Facialist Joanna Vargas offers some advice for dealing with the change of season.
Courtesy of The Langham, Chicago
Chuan Spa, perched on the fourth floor of the new Langham Chicago hotel, is all about the symbolic sojourn to serenity. Granted, most spas are. But what sets this one apart is decor and treatments based on an East-meets-West concept imported from Hong Kong: Chicago is the first and only city in the United States to introduce a spa built entirely on the ancient philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The menu proffers massages, facials and an array of well-known TCM treatments (cupping, moxibustion [the application of heat to acupoints], acupuncture) to restore balance and increase overall energy, or qi.
My recent visit began with a thorough questionnaire to help guage which of the five Chinese “elements” (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) defined me. Did I sweat at night? Did I prefer salty foods to sweet? Did I tend to laugh or groan? From there, treatments were fine-tuned to my individual body chemistry and imbalances.
Moving from light spaces to dark ones and through a series of dramatic archways (“moon gates”) to reach the spa’s interior conveyed a departure from one world to another. Services kicked off in the locker room with a stunning bathing ritual. An herbal sauna filled with fresh mint, sage, rosemary and thyme (delivered fresh from the kitchen daily) loosened my tight muscles and opened my respiratory system. A massive block of pink Himalayan sea salt in the salt stone sauna releases negative ions in the intense heat, calming the lymphatic system. The hot and cold aromatherapy showers were invigorating, and the chamomile-scented Oriental steam room eased away any remaining tension.
The massage (deep and efficient) used oil that jived with my body type, and the signature Chuan Yu facial, based on traditional gua sha therapy, focused on lymphatic drainage instead of wrinkle reduction (no aggressive exfoliation, no extractions). A piece of jade was gently scraped over my face and the meridian points along my body (including the feet) to increase circulation. A a nutrient-rich mask finished things off.
Spa day culminated in the Dream Room, where I munched dried fruit from within a Matrix-y looking device called the Four Senses Lounger. Exclusive to Chicago’s Chuan Spa, the lit-from-within chair offers interactive elements that engage the four senses and increase a meditative state. As if I could have been any more relaxed. 330 N. Wabash Ave.; 312-923-7650; chicago.langhamhotels.com.