“Can i take a picture of your iris?” naturopath Louise Westra asked as I arrived at her office at the Gleneagles resort in Perthshire, Scotland. It was not the first question I expected to hear at a spa, but I obliged, fitting my face into a contraption that held my head still and my eyes open. She snapped the close-up, and a large image of my blue eye appeared on her computer screen.
Westra uses the diagnostic tool of iridology and other resources to identify early indicators of physiological problems. As part of Gleneagles’s Espa Life program—a new hybrid concept that melds spa treatments and alternative medicine—she then analyzes the data to create a personalized plan to wellness. “We treat people before disease,” she says, “and fill in the gaps between formal medical diagnoses.”
Espa launched its Life concept at both London’s Corinthia Hotel and at Gleneagles last year. The global spa company’s founder, Sue Harmsworth, says that she has seen the purpose of the spa come full circle during her 40 years in the business. “Although health is always important, relaxation became the main criteria for a spa,” Harmsworth says. “What I’m seeing now is health becoming a major issue again.”
Espa Life programs are intended to help clients overcome energy and vitality changes, sleep issues, fertility and conception problems, sports injuries, and more. “We’re focusing as a company on biological aging—being the best you can at every stage of your life and prolonging healthy living,” Harmsworth says, “but not from the pure medical, doctor side.”
The main distinguishing factor between Espa Life and the experience at the hundreds of other Espa-managed facilities worldwide (where clients order treatments from a menu) is the practitioner who guides programming choices. Like Gleneagles’s Westra, the practitioners at most future Espa Life locations will be naturopaths who work closely with a team of nutritionists, sports masseurs, personal trainers, and osteopaths (in Europe) or acupuncturists and chiropractors (in the United States) to design clients’ treatments.
The Espa facilities at Gleneagles are what one would expect of a five-star hotel spa, though they incorporate consultation rooms for the practitioners. Future Espa Life locations will include full-blown destination spas. “In Asia and South America we have under negotiation some very interesting concepts where they are mixing medical facilities with luxury hotels,” Harmsworth says. In addition to Asia and South America, Espa Life facilities are currently in progress in the Middle East, and the first U.S. location is in the late planning stages.
At Gleneagles, one of Europe’s top golf resorts, Espa Life offerings include a four-day Fit for Golf program ($1,160 per person, not including accommodations). After meeting with Westra, participants in the program receive treatment and training regimens that focus on enhancing musculoskeletal function, reducing pain and stiffness, and fueling endurance.
Following my 75-minute naturopathy consultation with Westra ($210), she recommended I incorporate liquid herb supplements into my diet. She also suggested a series of spa therapies, which, instead of heading out to the golf course, I submitted to without hesitation that afternoon.