A fool and her money . . .

A fool and her money . . .

Well, you know the rest. But the sheer amount of money being shelled out for "wellness" treatments by wealthy vacationers gives new meaning to the term. They are heading to hotel spas because they are, according to a recent article in the New York Times ("Want a Shaman With That Massage?") "extremely stressed" and want to "feel and look rejuvenated." But these spa treatments are downright foolish.

One Rancho Santa Fe, California, vacation spot offers a "neuroplasticity" program to "boost brain function," with such activities as meditation, exercise and yoga. (Rancho Santa Fe is known, according to the local Chamber of Commerce, for its large lots, rural ambience and celebrity residences.) Apparently, going for walks, reading books and chilling out isn't enough anymore. You have to sign up for a "program" to boost your brain's function, whatever that means. Such purposeful activity on a vacation!

But that's nothing compared to a new hotel in Miami with a spa named the "Tierra Santa Healing House." I'm wondering if the person who named the spa actually bothered to look up the translation of "Tierra Santa," which means "Holy Land" in English. "Holy Land" has a special meaning in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths, and generally refers to Jerusalem in particular and Israel in general, although the exact geographical location can differ.It seems a bit pretentious to call your spa "Holy Land."

The hotel has enlisted a "well-known Mexican shaman," who is "in residence" at the hotel once a quarter. In the photo accompanying the article, Shaman Carlos Gomez absolutely looks the part: greying hair (with ponytail) and beard, dressed all in white, including a white handkerchief tied 'round his neck and what looks to be a white guayabera with some sort of Asian calligraphy on it.Mr. Gomez first cleanses and purifies the body and then invokes different spirits and so forth. This can be paired with "sound bowl therapy." The whole shebang takes about two hours and costs $400.

We have something similar here in the U.S. Deep South. It's called faith healing, but you don't need to go to a spa for it. A church will do, or perhaps a tent revival. Direct payment for faith healing is frowned upon, but there's no problem if you'd like to give a "love offering." And I'm sure 400 bucks for a single session of faith healing is on the high end. Perhaps an enterprising minister might want to contact the Miami hotel and get himself a gig.

But, as the article wisely points out, one treatment does not fit all.That's why the Rancho Santa Fe spa will be offering a "somato-type program" beginning next month. (Seems like there is a bit of competition going on here.) Somatotyping is based on categorizing a person according to one of three body types: ecto, endo or meso. It was developed by William H. Sheldon in the 1950s, who thought body type indicative of temperament, moral character or potential. It's been dismissed as pseudoscience, but never let that get in the way of a good money-making spa treatment. Even Sheldon's theory didn't contemplate what the good folks at the spa are up to. They will recommend specific products based on body type. According to a spa's director,

"The idea is to replenish the nutrients and minerals you need specifically for your body type."

This means, according to the article, "plenty of algae and essential oils." The Vitality Ritual (90 minutes, $275) begins with a dry-skin brushing, followed by body cleanse, mineral-heavy body wrap, head massage and breathing meditation. The article doesn't tell us which body type this is for.

I have to admire the sort of layering of quackery going on here. Body typing is combined with treatments like "body cleansing" and the "replenishment" of nutrients and minerals, all specially designed to address whatever shortcomings your body type may have burdened you with.Even though the body type didn't cause you any problems in the first place because the whole idea is nonsense, and if it did, it would have to do with things like your moral character, for which algae wouldn't seem to be much of a solution.

Finally, we get a peek into the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo hotel's Una spa.And here I'd thought that Manchu Picchu was all about seeing one of the great wonders of ancient civilization. But, nevertheless, you can get an "Andean sauna" for "detox." Who knew there were saunas high in the Andes? This is followed by a "lymphatic drainage massage" with coca oil (yes, that coca) and a "body mask of coca leaves" (ditto). According to the spa, the coca leaf contains

"alkaloids that activate skin cells, circulation and, in turn, the lymphatic system, helping the body eliminate waste."

That would be quite a trick, for a topical treatment to "activate" (whatever that means) skin cells and then burrow through those layers to the circulatory system, activating it, and, finally,move on to the lymphatic system. But, hey, if you find yourself in Manchu Picchu anytime soon, why not give it a try? They don't give the cost, but really, can you afford not to get rid of that waste clogging up your body?

This whole enterprise sounds a lot like alternative/complementary/integrative medicine. Go to a naturopathic website or (even more unfortunately) the website of a hospital's integrative medicine clinic, and you'll see the parallels: a menu of cleansing, detoxifying and drainage using nutrients and other "natural" substances as well as the deployment of sciencey-sounding terms like "neuroplasticity" and "somototyping."Like the spas, naturopaths and integrative clinics use elaborate theatrical placebos and invoke the equivalent of spirits -- the "universal life force" of reiki, the "qi" of acupuncture or the vitalism of naturopathy. Different names, same concept.

Points of Interest 04/24/2016
Points of Interest 04/20/2016

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