Wellness Spa Splurges

Wellness centers prove that finding peace can be a healthy thing.


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Most Massages Feel Good

But research shows that touch may have actual health benefits that include reducing symptoms of stress and depression and alleviating chronic pain. The Touch Research Institute, a study center founded at the Miami University School of Medicine, has conducted more than 100 studies on the connection between massage therapy and a variety of health conditions. Among its findings: Massage releases both serotonin, which calms the body, and endorphins, which make it happy. Massage has also been shown to lower the stress hormones that can make you feel worried and fatigued.

But massage is by no means a panacea, and one size does not fit all, according to Barbara Gaudio of the Shunyata Healing Center in Chester. Shunyata is described as “a place where the mind, body and spirit become one”; however, Gaudio offers few spa treatments, instead focusing on recovery from illness and injury through massage.

“People used to think a massage is a massage is a massage,” says Gaudio. “Some still do. Usually, there’s more to it than that.” Gaudio will assess lifestyle and stress levels, among other things, before deciding—with her clients—on the massage style that suits them best. Her turnaround time is quick: “It may only take a session or two, followed by a regimen of self-care, for a client to see improvement,” she says.

Staying Focused

In the crowded spa marketplace, it’s nice to have a niche. The Ciamei Wellness Center is nestled into a cozy space in a professional building in Trumbull. It’s not what you’d expect. “Take the elevator to the third floor and follow the aroma,” suggests owner Jennifer Ciamei, who has been in the spa business for 20 years.

Her specialty is holistic health and the use of vegan products for a variety of treatments—from facials and massages to vegan manicures and what she calls “organic Botox.” Ciamei formulates products for your particular skin type in a small back room. She lights up when she talks about the promise of natural beauty, once you rid yourself of nasty chemicals. From an organic silk-peptide facial with pomegranate- seed oil to an organic Moroccan red-clay moor- mud treatment, her services sound quirky, but the outcome is simple—and simply beautiful. “You really do have to give guests instant results,” says Ciamei, “or you will lose them at the door.” Because massage and natural skin care are believed to have a positive effect on comfort and outlook (there’s that connection again), patients from area hospitals are often referred to Ciamei for treatment.

Education and self-care are the hallmarks of the Creative Mind & Body Day Spa Wellness Center (CMB) in North Haven, where owner AnnMarie Nappi says her mission is to “send our clients on a path to beauty and wellness.” CMB covers the waterfront, integrating spa services using all-organic products with the education of aestheticians. It’s a spa and a school combined.

“We do classes and seminars in addition to training practitioners in makeup, hair design and nail therapy,” says Nappi. She also gives clients seeking medical referrals a preferred- provider list. In the past CMB has offered everything from art therapy to a workshop on eyelash extensions. “We help every client bring out the beauty within,” she says.

It’s possible to lift your spirits just by being at Charym Body Temple, which was named “Best Day Spa” by Connecticut Magazine this year. This feel-great enclave created from a 19th-century lumberyard in Litchfield offers yoga, fitness, spa services (including massage, skin  and nail care) plus physical therapy and even psychotherapy. It’s one-stop shopping, in a way: a spa in beautiful surroundings that offers the quintessential mind/body experience.

Co-founder Alexandra Champalimaud attributes the success of Charym to three things: the intent to provide a truly meaningful experience; the best therapists, who deliver on that promise; and atmosphere. “You need to create a space that is transforming,” says Champalimaud, an interior designer. The best medicine for a spa is quiet, peace and positive energy. “That is what makes someone feel good about the spa experience,” she says, “from the moment they walk in the door.”

Champalimaud says Charym strives to provide clients with the best combination of pleasurable and healing experiences.

“Clients will start out trying something that puts them at ease, perhaps a massage—that’s a good beginning—or a manicure or pedicure, which have to be delivered very well. Once they are comfortable and you have gained their trust, they will try something new.

“But in the end,” she says, “clients always come back for the services that make them feel the best.”

Wellness Spa Splurges

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