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On the culturally rich island of Oahu, SpaHalekulani, located in the luxurious Halekulani resort, reawakens the healing traditions of Hawaii, Asia and the South Pacific in its services, including a new two-and-one-half-hour treatment called Waianuhea.
“We decided to introduce cultural treatments that were as authentic as possible within a spa setting, so we could show people what is truly real about Hawaii and the Polynesian culture,” said spa director Lena Mossman.
Clients seeking physical and spiritual restoration at a spa that holds authentic Hawaiian tradition near and dear to its heart will find solace in Waianuhea, which means “cool, soft fragrant waters.” It integrates culturally significant aspects inherent to Halekulani’s location by Gray’s Beach, said to have healing waters and where fresh water meets salt water. Focusing on the healing properties of the ocean, Waianuhea features paakai (Hawaiian salt), limu kala (seaweed) and essential oils of night blooming jasmine, which used to grow rampant just outside of the spa’s relaxation area.
“Limu kala was known to the Hawaiian people as seaweed that you would eat or wear for healing,” Mossman said. “The beach in front of Halekulani used to be covered with it.”
Mossman has strong family roots in Waikiki and an ancestry of Hawaiian healers. After training under three significant traditional healers, including Auntie Margaret Machado (the mother of traditional Hawaiian lomilomi massage) then opening seven spas in French Polynesia, Hawaii and Texas, Mossman became SpaHalekulani’s director in 2009, seeking to bring more cultural authenticity to the spa.
My Waianuhea treatment commenced on the spa terrace with a traditional foot pounding ritual, encouraging circulation using sticks made from palm trees. A warm saltwater foot bath followed to cleanse my body and mind. From the terrace, Flora, one of two therapists who currently performs Waianuhea, walked me to one of the spa’s two tandem treatment rooms, which features its own bathroom and changing area, complete with a beautiful wooden cabinet locker, bathtub and steam shower.
On the massage table, the experience continued with an ocean scrub of night blooming jasmine and limu kala. I then went into the steam shower where a towel, bottle of water and decorative orchid on ice awaited. From there, I was back on the table for energy work and a massage. Ocean shells, which are believed to have energetic cleansing power, were used to read and help clear both physically and spiritually blocked mana (life force). After running the shells over me, Flora was spot-on in asking me if my right side bothered me more. She continued with the massage to work out the knots using essential oils and in the same swift movements, worked to release any burdens she detected in her energy work.
“Release of burdens translates to release in muscle tension because in Hawaiian culture, what affects you physically affects you spiritually, and vice versa,” said Mossman.
After the treatment, I was led back to the terrace where I enjoyed my choice of hot or cold tea and mochi ice cream. Relaxed and refreshed, I left with parting gifts — a sarong and some paakai — and a strong sense of the SpaHalekulani spirit.