DANCE THROUGH LIFE

As someone that has long danced for the pure joy and exhilaration I loved this new information I received via a newsletter from NIA, which is a dance class developed by former fitness leaders Debbie Rosas and Carlos Aya Rosas, over 30 years ago. I myself had my first experience of NIA over 12 years ago and from the moment the class began I was struck by the ease and the playfulness of the journey. And here below is an excerpt from recent research on the benefits of imagination and movement. 

Science now shows that fitness training through practices like Nia Technique, which integrates our playful nature with functional movement, is reportedly the most effective way to improve strength and conditioning, and in the last 5 years has been a tool used by elite coaches to enhance performance of professional athletes.

Good news! Exercise is more effective with a playful, curious, adventurous mind! Magic happens when we connect movement with imagination, or get into our playful mind-space. Embodied movement occurs when we are less self-conscious and more self-aware. Notice the difference when you move from the shoulders through your full range of motion, and then switch how your mind engages with the movement, this time imagining large broad, powerful wings expanding and filling the room, giving your spirit freedom to soar, sensing dynamic ease! The muscles engage more through your torso, legs and arms as your imagination senses the space surrounding your agile form. Sport psychology and neurophysiology aims to get athletes out of their head, and more in their bodies, improving quality of movement and engaging an instinctive body-mind connection. Athletes master their structure, but now it is recognised that over thinking can interrupt a person's ability to move with greatest ease, so their imagination is key. Nia says, ‘it’s not how it looks, but how it FEELS that makes a difference.’ When we invite imagery to inspire our movement, our conditioning improves naturally. We choose our wings.

And bringing gifts of imagery into our everyday activities gives us the ability to ‘Dance Through Life’.

Posted on June 21, 2017 .

ARTICULATING YOUR BRAND

A brand offers a cross-sensory experience that evokes emotions, beliefs and desires. It is the face that represents your company's values, services, ideas and personality. Branding is conveyed through your design, your website, logo, imagery, packaging, copy, colours, font, spacing and so much more. Who you are as a brand is even communicated through your personal sense of fashion and interior space.

So why does your brand identity matter? Well if you think about it, human beings are attracted to things because of the way they look. We are very quick to judge whether another person matches our needs, by the way they present themselves. Will they be fun or capable or serious? So since your brand is the personality of your business, think about what your business represents to the world. Does it represent an image that is true to what you are and why you are here? And perhaps a branding exercise is necessary to tease out your WHY, so that you can convey the right image to the world through your philosophy, copy, imagery and aesthetic. 

Some great questions to ask yourself when developing your brand are...

What are you here for... whats your purpose?

What makes us special, what did we achieve and how will we be remembered?

Where do we want to be and whats our vision?

What will drive us and what is our customer cause?

What are our values and what are we best at?

What is our unique competency and what makes us distinct?

What is our personality and how do we communicate that through language and identity?

We love helping our clients gain the clarity they need to create a compelling, charismatic and memorable brand. So if you need some help, please feel free to connect with us and lets discover this together. 

Posted on April 10, 2017 .

MY PATH TO WELLNESS

When I look back over my life I realise that my passion for health began in my early twenties. Living in Sydney and being an avid gym goer and bookworm on all things health, I would regularly make a weekend trip to one of the health retreats just outside of the city, where I could enjoy a healthy day of activities, food and spa treatments. Then at the age of 28 (17 years ago now) I booked myself in for a 10 day fasting and detoxification program on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand. My interest in this healing methodologie had come about from reading a book on fasting by Dr Bernard Jensen and having been quite the sweet tooth, despite my healthy diet, I felt that a good internal cleanse was in order. And indeed it was! 

At this same retreat I also discovered yoga, so I took myself along to the class and met the lovely teacher Jyoti, who later came to share a house with me in Sydney. And from here a whole new chapter unfolded as I learned a different approach to health, of not only body, but also mind and soul. At this same time I had also begun working as a chiropractors assistant and my understanding of health expanded beyond the books I had been reading. Further to this, the bookshelves in the office were filled with personal development books by authors such as Carolyn Myss, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay and others, which opened up the exploration of the mind, quantum physics and spiritual growth.  

I also began to attend inspiring events with the likes of Dr John Demartini and Tony Robbins. I was hungry for change, growth and evolution and every book, yoga class and workshop had something to teach me. So little by little I began to grow in a different way... a way that was more at ease, more in flow and more optimistic and responsible. I also began to change the way I was speaking and thinking, as I came to understand the power of our beliefs, thoughts and words. I began to meditate and tap into my own inner knowing and awareness, which developed a greater sense of trust in myself. My whole way of living and being was slowly being transformed. 

Delving into a different spiritual perspective began when I went to study Yoga in India. I really had no idea what I was in for, and had I known I may not have gone. But once there, I surrendered to learning the wisdom held within the Hindu mythology and ancient texts. And in addition to this, just being in India and living in an ashram for 6 months has a way of giving one an altered perspective on wellness and spirituality. Whilst in the ashram, I also had the opportunity to go through an Ayurvedic Panchakarma cleanse, which was yet another way of approaching the detoxification of the body. And so in this simple chapter of vegetarian food, yoga, meditation, chanting and basic living I came to another level of understanding with regards to wellness. 

Since then, my travels have taken me to many different health resorts, specialised healers, somatic, embodied, motivational, spiritual and inspirational workshops, movement practices, retreats and classes. Every piece of learning has added to the puzzle of living our best life as a human being and for this Im eternally grateful. 

As the journey to wellness continues I realise more than ever it really is all about integration. Wellness goes far beyond how we eat and exercise. It is our life... it is clearing the past to lay claim to our future, it is the way we deeply connect to ourselves and others, it is a healthy level of self love, it is living a life of flow because we are being the truest expression of ourselves. Wellness is balancing movement with nourishment with stress resilience and emotional wellbeing. And having that kind of wellness does mean making it a priority, but it is so rewarding to look back on who you once were and realise that the person you are today is a testament to approaching wellness in the holistic sense... mind, body and spirit. 

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Posted on April 2, 2017 .

THE STRESS LESS LIFE

As we power through the 21st century, it can sometimes feel as though we exist in a perpetual state of busyness. Often, with busyness, comes the inevitable... stress. Whether it’s the stress to perform well at work or in our studies, or to keep abreast of what’s happening in our lives. Generally at some point we may all experience the effects of stress.

When talk turns to stress, we immediately associate it with negative implications and something we should strive to avoid. In fact, we actually need a good dose of stress to get us moving, enticing us to move forward in our daily lives. However, there is a fine line between having enough stress to motivate without causing too much pressure. The key to good health and wellbeing is finding that very balance that enhances rather than incapacitates us.

Research suggests that at least one in four Australians experience moderate to severe levels of stress1. Think about how often you have heard friends and family say that they are stressed? You’ve probably said it a million times yourself. But what is stress?

Stress is a natural response to a challenging situation, which may be caused by what’s happening around us as well as the demands we place on ourselves. It causes the ‘fight or flight’ response in our bodies that enables us to react to the stressors in our lives. When most people talk about stress they primarily refer to emotional distress, which includes feelings of anger or irritability, anxiety and depression, which is attached to a whole range of physical and physiological responses such as muscular and digestive problems.

If not managed, a build up of stress can lead to health issues such headaches, muscular tension, sleeplessness and a heightened susceptibility to colds and flus. Left untreated, the strain on the body from the symptoms of stress can manifest into serious health conditions leading to heart disease, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety disorder.

It’s not all doom and gloom, because when managed, stress can work for you. Every body reacts to stress differently, and while some may cope, others may struggle when confronted with the same issues. The key is in recognising your own limits and implementing strategies to keep you from crossing over that fine line to destress.

As spa and wellness professionals, its particularly important that we walk our talk and make a consistent habit of supporting our wellbeing so as to maintain a healthy level of calm. Here are some tips and reminders toward living a calm balanced lifestyle. 

Exercise - whether that’s a heart thumping run or a stroll along the beach or through the bush, whatever it is, get the body moving.

Sleep – it is recommended that adults need between seven and nine hours sleep a night to allow the body to repair and rejuvenate.

Eat well – fuelling up on nutritious wholefoods not only boosts the immune system, but also creates calm in a body that’s already functioning in a high state of arousal. 

Share your stress – talk about how you feel, if not to friends and family, to a qualified health professional.

Explore relaxation – regularly practice meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, tai chi or treat yourself to a spa treatment and time out from your daily routine.

Life is for living and the more present we can be, the more we can enjoy the magic of each moment and share the calm with friends, family and clients. 

Posted on January 11, 2017 .

HEALTHY RETAIL PROFITS

For a business to experience true profitable wellness and for a spa business to thrive, its essential to map out a clear retail strategy.

Unfortunately many spa's often miss the mark when it comes to merchandising and promoting their skincare and retail offering. If you have the luxury of designing a new spa its important to build in a generous retail boutique near reception and if you have an exisiting spa consider how your retail space might be remodelled or improved. Concept stores such as Aesop, Aveda, Jurlique and Perfect Potion provide wonderful retail inspiration. These companies appreciate the importance of visual merchandising and specific placement of products, and spare no expense in achieving the perfect retail environment that has you coming back time and again. A taster bar that allows clients the opportunity to smell and feel product also creates a great connection. 

Be sure to include a diverse range of retail products in your boutique including but not limited to; inner health supplements, a mens range, a lifestyle range, heat packs, eye pillows, body brushes, bath products, muscle ease products, gift packs, insect repellant, baby products, deodorant, suncare and sun soothing care, lip balm, writing journals. The sky is the limit! And weave as many products as you can into the guest journey. Every touch point should be connected to a retail offering. For example; shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hand wash and hand lotion in the bathrooms should be available in your boutique. Perhaps the bath robes and slippers are also available. You might serve teas, alchemy cordials or beauty chef elixirs in the relaxation area. Feature essential oils in foot bowls, foot compresses and in aromatic diffusers placed around the spa. And ensure that any oils or mists used in the opening and closing sequence are available for retail purchase as well. You might also expand your retail boutique to include candles, eye pillows,   aroma reeds, bath salts, writing journals, gift cards...in fact the options are endless. 

One challenge we experience as spa operators, is that many therapists believe that their duty of care goes no farther than delivering a treatment. Sadly, this sees the industry's average in retail sales quite low, and has our spa clients going elsewhere to purchase their skincare, such as 'heaven forbid' the supermarket shelf or David Jones counter. And buying skincare in this way, hardly provides the prescription our client might have received had their therapist shared even just a small percent of their extensive knowledge on the skins anatomy. During a treatment a therapist has the unique opportunity to carefully analyse a clients skin as well as work with it and notice how it responds to certain products. It really is the perfect scenario for giving each and every client a prescription to support the needs of their skin. In fact, a therapist is in the doctors chair when performing a treatment, and the more a therapist truly believes in what they have have to offer, the more in service they can be. Have your therapists embrace this belief and give them the training and tools to recommend in a sophisticated way and watch your retail sales improve dramatically. And don't forget that introducing the brand begins during the consultation and preparing the client to receive a prescription also begins here. The therapist can ask the client if they would be happy to receive any applicable advice and a prescription at the close of their treatment. This is a polite way to ask for permission and creates the expectation that will then hold the therapist accountable. 

It is also very helpful for a spa to design its own skin and lifestyle prescription. This is not an expensive exercise in terms of graphic design and printing, and yet so worthwhile to your business, your therapist and your guest. It keeps your branding cohesive and makes completing the prescription a breeze for busy therapists. The prescription informs the guest of all products used in their treatment, along with the price so there are no embarrassing surprises and the therapist can specifically highlight 1 to 3 products that they especially recommend for their client. This can be as easy as saying; "your skin responded particularly well to the hyaluronic serum, which Ive highlighted here for you". The spa manager can decide how the guest journey will best flow and whether the prescription is discussed in the treatment room or relaxation lounge or at the reception desk upon departure. The receptionist can be instrumental in closing a sale.

Retail sales are finite and only limited by your running out of stock, and even then there is always a way around that such as postal delivery. Whereas there are only so many hours and treatment rooms and therapists rostered on in one day, which caps the profit potential of your treatment revenue. Therefore if you want your retail to thrive, create a fantastic retail space, add a tester bar, weave retail products into every part of your guest journey, train your team continually and ensure that every guest leaves with a prescription form at the very least.

Your clients will respect the level of service and the care and knowledge they receive when visiting your spa, and both your client, your team and your business will thrive. We are after all in customer service and offering our expertise in skin and body wellness is what we are here to offer the world.  

Posted on August 12, 2016 .

WELLNESS INTERIOR DESIGN

When we hear the term ‘wellness’, we generally think of it referring to lifestyle and relaxing spa therapies. But the truth is, that this term includes designing wellness within the four walls of our homes, offices and of course our spas.

We spend 56% of our lives at work, and 90% of our lives indoors. And with indoor air quality being five times more polluted than outdoor air, we can quickly begin to see why ‘sick building syndrome’, was officially recognized by the World Health Organization in 1986. Diseases that could be linked to the home or spa, include allergies, fatigue, asthma, hay fever and recurrent colds and flus.

The current challenge within the spa industry is that so many spas lack proper ventilation or even windows, and coupled with walking in with shoes, shedding layers of skin and emotion within the treatment room, its possible that our spas could be far more physically and energetically toxic than most homes and offices.

So how do we design wellness spaces?

In hunter-gatherer days, indigenous people assessed the life and prosperity of land by observing plants and animals, so as to avoid ‘sickness country’. In modern times, a detailed ‘building biology’ checklist can be used when choosing the best site for your wellness space, even if it’s in an urban environment. 

Setting a clear intention for how your spa will serve as a wellness destination, will then inform the design process, whereby a number of elements can be considered, from geopathic stress to feng shui principles to air purity and ventilation, use of natural light, electrical wiring, green walls and heating and cooling choices. 

The next step in wellness design also considers the health of the planet, by using sustainably sourced and/or recycled materials in the initial construction of a spa. These ethical choices also impact on our wellbeing, as new buildings ‘off gas’ high levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) from treated woods, insulation, gyprock, paints, glues and sealants. Building materials may also contain radioactive nuclides, particularly cement, bricks and stone.

Wellness design then extends into the selection of finishes and fixtures, which include floors, carpets, upholstery padding, furniture, fabrics and built in cabinetry, all of which, also ‘off gas’ high levels of VOCs. Therefore being the major cause of poor indoor air quality.

If building a new spa is just not on the financial agenda right now, then there’s still many ways that wellness can be implemented within an existing spa. And the points spoken of below, also apply to the final elements crucial to a new spa design.

Air Purity & Ventilation – Many spas are designed without windows, and hence air ventilation is absent. There are a number of air purifiers on the market. However the humble household plant is the most effective air purifier, because plants balance humidity levels, pull contaminants out of the air, reduce airborne moulds and bacteria, and absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Dust – The primary source of dust is human skin cells along with walking inside with shoes. Consider a guest journey that has clients and staff leave their shoes at the door. Avoid fabric curtains and too many fabric furnishings. Use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to clean surfaces and floors. Choose cushions and bedding made from natural fibers and wash regularly in hot water and then air dry in the sun. And use a vacuum cleaner with a hepa filter and motorized head.

Mould – Is extremely toxic and must be removed at all costs, as this will be affecting the health of you and your team. You might even have to relocate your business due to the serious health consequences. In the meantime, clean with vinegar. 

Water Filters – These are not a luxury, but rather an absolute necessity. Ensure you are drinking pure water and equally serving pure water to guests.

Electro Magnetic Frequencies - Exist wherever there is electricity and can negatively impact on our health and the ability to relax. There are a number of considerations when choosing a site and then when building, but in terms of an existing spa, its important to remove cordless phones and wifi as well as turn off all power points when appliances are not in use.

Cleaning Chemicals – Affect the health of our space, as well as the planet. In leading the way of wellness, its imperative that spas use natural cleaning products, eucalyptus oil and essential oils as air fresheners. If possible, source an eco-laundry service for the laundering of towels, which come into direct contact with the skin.

Cooling & Heating – Air conditioners need to be maintained so as to not become a health hazard and not all heating is created equal and needs to be considered. 

Candles – While there is nothing nicer than the gentle flicker of a candle, the truth is that most candles (unless they are made from beeswax or soy) are actually filling your space with carcinogenic chemicals, which can cause cancer and affect the central nervous system. Buy good quality candles or use rechargeable candles.

Showers & Chlorine – When showering in warm water, our guests are exposed to high levels of chlorine. Consider a Vitamin C showerhead filter, which reduces chlorine by 99% and offers your spa a USWP (unique wellness selling point).

Incense – There is nothing more spiritually evocative than the smell of incense, however it does cause air pollution and it is recommended to stop using incense.

Smudging Ceremony - Natives believe the spirits of sacred plants such as sage, are called to drive away negative energy and restore the balance to a particular space. And quite surprisingly a study in the Journal Ethnopharmacology found that the process of ‘smudging’ a space for one hour caused a 94 percent reduction in the bacterial count of the room. And the energetic clearing will increase the vibration.

In summary, as the spa industry leads the way in wellness, it’s important that we begin to consider taking a ‘whole’ approach to wellness and truly caring for our clients, our selves and our teams, through the way we design our spaces. 

Posted on May 22, 2016 .

CULINARY HOTEL WELLNESS

The greatest challenge when travelling a lot, particularly for work, is the ability to find healthy food. Its quite amazing how hard it can be to find basic vegetables on a menu and it can be quite tiresome always having to ask for a special combination of food items you have located within the fine print of the menu. With this in mind, its so very important for hotels and resorts to start accommodating the wellness traveller, who seeks to maintain healthy habits whilst on the road. If your chef is resistant to this idea then it may be necessary to bring in another consulting chef who specialises in whole foods and other quirky but popular concepts. I often see menu's that 'try' to be healthy but there are holes throughout their entire food philosophy. Many restaurants would consider a potato gnocchi covered in cream and without the bacon to be the perfect vegetarian option, whilst missing the point that vegetarians, by definition of the very term, prefer to eat a diet that is high in vegetables. And therefore this attempt at considering the vegetarian is seen as a lack of true care and integrity to this particular population. Having said that, the paleo food philosophy, which is quite abuzz at the moment, can also be missed through a menu that is heavily laden with carbohydrates and still missing the necessary quotient of vegetables. 

So then how does a restaurant within a hotel or resort create the ideal menu? And better still, how does this department link in to the spa so as to capture more clients and create a cohesive theme of wellness?  

Firstly, I think its important to create a menu that considers food combining, the paleo diet, ayurvedic philosophies and raw foods. The philosophy also needs to be based on organic, seasonal, whole foods that are free from dairy, gluten and sugar. Then link this food philosophy back to the spa and wellness concept in the following ways:

Create a ‘culinary wellness menu’ for each restaurant that captures the essence of that particular food theme, but in a healthy way. For example: your Italian restaurant might offer zucchini pasta, spelt pizza with cashew nut cheese, dairy and sugar free tiramisu. Your Asian inspired restaurant might offer an array of paleo inspired recipes and vegetarian delights. 

Add a stand alone ‘spa and wellness’ breakfast buffet that offers fresh fruits, activated nuts, gluten free muesli and granola, quinoa porridge, sheep and goat yoghurt, almond and rice milk, organic poached and scrambled eggs, home made beans, wilted spinach, sprouted and gluten free breads, vegetarian fritters, buckwheat pancakes and super food smoothies to name a few. 

Add ‘spa and wellness’ foods to any other buffets that are hosted in your restaurants. Create a ‘healthy picnic hamper’ that might be enjoyed as part of a spa package or chosen by guests going out for a full day excursion. 

Possible wording for your culinary spa menu might be... Spa & Wellness Menu, Spa Delights, Delicious Detox, Raw Beauty, Organic Gourmet, Culinary Creations, Health Bar, Wellness Weaver, Health Haven, Spa Bites, Wellness Delights or Organic Gourmet. The list is endless. 

The intention here is to continually bring attention to your spa through the food menu’s, to position your hotel as a leader in wellness tourism and to most importantly, take care of guests with specialised dietary needs and preferences. At the end of the day, if our guests are happy, our business will also show a very happy profit.

DAY SPA STYLING

The aesthetic appeal of your Spa is crucial, particularly as a very large percentage of Spa goers report that a spa’s facilities is their primary consideration when choosing a spa. And this makes sense. After all, we often choose a restaurant based on its ambience before we even look at the menu. And why would the spa space be any different? In fact, its even more important.

A spa needs to represent an escape from the world of noise and busy, offering an inviting, ambient, clean and beautiful sanctuary. Regrettably, delivering on this ideal picture can often be a challenge without a well-designed facility, the proper equipment and an organized space. This can then further impact on a seamless guest journey as the therapist may be stressed, the noise factor might be high and the tension within the spa can be palpable. At the business level this can slow down efficient work practice, increase wage costs, limit retail and rebooking, lower staff morale and affect guest satisfaction. However, there are many solutions that are easily achievable.

If your spa is looking a little tired, it’s the little things you add to the mix that can really create an impact. Fresh flowers, new throw cushions, artworks, a rug, ornaments, gorgeous candle votives, clever merchandising and a host of other things. Attention to detail is everything in the spa world, but if you can achieve a harmonious and cohesive balance with your styling elements the guest journey is elevated to a whole new level. Because the effect a space has on the way we feel combined with an amazing treatment is truly the style icing on the cake. 

Posted on July 16, 2015 .

OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE

When it comes to operational excellence the 'devil is in the detail' and it's the touch points considered at every turn that transform the spa experience from good to great and beyond. There is no space or service that demands more attention to detail and optimal operational flow than a spa. A guest enters the space in anticipation of a beautiful spa journey, where we offer an escape from the world of busy, where there are fine-tuned service details with a difference and where they are met by a polished and personable spa therapist. Our ability to deliver on this expectation comes down to how well we planned the original spa design. And if we don't have the luxury of working within a purpose built facility then some creative re-organisation may be required. 

Its often at the busiest times in a spa that the cracks begin to appear. There may not be enough seating in the relaxation room, the change rooms may be crowded, the reception area might be mayhem and lets not mention the probable stress going on behind the scenes. Its in these instances that an organised space and strong operational procedures can save the day. 

Over the years I have continually heard therapists complain when they feel their spa is not organised. Lack of operational flow puts so much more pressure on everyone and unfortunately the tension can hang in the air like a dark cloud. Its quite natural for staff to want to work in a spa that offers structure, standard operating procedures, a well defined guest journey, ongoing training and the equipment they need. It makes their work life so much easier, the standards are set and they can hold their heads high with pride. Who would have thought operational excellence would guarantee good staff morale? 

The win-win effect of an excellent operation is happy staff, delighted clients and a healthy business turnover. The spa space and the staff can be fully utilised because you are now running everything like clockwork. This cuts wage costs and increases the amount of bookings you can accept. And not only that, your retail sales can soar because your well defined guest consultation and retail process is set up to succeed. Every touch point has been carefully considered to deliver a seamless experience that can take your guest to a whole new level of 'let go' and in this day and age that is priceless.

Posted on July 13, 2015 .

SOUL NOURISHMENT

While we usually only associate food with nourishing ourselves, food is actually only one part of the equation and that's because we are multi-dimensional beings that need to be nurtured and nourished on many different levels. So here is an idea that's “fulfilling” rather than “filling” that was shared with me by a life coach called Janelle Fletcher.

She calls it the nourishment menu and its a circle divided into 8 segments which look like pieces of a pie. It contains 8 things that fill my soul and that I am committed to giving myself either daily or at least weekly – because these are the things that give me more energy as opposed to draining me of my energy or chi. My nourishment menu tops me up, it is relaxing, rejuvenating and replenishing. And after all isn't that what soul nourishment is truly about? 

Your “nourishment” will be different to mine so make it your own. It must align with you and what fulfills YOU - whether that be creative pursuits, walks in the rain, pottering in the garden, snuggling up with a good read, chatting to God, doing something adventurous, planning a trip, ringing a friend, playing loud music, dancing like a maniac or spending time in silence. Whatever your flavour, attend to your soul and quite often the rest will follow. You will be much more inclined to nourish and nurture yourself with whole living foods that make you feel alive and vital. And you will also be much more inclined to nourish your need to breath, move and sweat. All in all, attending to our souls has a lot of positive side effects. 

Posted on July 2, 2015 .