.


Extending and lengthening muscles slowly, then in a static manner when hitting resistance. Meant to increase flexibility and relieve stress by improving circulation, and facilitating blood flow to the muscles, heart, and brain.


Extending and lengthening muscles slowly, then in a static manner when hitting resistance. Meant to increase flexibility and relieve stress by improving circulation, and facilitating blood flow to the muscles, heart, and brain.


Ancient depilation process that involves applying a sugar-containing sticky paste to the skin, then pressing on a cloth or paper strip and quickly removing it to remove unwanted hair. Estheticians in some states must be licensed to perform this procedure.

Swedish Massage

Classical European massage technique manipulating muscles with the use of massage oils and five different movements: long strokes, kneading, tapping, friction, and vibration. Used to soothe tense muscles, increase circulation and flexibility, and de-stress.

Sweat Lodge

Traditional Native American place for ceremonial purification and meditation involving the use of intense heat in a sauna-like environment.

Swiss Shower

Treatment that involves powerful shower jets directed at the body from various heights and at different temperatures to simulate an invigorating massage.


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Tai Chi (also Tai Chi Chuan)

 tye CHI Chinese martial art in which practitioners move slowly and gracefully through a series of postures coordinated by their breath. Used to reduce stress and improve flexibility, strength, energy, agility, and well-being. Often described as “meditation in motion.”


teh-MAHZ-kal  Traditional steam bath used by indigenous Mexican and Central Americans consisting of a domelike structure built around a pit where water is poured over hot rocks. Induces sweating, relaxation, and detoxification. Herbs are often heated on the rocks to create aromatic steam for medicinal purposes. Also known as a sweat lodge among indigenous North American peoples.


tep-eh-DAHR-ee-um Warm room in ancient Roman baths where visitors would prepare for bathing. The modern version is a heated lounge area with comfortable furniture where guests can relax before and after treatments.

Thai Massage

Full-body treatment that involves passive, yogalike stretching and pressure-point massage along the body’s major energy channels to release blocked energy, relieve tension, align the skeletal structure, and increase flexibility. Traditionally done on the floor with client wearing loose clothing.


thah-LAH-so-THER-ah-pee Umbrella term describing variety of treatments that use seawater, seaweed, and other natural elements from the ocean for therapeutic benefits. Treatments include underwater jet massage, different types of showers, mineral baths, and seaweed or algae wraps. (See also hydrotherapy.)

Traeger Massage

Therapy developed by boxing trainer Milton Treager, MD, that uses gentle, rhythmic movements to relieve tension, ease movement (especially in joints), and induce relaxation. Compressions, elongations, and light bounces as well as rocking motions are involved.

Transcendental Meditation

Simple means of meditation that allows you to quiet the mind through repetition of a personal mantra (word or phrase given you by an instructor) for 20 minutes once or twice a day.

Tui Na

twee NAH  Chinese therapy used to balance energy in the body and release toxins with massage and acupressure techniques. An important component of traditional Chinese medicine.

Turkish bath (also Hammam)

Bathing procedure that involves going through a series of steam rooms of increasing elevated temperature, followed by a rubdown and massage and finished off with a cold shower.


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Ultrasound spa treatments use low-frequency sound waves to promote subcutaneous rejuvenation by causing friction beneath the surface of the skin. This technique is employed in several areas of spa aesthetics, from facials to cellulite reduction. Many spa professionals claim that ultrasound treatments tend to be even more effective and efficient than similar treatments without ultrasound.


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Vegetarian who eats no dairy products or any other food derived from animals.


One who eats only fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products.

Vichy Shower

VEE-shee  A shower treatment, often enjoyed after a body wrap or scrub, in which five to seven water jets spray water on the back of a client lying prone on a cushioned table. Inspired by treatments in the French thermal spa city of Vichy, it is meant to reduce stress, hydrate, and improve circulation.


VEE-no-THER-ah-pee  Skin treatments that use antioxidant-rich grape skins, seeds, and extracts in a variety of scrubs, baths, and masks. (The term vinothérapie is trademarked by the beauty products company Caudalie.)


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WATT-soo  Combining the words water and shiatsu, this healing massage treatment is performed in a warm pool in which a therapist supports the client and administers rhythmic movements, pressure-point massage, and stretches. The watsu is designed to relieve stress, muscle tension, and pain, and promote deep relaxation.


Depilation process that involves application of warm wax followed by a strip of cloth quickly pulled away from skin to remove unwanted hair.

Weight Training

Use of free weights or weight machines in a series of repetitive exercises meant both to tone the body and add or replace lean muscle mass and also to raise metabolism.


An individual’s state of being that signifies positive health and quality of life, including physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional components.


Whirlpool baths can supplement spa services by providing stress-relieving, therapeutic hydromassage. Regular uses of whirlpools are often prescribed by doctors to patients experiencing chronic pain or recovery from injury. Most baths are equipped with hydrojets utilizing electric pumps and automated air vents to soothe muscle tension, aches, and pains with streams of heated water that can be directed by the bather(s).


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Ancient art and philosophy that involves both mind and body and is aimed at self-development and self-realization. The physical practice of yoga involves performing postures (asanas) and using controlled breathing and meditation to stretch and tone the body and improve circulation.


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Japanese teaching with origins in ancient China whose belief is that the only path to enlightenment is through direct, intuitive insight-by focusing solely on your essential nature.

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