Monday, October 29, 2012



…life-giving water plus heat, heals and restores…
I’ve always enjoyed spa treatment experiences at the beautiful and award-winning Kohler Waters Spa.  When I’ve the time, I prefer driving to Kohler, WI and staying overnight at the Carriage House, where the Spa is also located.  When my schedule is tight, I take a short drive to the Chicago location in Burr Ridge, IL.  Either location offers wonderful treatment experiences.  Guests also have at their disposal traditional spa amenities such as whirlpool, steam and sauna.  The Chicago location also offers their guests their unique Circle of Tranquility, which is a self-guided water sanctuary of three different shower experiences (Envelope, Quench and Deluge).  After these preparatory shower rituals, guests can then experience the Spa’s beautiful 25 ft. whirlpool, complete with an exhilarating 8 ft. waterfall that provides invigorating hydro massages.  Guests can also take a plunge in their 8ft. cold plunge pool and cool off, or, they can opt to relax in either the steam room or sauna room, or both.  The Spa’s beautiful co-ed waiting area is ideal to wind-down after a calming and restorative spa treatment. 


The Hammam Arrives ~
The Hammam Ritual was one of several new treatments recently added to the menus for all three Kohler Waters Spa locations (Kohler, WI; Chicago; IL; and, St. Andrews, Scotland).  The Hammam Ritual is an 80-minute treatment combining elements of water, heat, aromatherapy, exfoliation, massage, facial and hair, and is one of the more comprehensive ritual treatments I’ve experienced.  I especially appreciated how it honors the traditions of this historical healing and restorative experience.

According to Jean Kolb, Director of Wellness, Kohler Company ~
The Hammam is our spiritual approach to a therapeutic water treatment.  It indeed feels very much like a baptismal experience with the pouring on of warm water.  It is done very slow and deliberately cleansing away all the impurities of the mind and body.  We are being respectful of the Turkish tradition while still putting a bit of a Kohler twist on the overall experience.”

Hammam History and Semantics ~
Hammams have been around for centuries, and part of world history.  They existed in areas dominated by conquering Romans, Turks and Arabs.  The Hammam remains popular, with people continuing to seek the therapeutic and restorative benefits of the heat, water, exfoliation and massage.

It is believed that bathing became de rigueur as far back as the third century when the Romans built elaborate bathing emporiums for the wealthy, military and general public.  Around the same, Greeks and Turks were also discovering the benefits of individual and communal bathing.  The Turks would add the aspect of very hot water and steam and their Hammams were known for bathing with hot water.  In 600AD, Muhammad recommended steam bathing, which was their version of the Islamic Hammam; in Arab dialect, a Hammam was a toilet or bathroom/bathing area.  When conquering Arabs captured Alexandria in 642AD, they came upon the Roman baths; in order to keep the fires burning to heat up the water, they pillaged some 700,000 works from the Ptolemaic Library and burned them; the fires lasted for approximately six months.  It was also common for Bedouin sheikhs to have elaborate Hammams for their harem. 

Roman baths were enormous, often including elaborate hot and cold pools, areas for massage, even libraries and gymnasiums.  By comparison, the Islamic Hammams were often smaller and more intimate.  The aspect of communal bathing also fronted as a pretext for sexual relations; conquering armies also sought the bathing areas as a way to prepare for battle, or recover from battle.  In time, however, the basic purpose of the Hammam remained as a central place for bathing in hot water, where a person could go to have their body thoroughly exfoliated, washed and then massaged; patrons would then go and relax in an area to cool down from the heat of their cleansing and bathing experience.
Throughout the ages, heat and water have remained a source of healing and restoration.  Today’s traditional and alternative medical practitioners routinely prescribe to their patients treatment courses that utilize heat and water as a curative for certain ailments and health conditions.

Traditional Hammam Accoutrement ~
Pestimal Cloth ~ used as a wrap, cover or towel; made of natural cotton.
Kesa (also Kessa, Kese) Mitt ~ used dry on wet skin for deep exfoliation; made of natural silk.
Kazan Bowl ~ large water vessel; made of hammered and decorative silver or copper.
Tas Bowl ~ small water vessel; made of hammered and decorative silver or copper.
Black Soap ~ natural vegetable paste containing black olives, eucalyptus oil and argan oil, that is sometimes soaked in salt and potash; also found in bar form.
The Kohler Waters Spa Chicago Experience ~
I’m met in the Relaxation Area by Renata, and then escorted to the Vichy Wet Room. Before disrobing, Renata asked if I had spent any time in either the steam room or sauna; I hadn’t.  Renata then explained each step of the treatment and what to expect. After disrobing, my torso was wrapped in a colorful plaid Pestimal. 

Standing next to the wet table, I was directed to close my eyes and begin inhaling a very soothing aromatic blend of essential oils that included lavender, peppermint, star anise and cajaput oil.  The product was from the Kerstin Florian Spa Body Collection, Calm Mind Organic Aromatherapy.  After three deep inhales, I felt very relaxed and centered. 

Still standing, Renata began scooping a small silver Tas bowl into a large silver Kazan bowl that was filled with very warm water; she proceeded to pour the water over my entire body; its temperature was tolerable.  After several dousings, I was instructed to lie face up on the wet table, which was also covered with a Pestimal; the first Pestimal remained on me throughout the entire treatment.  Even though I was warm from the previous dousings, Renata douses my body again to make sure my skin is sufficiently wet before she began the labor-intensive exfoliation of my body with the Kesa Mitt.  Although the mitt had a soft grainy texture, the exfoliation was intense, but didn’t cause any skin irritation or discomfort.  In addition to the efficacy of the Kesa, Renata’s pressure and rhythmic strokes were both soothing and massage-like.

After the initial vigorous exfoliation, Renata had me touch my skin to feel how smooth it had become; I also touched some of the sloughed off dead skin the Kesa had removed.  I was shocked at how much dead skin had been removed from just the upper portion of my right leg, and was also amazed at how silky my skin felt.  Between each Kesa exfoliation, the traditional Hammam Black Soap was used to thoroughly cleanse the skin; this was followed by another dousing of warm water to rinse the soap and sloughed skin residue.  Each dousing involved several fills of the Tas bowl; occasionally, Renata had to refill the Kazan bowl with additional very warm water, using a hose.  

The Black Soap was a paste consistency and from the professional backbar product range of Kerstin Florian.  The Soap included black olive and eucalyptus.  Once my topside was meticulously exfoliated and cleansed and doused, I turned over to have my backside treated with the same scrupulous attention.  After that was taken care of, I returned to a face-up position and received one final dousing for good measure before having a liberal application of Kerstin Florian Vita Lotion applied to my entire body; this rich product contains grape seed extract, aloe, shea butter, Vitamin E and macadamia seed oil, and is gentle enough to be used on the face.  As the product was being applied, it felt very soothing.  My body was then covered with sheeting.  Since my hands were covered, I was curious how my skin felt, so I touched portions of my thigh and forearm; the skin felt rehydrated and I couldn’t detect any tacky or greasy residue from the Vita Lotion; the skin felt healthy and firm, not too mention silky smooth.  
Next, my shoulders, neck and scalp were massaged.  My hair was washed and conditioned using Moroccanoil Shampoo and Conditioner, rich in Argan Oil.  Following that, my face was rinsed with warm water and massaged with Kerstin Florian Rehydrating Capilar Essence; this product is rich in Vitamin E, jojoba seed oil and Chamomile.

The Hammam Ritual was an exceptional treatment that revitalized and rehydrated my skin.  My skin felt refined, firmer and was definitely softer.  My hair had a healthy shine to it, while appearing fuller in volume.  My face was also hydrated and soft, and healthier.

I definitely left looking and feeling better than when I first arrived.  All guests that experience the Hammam Ritual are also given the Kesa mitt used during their treatment; it's a nice reminder of their experience the next time they use it at home.  

The addition of the Hammam Ritual to the Kohler Waters Spa treatment menu not only continues the traditions of the Hammam, it also serves as a reminder of how Kohler Waters Spa embraces the therapeutic and restorative aspects of all-things water.   

Resources ~

That’s it for this edition.  Until the next one, remember to take care of yourself and those you love.

By Terry Herman

Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker.  She also serves on EXPERIENCE | PREMCHIT Journeys In Retreat To Wellness Advisory Board, which is comprised of ten international experts in various fields of wellness and spa.  She also serves as a Group Manager for the popular LinkedIn group, The Spa Buzz.  You can email her at


(Photo credits as represented by the specific brand include Kohler Waters Spa, Universal Companies, and Kerstin Florian; oil painting of a Turksih Hammam by Jean-Jacques-Francois Le Barbier, 1738-1826.)

N.B.  Google’s blog platform is incompatible with my Mac OS X and Firefox browser latest software versions, which is why some web links appear in different colors and why when attempting to have embedded images their sizing is consistent and/or can’t be sized. 

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