The Elements of Pampering


Indulge us—and yourself—in a little exercise: Take a deep breath, then imagine yourself face down on a treatment table, a succession of hot and cold stones plying your back, arms, legs and feet. Or face up in a warm mineral spring, a therapist’s hands guiding you almost imperceptibly through a series of swirls and stretches. Or cheek-to-nozzle with pressurized oxygen, a gentle spray bedewing your complexion. Or neck-deep in a mud bath, your body enveloped by clay, peat or volcanic ash.

With apologies for interrupting the head trip, here’s a question: What do these scenarios have in common, beyond the ability to make you wish you were experiencing them in real time? The answer, as it happens, is quite literally elementary: Each is a real (and beloved) spa treatment based on the healing powers of the elements.

Of course, there’s no universally agreed-upon set of elements, but ancient societies across the globe certainly arrived at similar lists—generally, some combination of earth, wind, fire, water, wood, metal and ether. Perhaps not coincidentally, healers across the globe arrived at a similar conclusion: Bodily balance of the elements is essential to one’s wellbeing. 

In fact, that belief remains central to Traditional Chinese Medicine. As the Complementary and Integrative Health wing of the NIH puts it: “Five elements—fire, earth, wood, metal, and water—symbolically represent all phenomena, including the stages of human life, and explain the functioning of the body.”

Little wonder, then, that the average treatment menu at a Traditional Chinese Medicine-based spa incorporates as many of these elements as possible. Sometimes the connection is literal, as with body-heating stones or compresses—and sometimes less so, as with wood-evoking springtime facials that involve no actual wood.

Not that Traditional Chinese Medicine is the only ancient and elemental healing system to have persisted into the 21st century. Ayurveda, which continues to thrive within India and well beyond, posits that everyone’s constitution falls into one of three basic camps: the fire-forward Pitta, the air-intensive Vata, and the water-leaning Kapha. But at the same time—the system holds—all elements are present in everyone, and balancing them according to one’s individual and ever-shifting needs is vital. Thus the preponderance of, say, warm oils at Ayurvedic spas. (If you try nothing else, book a shirodhara session, wherein warm, herb-infused oil will drip onto your forehead in a subtle but steady stream as you bliss out on a massage table.) 

Then again, warming and cleansing oils are hardly the sole province of spas. Smoothing one on at home can turn the most basic act of showering into a mini pampering ritual. The same could be said of any number of elemental treatments, from bamboo-derived charcoal scrubs to melting body soufflés (the latter applied as soon as you step out of the shower, while your skin is still warm and damp). 

It is with these rituals in mind that the artisans of COPPER+CRANE have crafted three indulgences--Warming & Cleansing Body Oil, Charcoal Body Polish, and Melting Body Soufflé—that truly bring the spa experience to you. Yes, for all the delights of an Icelandic mud bath, Himalayan warm oil massage or High Sierra hot spring soak, the elements of a sublime pampering session lie exponentially closer to home.