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Friday, Dec 17, 2004

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And now... spa schools

Neeta Lal

Spas are booming, as people throng them to escape urban stress. But there aren't that many qualified professionals for the job. A newly opened school in Delhi offers to fill this gap.

There's pin-drop silence as the aesthetician initiates a motley bunch of 15 into the nuances of a `spa facial'. The visage of the `model', propped up in a swivel chair, is swathed in a dun-coloured concoction. As the mixture dries and develops cracks, the instructor sponges it off, applies yet another layer — this time purplish — with an oversized brush, followed by a slathering of `re-mineralising mask'. Finally, the face is smeared with a seaweed pack and then scrubbed with rosewater to reveal dewy, luminescent skin...

Next, it's time for the hand and feet spa class. The group assembles in a room redolent with aroma oils.

As the lecture begins, the students scribble copious notes, occasionally piercing the air with their hand to ask questions. Jargon is bandied about — hot/cold scrubs, detox, vichy, seborrhea, derma chill... Meanwhile, another model has been sitting patiently with her feet immersed in scented rosewater. She now removes her feet from the water and places them on an assistant's lap (layered with a thick towel) who pats them dry and begins the `spa-ing'. The feet are pampered with an array of gleaming vials and creams that sound good enough to be eaten — Café Au Lait Cream, Hot Chocolate Pack, Vanilla Chocolate Massage Bars, Raspberry Whip Cream, Souffle Wrap.

Welcome to The Pivot Point Aesthetics and Spa School (PPASS) located in New Delhi that trains people in the craft of mind-body-soul rejuvenation. Why a spa "school" and not a straightforward spa?

"Well, why not?" says Dr Blossom Kochhar, renowned aroma therapist and beauty advisor to numerous beauty pageant title holders, who has launched the school in affiliation with Pivot Point International (PPI). PPI has a network of 2,500 member schools in 52 countries, while Blossom has been offering spa services at her saloons in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

"There are nearly 100 well-appointed spas, within and outside hotels in India today," says Blossom, "but hardly any qualified manpower. So we thought of training professionals who would be well versed in spa techniques and fill the demand-supply gap."

According to lifestyle forecasts, spas in South Asia will witness an unprecedented boom over the next few years. Keeping in mind the potential demand for spa workers, PPASS will offer a slew of courses in Indian and international, traditional and modern spa treatment. Students will receive hands-on training in spa therapies, aromatherapy, reflexology, body wraps, colour therapy, yoga, reiki and ayurveda.

"We want to offer a three-tiered (detox, de-stress, re-mineralise) mind-body rejuvenation training that will help people ward off stress and tackle lifestyle-related health problems," says Samantha Kochhar, Creative Director of PPASS.

Besides four full-time instructors, the school will have visiting foreign faculty. The six-month course will have three modules — hair treatment, hands/feet/face treatment and massages. The fee of Rs 60,000 will include course material and cosmetics. Lessons will be reinforced through DVDs, demo lectures and sessions with guest lecturers from diverse fields.

Assessment would comprise a series of test papers and "a certificate will be issued only after the school is thoroughly satisfied with the candidate's performance," says Blossom. "If the students haven't been able to grasp any aspect of the course, they will be tutored free of cost till they are ready." She foresees a great future for spa schools. The 15-odd seats have been snapped up within a week of the school's launch.

"We've had to turn people away because we don't want to get into an assembly line production for spa manpower. We want to keep it small and selective," she says.

Fount of health

The ancient concept of a spa, which literally means a mineral spring, revolves around the therapeutic powers of the water body fortified with minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron. In Rome, hundreds of common bath places doubled as health centres. Over time, resorts and other accommodation facilities mushroomed around several mineral springs, where people flocked for treatment of illnesses.

In more recent times, people have started thronging spas to escape urban stress and tackle lifestyle-related problems. And where there were no natural springs, canny entrepreneurs built up mind-body-soul rejuvenation centres, equipped them with health gadgets and voila! Modern spas were born. Today, many famous spas across the world, some located in the heart of cities, offer a one-day spa facility as people are strapped for time to visit a real spa. Here they can detox, de-stress and rejuvenate without even bothering to leave town.

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