The March of Chi

How the world’s best spa brands are introducing good chi into their wellness offerings. By Judy Chapman
The March of Chi

I have long believed in the benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and it has saved me many times during different stages of my life where I have experienced acute anxiousness or insomnia and neck and shoulder issues. The power of the fine needles inserted into specific points in my body and the detoxifying benefits of smoky Moxibustion and cupping therapy has so often returned me to equilibrium within the hour. Little wonder that TCM is an integral component of wellness menus at the world’s best health-focused spas and resorts. What is also exciting is the new genre of treatments that incorporate TCM in a most creative and contemporary way – with real results. Here are some of my favorites…

It was over a decade ago that Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong Hotel introduced the Shanghainese Pedicure that still today is one of the most highly sought-after treatments on their menu. Voted by Vogue Magazine in 2014 as the ‘best pedicure in the world’, the Shanghainese Pedicure is delivered by Samuel So whose family has been performing these unique pedicures at the hotel since 1989. Mr. So uses all sorts of fascinating looking tools and instruments to clean, scrape, shape and buff your feet to new. Book ahead as the waiting list for the masterful Mr. So can be up to three weeks long.

Facial Acupuncture is one of the hottest trends at the moment in London with the best spas offering this treatment that is believed to be a healthier and more holistic alternative to Botox. At The Bulgari Spa at The Bulgari Hotel & Residences in London, the Naturallift Acupuncture Facial is delivered by Eastern Medicine specialist, David Peters. What is unique about David’s work is that he blends a potent mix of body and face acupuncture with Tui Na facial massage and Facial Cupping. David is an astute and intuitive healer and after your treatment customizes a serum for each guest skin’s needs (mine was made from hyaluronic acid and pure essential oil). Also on the menu at this luxurious spa is Cupping Therapy that can be booked as a singular session or as a series of six treatments.

Over at the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa at The Metropolitan by COMO in London, they also offer a results-based Facial Acupuncture. Delivered by their team of expert practitioners, quite a number of fine needles are placed on specific areas of your face during this treatment to boost Chi energy and circulation as well as regenerate collagen and tissue growth – delivering glowing results. At this holistic urban spa, they also mix it up with Acupuncture Shiatsu and can also integrate the detoxifying Moxibustion therapy into your massage where required.

Another style of facial that incorporates principles of TCM is the Five Elements Facial at The Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. During this facial therapy, your skin is diagnosed according to Chinese elements such as water (reflect) or fire (bloom). Then your skin is cleansed, exfoliated and hydrated with products made with ingredients like green tea, lavender, apple serum, Manuka honey, tea tree collagen and omega 3, 6 and 9. Depending on the elements required, techniques including lymphatic drainage and acupressure are applied to leave your skin looking firm, plump and hydrated.

Old recipes made with Chinese herbs and ingredients that feature in ancient Chinese medicine texts are also being revived.

New to Four Seasons Hong Kong is the two-hour Chinese Wellness Ritual that starts with a nurturing body scrub made from cinnamon, honey and rice. This is followed by warm rice milk poured along your spine and shoulder area to soothe and nurture. The gentle pressing of warm poultices dipped in honey and smoothed across your body will open the meridian channels. It concludes with a steamy monsoon rain shower and reviving full body massage. 

At the Spa Village Kuala Lumpur by the YTL Hotel Group, they have long been blending TCM with indigenous Malaysian healing traditions. For example, their Chinese Peraakan Treatment consists of Rattan Tapping Qi Gong, Tui-na massage and a Pearl and Rice facial, egg rolling and mulberry leaf eye treatment. 

Now here is something really unique. At The Standard Miami, they offer Group Acupuncture sessions that are held at auspicious times throughout the year like full moon, new moon, summer solstice and even Earth Day. During these group sessions, resident Acupuncturist and Astrologer, Lori Bell, works to rebalance everyone’s Chi energy and induce calm and peace all at once. Feeling depleted? Why not get an Acupuncture B-12 Boost that is basically an Acupuncture injection of B12 to increase one’s energy levels, metabolism and improve mood and memory. Also on the menu is Celestial Acupuncture Alignment, a treatment based on ancient Chinese alchemy that includes body reading with acupuncture.

What is also inspiring is when the best of TCM is blended with other modalities.

At the Mandarin Oriental Miami, for example, the signature Oriental Harmony Massage was developed with specialists in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Aromatherapy. This treatment begins with a consultation to determine your body’s condition after which your therapist delivers an oriental meridian massage enhanced with the benefits of pure essential oils selected for your needs. And at the Mandarin Oriental Sanya, their two-hour Chinese Time Rituals consists of a consultation with a TCM doctor followed by a personalized spa program that may include Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Acupressure massage.

At the amazing Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru in the Maldives, the on-site Australian Acupuncturist is Paula Choi who is also a yoga teacher and specializes in psycho-somatic health. She delivers a powerful customized treatment where she blends Acupuncture with moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, yogic stretches, tai chi and qigong. The combination of these health modalities with the benefits of meditative and breathing works so well for conditions inclusive of insomnia and anxiety.

Why not learn Tai Chi in China? It’s only fitting that the Aman Spa at Amanfayu in China offers a Chinese inspired menu. What’s special is that treatments are centered around the seasons. During the winter months, for example, expect nurturing Bamboo massages, warm ginger scrubs and hot herbal compresses. The resort is designed like an ancient Chinese village set in bamboo grove with bridges and pathways leading to elegant wooden spa houses. Other year-round offerings include Tui-na, reflexology  - and Tai Chi.

Another luxury destination offering unique body treatments that integrate the healing elements of TCM is the Spa at The Legian in Bali. Their Tibetan Ku Nye Massage is a combination of the best of Tibetan medicine traditions with TCM and consists of body tapping, acupressure and some serious reflexology alongside kneading, rocking and heated salt poultices to purity the five elements in the body.

Similarly, the TCM Signature Treatment at The Bulgari Spa at The Bulgari Hotel and Residences in London is distinctive and delivers real results. This in-depth Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment is a blend of Acupuncture, Tui-na Massage and Cupping Therapy – designed to bring you back to physical and emotional balance.

Feeling Jaded? Recharge your energy and seratonin levels by booking in for the Jade Stone Therapy at the lush Four Seasons Hong Kong. The creators here have long believed in the powers of healing Jade. During their signature Jade Stone Therapy, pieces of heated Jade stones are massaged deeply into the body to reduce tight muscles and boost your immune system. Jade stone is believed to unblock pain and heal emotional imbalances and fatigue.

Another five-star spa offering healing treatments made with Jade Stone is the award-winning Karma Spa at Karma Kandara Resort in Bali. Their two-hour Sacred Jade Stone Ritual comprises of an Oriental body scrub, Jade Stone Chi Massage and a nurturing Jade Stone Facial. As well, they offer Facial Acupuncture, Cupping Therapy, Acupuncture and Eelctro Acupuncture.

At YTL’s destination resort spa, Pangkor Laut, also located in Malaysia, Chinese Medicine has always been an integral part of the wellness offerings. The on-site Chinese doctor gives diagnosis and consultations as well as Tui Na massage, Cupping and Moxibustion. However, what’s a little different here is the Gu Fang Xun Shen, an ancient Chinese body smoking ritual whereby your body is smoked in specific herbs to remove negative energy. The Quan Shen Jin Yu is a warm herbal bath infused with Chinese herbs to balance yin and yang energy. Also, Tai Chi, a system of breath, movement and exercise designed to improve circulation and energy in your body.

What is also fascinating is the modern technology that incorporates aspects of TCM. At the Ling Spa New York, they have developed an amazing Energy Lift Machine that is a handheld device made with Tourmaline known to contain healing Far Infrared Rays that works at a cellular level and will boost your Chi. They have created a variety of results-based treatments around this modality – including the Deep Sleep Wellness Massage where the device is applied along your spinal cord and specific acupuncture points to relax your nervous system and induce a wave of calm.  Even better, the device can be used for anti-aging and during your Energy Face Lift & Contour Facial, the therapist will apply the device to infuse energy into the acupuressure facial points that boosts circulation, chi and glow.

Then there are a plethora of wellness destinations that offer TCM modalities, programs and retreats to counter stress, burn-out as well as cleanse and detox. One of the world’s best is COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali where the resident Acupuncturist oversees 3, 4, 5 and 7-night retreats. The 5-night program, for instance, includes a wellness consultation with the doctor whereby he will then prescribe a series of treatments to restore your health to balance. These include acupuncture, massage, Qi Gong movement sessions to balance your mind well as nutritional advice and meal suggestions for inner nourishment.