Fall spa treatment #1: Organic orange & cranberry scrub

You’ll be in the mood for the fall season with the rellies after you indulge in a little TLC at the Ritz-Carlton Spa in Toronto. Clear your skin and your head with the Floating on a Cloud Massage (90 minutes, $220), which includes a skin-buffing scrub and a soothing, full-body massage using Canadian organic pumpkin (a natural exfoliant) and cranberry-seed oil (to fight off free-radical damage). Add the antibacterial properties of Quebec sage and relaxing Niagara lavender and you’ve got a treatment as patriotic as it is seasonal.

Fall spa treatment #2: Chill out

Calgarians are of hardy stock when it comes to coping with cold weather, so they’re not going to let a drop in temperature prevent them from taking a dip in the outdoor heated pool at the Stillwater Spa Calgary. (There’s an indoor whirlpool and eucalyptus steam room for those who appreciate the therapeutic properties of water but aren’t interested in the cold/hot soak outside.) After your swim, finish off your fall spa splash with a Solar Recovery Scrub (60 minutes, $145) and a restorative salt treatment.

Fall spa treatment #3: Mood booster

The autumn-inspired pampering at Willow Stream, the Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs begins the minute you enter this jet-set mountain getaway. The air is subtly misted with custom “scent palettes” based on the weather and the season, explains Colleen Buckberrough, the spa’s head aesthetician. For fall, it’s all about balance and being grounded, so the air is scented with sesame oil (to calm the nerves), lemon (to uplift and warm the spirits) and geranium (to restore balance). For a more tactile seasonal primer—that will leave your skin exfoliated and moisturized—Buckberrough recommends an all-over body exfoliator. Try the Banff Mineral Scrub (60 minutes, $175) and the Customized Deep Cleaning Facial (60 minutes, $175). “Clients assume that the solution to dryness is to add more cream, but usually what you need is a deep cleaning,” she explains. “If your pores are clogged, the serums and moisturizers will just sit on the surface of the skin instead of being absorbed, which is how they do their best work.”

Fall spa treatment #4: Cocoon comfort

If you want a break from the urban go-go scene, retreat into the intimate, cocoon-like treatment rooms at the Spa at the Hazelton in Toronto, where there are no distractions from the important task at hand: relaxing. Start in the eucalyptus-infused, marble-lined steam room to warm up and stretch out. Next, do a few (slow) laps in the salt-water pool and then settle in for a Discovery Facial (60 minutes, $130). You’ll be cleansed, exfoliated and gently massaged while you drift off to sleep.

Have you triggered your relaxation response lately? Find out how on the next page…

SPA-9-SIP-EC1111.jpgIt’s a given that we’re happier in summer than in winter. It just makes sense: Fall brings shorter days and signals the end of intense sun, not to mention it leads to months of frigid temperatures. Where’s the joy in that? But science doesn’t back up that theory entirely. “The research done suggests that weather can have surprisingly little effect on mood for some and substantially more for others,” says Dr. Mark Fenske, a neuroscientist at the University of Guelph and co-author of The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success.

Sounds like a nice way of suggesting “it’s all in your head,” but that’s not what Fenske is saying. “In the fall, part of the malaise is just that it’s back-to-school time— back to work, back to the grindstone,” he says. “We’re wondering how we’re going to balance our workload.” It’s stressful, and the problem with stress is that we don’t always recognize it.

Increased blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the extremities and a slowed digestive system are all signs that our body is feeling the burden of our stress load. Hormonal chaos is another side effect—and that’s what causes premature signs of aging. When we’re under pressure, we’re flooded with stress-mediating adrenalin and cortisol—substances that, left unchecked, im- pact everything from blood-sugar levels to the quality of our skin. Few of us confront the life-or-death situations (tiger attack lately?) that created this fight-or- flight response. But most of us slog through chronic, low-grade stress, which can have many of the same effects. Luckily, we have a built-in relaxation response that can be triggered easily. Here’s how:

Meditation reduces the heart rate, and you don’t need to be a yoga master to benefit. Many activities can induce the beginnings of a meditative state. The pressing, kneading manipulations of massage, for example, are deeply relaxing, and they also flush lactic acid and toxins from muscles as well as increase circulation so that the body can do its own healing.

• There’s a reason the lights are dim and the music is soft at your favourite spa; this ambience has physiologi- cal effects: Our cardiovascular and breathing systems can sync with the music we’re hearing, so keep things slow and quiet.

Hydrotherapy increases blood flow and improves circulation, which is the main way the body cleanses and heals itself. You may also experience an “aha!” moment while in a steamy shower—but not because of the water. “Compared with other daily activities, the shower is one of the few places where we can let our minds wander freely,” says Fenske.

• The scents you surround yourself with also play a role in how you feel, says Colleen Buckberrough, head aesthetician at Willow Stream, the Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs. She says that lavender, camomile and bergamot are top choices for relaxing. Another tip? Stay away from stressed people! According to Fenske, we perceive the stress in people around us through their scent, which, in turn, can cause us to feel stress.

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