Miriam van Doorn

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JOHN PETROZZI: Hi and welcome to Living is Easy. I’m John Petrozzi. And thanks for joining us today.

Today we’re speaking to one of the world’s most leading spa gurus, Miriam van Doorn of Body Essence Day Spa in Brisbane. Miriam’s been involved in the Day Spa industry for a really long time now and has set up spas all over the world including here in Australia. And today we’re going to speak to one of the major experts in the spa industry.

Hi, Miriam and thanks for coming on the show today.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Thank you very much for inviting me.

JOHN PETROZZI: Pleasure. Miriam, I wanted to find out about the spa industry because spa- whenever someone’s mentioned spa or day spa, I’m confused as to what it’s all about but I always want to go; I always feel like I want to go inside and experience whatever they’re offering. And I met a lady, a long time ago, and she’s become a good friend of mine now and she is in the spa industry and she mentioned that I should speak to you about how the spa industry works, what it’s all about, and why people go to them. So, really, what is a day spa?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: The day spa really evolved all the way from the beauty salon. In a beauty salon, you would have your treatments as in pedicures, manicures, and facials. And the day spa really evolved in incorporating modern body treatments, so it has a more holistic and wellbeing side to it. So in a day spa, you would come and have either an hour treatment, like a massage, or you can have a half-day treatment or even a full-day treatment.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And it incorporates things like body rubs or body scrubs, full-body massages, but there are different massages to choose from as well.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Different modalities depending on what the client needs.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Okay. So like you said, it came from or started off in the beauty industry?


JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. So people would have gone maybe 15 years ago to a beauty salon, and now they go to day spas. Is that right?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: That is correct. I mean the day spa industry has just evolved very, very quickly. I mean, even ten years ago, I opened up the first day spa here in Brisbane at the Marriott Hotel. But now they, you know, nearly everybody is calling themselves a day spa, which can be a little bit confusing because traditionally it also involves water treatment.

JOHN PETROZZI: What do you mean “water treatment”?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: You can have anything from a spa bath with Jacuzzi jets in it.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And then you can put seaweeds in there to help you detoxify the body. There’s also another treatment called the “Fishy Shower” where you have a rainwater shower washing over you and you have a treatment at the same time with either massage or body scrub.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah. It’s gorgeous.

JOHN PETROZZI: Is this incorporating the Korean day spas, that sort of concept? Is it?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It could. Korean day spa is hardly water treatment and you go there and you walk around at your own leisure and you do your own activities; whereas, in a day spa you have a component of both. You can have a sauna or steam room attached to it or some even have some bathing with spas and jets coming out of pool, so to speak. But then you also have body treatments. So you go to a therapist and you have a professional treatment.



JOHN PETROZZI: Later on the show, I want to know more about what’s involved in a day spa experience, but before we get on to that, you’ve been all over the world setting up day spas and really you’ve had the opportunity and the privileges of actually being asked most of the time to go out and set up day spas around the world. Where have you been and what have you done?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: My first overseas trip was to India and I went all the way to the foothills of the Himalayas of North India. And there was a palace of one of the Maharajahs that was made into a hotel with what they call the “destination spa.” So you actually travel to the hotel, stay there for a long weekend or one or two weeks and have treatments incorporated with your stay.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah, it’s amazing.

JOHN PETROZZI: So it was a palace?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It was and it’s gorgeous.

JOHN PETROZZI: I see. And how long did it take you to set that up?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: I was there for nearly two years but it took a whole year to train the staff. They were local girls and boys and they spoke English very well and I had to train them from learning about the body, how the body functions, to actually doing treatments.

JOHN PETROZZI: Wow. Yoga is an Indian tradition, isn’t it?


JOHN PETROZZI: And do most day spas, or in fact, that one there in India, did it amalgamate yoga into the center as well?




JOHN PETROZZI:   And do most day spas integrate yoga into it as well?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Not all day spas do. It is becoming more, I don’t really like to use the word trend, but it can be yoga, Pilates, and a lot of day spas are now working together also with naturopaths, even with dentists. So it is, you know, the day spas evolving more into the medical side as well, and the reason for that is that it gives a supportive environment, it’s not too clinical and not too scary-looking for people to go.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Later in the show, we’ll find out when I ask you all those questions about what’s involved, what really makes a healing center, in terms of the colors and furniture and things. But the sort of gist I’m getting from what you’re saying so far is that, the spa or day spa, in actual fact, integrates outside beauty with internal grooming. Is that right?


JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. So what’s your philosophy on the day spa?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: With me, personally, it’s all about setting balance between the two. We live such a busy, stressful life nowadays that we’re always trying to find that internal balance and we tend to go for one to the other. So I integrate yoga to my daily regime; I also teach it. So that’s the inner balance, and then the outer balance is having regular massages and facial treatments. It depends again on the individual, you know, what you like to do because a lot of spas now have some Ayurvedic treatments as well, where you can have scalp massages and treatments, you have hot oil dripping onto the forehead which is called Shirodhara.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So there are so many modalities coming in from all around the world which are just so beautiful.

JOHN PETROZZI: Do you find that in different parts of the world day spas are different depending on their local cultural traditions?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Very much so.

JOHN PETROZZI: So what would a day spa in Australia be like compared to one over in India or Europe or Asia?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: We tend to take from all those countries.

JOHN PETROZZI: Australia does?



MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And in a sense that is fantastic because we have so many treatments to choose from that you can then integrate into a spa. And it really depends on the individual and what they would like to offer to their client.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah, but if you go to China, it’s very much traditional Chinese medicine that’s coming to the forefront in the day spas there working with the five elements. In India, you’ve got the Ayurvedic side. In Thailand, you’ve got a lot of Thai treatments and you use the local herbs and spices in a lot of the treatments.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. Do you think Australians, our ancestors, you see, were aboriginal, and the aboriginal culture, do you think that a day spa integrating aboriginal medicine in healing is something of the future with in Australia?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It definitely is. There is a one product company, [Lidia], which does use the original herbs, and spices that the aboriginal healers have used and also treatments. But they’re the only company I know of in Australia that are doing that. And they’re really honoring those traditions, which is good.



JOHN PETROZZI: So what kind of products would they have?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: They’ve got particular foot treatments and hand treatments and also body masks where they use Australian mound.

JOHN PETROZZI: Oh, wow! Gee, that sounds nice.


JOHN PETROZZI: Miriam, let’s go to a break and when we come back, I want to find out what a typical spa visit would be like. So stay with us.



JOHN PETROZZI: Hi and welcome back to Living Is Easy. Today we’re speaking with Miriam van Doorn of the day spa over in Brisbane called Body Essence Day Spa.

And Miriam, before we went to the break, we spoke about the spa industry in general. How does Australia rate in comparison to other parts of the world?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: I think Australia rates very high especially because their therapists are highly trained. Whereas, you go overseas to a hotel destination spa, the English spoken there is not always fantastic, although they do what I tend to call “healing hands.” They—especially when I worked in Bali and in India—the students or even the therapists when I was working with them, they very much worked from their hearts’ pace, and they’re very honorable. And in Australia, sometimes that can be lacking; however, the amount of study that is available in product knowledge and study that you can do in remedial massages. It’s so high that, you know, Australian therapists are sought to actually travel and work overseas in hotel and destination spas.

JOHN PETROZZI: Alright. Wow! Actually I want to go back to that point you’ve made of “healing hands.” So I read an article written about you from a magazine, and in the article a question was asked of you in regards to healing. And you made a statement about your mom and you mentioned your mother worked with you in most businesses that you set up and she has a healing ability. Can you tell us a bit about that and what you’ve learned from it?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: The closest I can compare that to is Reiki. I don’t know you’ve heard of Reiki?


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah. So, you know, each person has an individual energy field around their body. And mother has been very fortunate that she can feel that. She cannot see—there are some people that can see the ‘aura’ or the energy field around the body—and she just taught me that you can feel a certain energy field around the body. The easiest I can describe it is possibly, you know, some people you immediately feel very comfortable with, whereas other people you don’t. So they each have a very different energy field.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And my mom taught me from very early on, to trust that inner instinct. And whenever I do hire staff, I always need to feel if they actually have that healing touch.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah. It’s very important because it’s a transfer of energy when you’re working with people. You know, you need to be very compassionate as a therapist, as well. And if you don’t have that center of compassion to work from, then the treatment is not going to be so great.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, I agree. I’m a chiropractor and I like hearing people’s perspective on energy and those sorts of things, because chiropractic looks very scientific in terms of there’s lots of research and those sorts of things as university degree, yet it’s a touch industry really, it’s a matter of laying hands on somebody to help them correct their spinal alignment.


JOHN PETROZZI: But in essence, if someone is withdrawn in terms of holding onto their energy or not feeling the other person’s energy or where they’re at, that whole healing experience often doesn’t happen. And I could just imagine in the day spa industry, the sort of clientele that you get would be stressed out people coming in for some pampering or for some nurturing?



MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And, you know, you want to come to an environment that feels nurturing and you’re going to walk out feeling refreshed and rebalanced.

JOHN PETROZZI: So give us a rundown what would we like to walk into a day or, in fact, your day spa.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Well, what happens is as you’re coming in, of course, you’re greeted at the front desk.  And if it’s your first visit, you usually need to fill in a client card. We need to find out if you have any contraindications to particular treatments.

JOHN PETROZZI: So allergies, skin allergies, and things to oils and those sorts of stuff?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: That’s true, and for some of the body wraps. You can’t have a body wrap if you have a thyroid imbalance.

JOHN PETROZZI: Alright. Okay.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So there are quite a few things, and a number of people don’t realize they might have had an accident, or an injury, years ago but it can still affect the treatment.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So we need to be aware of where you are at this day and also how much water you drink. So we need to find out if the body is dehydrated and of course we encourage people not to drink before the treatment.

JOHN PETROZZI: Oh yeah. Fair enough.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So then you go in to a change room. You get changed into usually a bathrobe and some fluffy slippers.


MIRIAM VANDOORN: And then you sit in an area which is quiet and restful and you can sip some herbal tea.   If the spa has facilities like sauna or bathing or Jacuzzis, then you can, at your own leisure, use that.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And then you’d actually go in and have your body treatment or your facial treatment.

JOHN PETROZZI: And a body treatment is a massage or is it a combination perhaps?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It can be a massage. It can be a body scrub, a body mask. It can also be, you know, the “Fishy Shower” where you have the rain water coming down on you. So you actually lie on a bed and there are eight shower heads above you.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah. It’s amazing.

JOHN PETROZZI: Gee, that sounds nice.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: You’re in what’s called a “wet room,” of course, and the therapist is dressed in, usually, attire that they can get wet in.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And they then apply a body scrub which can be salts or sugar mixed in a paste applied all over the body and to remove dead skin cells.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: That makes the skin all soft and glowing or it can also be a massage where you’d use oil.



JOHN PETROZZI: And that’s actually all the outer portions which would be very similar to a beauty salon. What are the external things that someone could pop in and experience in your day spa?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: We have all the body treatments, of course, and we have yoga studio attached to our day spa.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So we combine the yoga with the treatments and a lot of people have commented, especially if they’ve done the yoga first which incorporates breathing and little bit of meditation at the end, and then have a treatment, they find it they’re more relaxed and they get a better benefit from the treatment.

JOHN PETROZZI: I bet they would.


JOHN PETROZZI: And with the meditation side, do you have a meditation class as a separate product or service?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: We do.  But usually with all the yoga classes there’s meditation incorporated at the end. It might only be ten minutes and it’s usually a lying down meditation—more about relaxing the body, body awareness, and just breathing with a breath.



JOHN PETROZZI: What have people experienced after coming in several times for treatments or for yoga or actually just experiencing that experience of the day spa?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: You feel incredibly light, like you’ve shed lots of worries away from you.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Depending on what it is. You know, your skin will feel glowing and alive. You feel very rested and, you know, there’s no stress anymore. And depending on what your job is or your lifestyle, you know that your stress can come back the next day or a week later.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So some people need to come in for weekly treatment; some come for monthly treatments.



JOHN PETROZZI: Given the fact that we do live in quite a fast-paced lifestyle and stress can tend to be quite high and worries, where do you think the spa industry is heading over the next ten years to accommodate for that?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Definitely to more holistic therapies supporting the mind as well as the body. So it’s not all about outer beauty; it’s about inner balance.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: That’s where, you know, naturopaths, even-

JOHN PETROZZI: Homeopaths and those sorts of things?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yes. Homeopaths. Thank you.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: But also hypnotherapists.



JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah. The mind and body are extremely connected and there’s no separating the two at all. I’m really interested to see where the spa industry is going to go with the next little while, whether it is, in fact, sort of morphed with the medical industry in some sense; in terms of cosmetic surgery, whether they’re going to start to embrace the whole internal beauty; in terms of psychology and meditation classes or, in fact, if all the industries do stay separate and they all just offer their unique services to the world, it’s going to be really interesting.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah.  It’s very interesting. You know, it’s already happening. They are integrating. There are medical spas that you can go in and have your buttocks and fillers, and for teeth, you know, whitening, which are being incorporated then with a day spa environment very much so. And it’s very interesting. It’s sort of branching off into that medical side and then branching off into the holistic side as well. So those are two sides.

JOHN PETROZZI: What would the world be like, or in fact, Australia be like without the spa industry?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Oh, that’s a very interesting question. The spa industry growth in Australia has been phenomenal especially for the men as well. I believe, just reading statistics a while ago, in five years’ time, males coming to day spas have increased by 25%.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s amazing.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So that’s really quite high.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Which is great because they don’t feel embarrassed walking into a day spa; whereas, a beauty salon might have been a little bit more embarrassing for them.



JOHN PETROZZI: It’s going to be great. It’s going to be very interesting to see.

Miriam, let’s go to another break, and when we come back, I’d like to find out what makes a healing center, or what makes a spa center in terms of colors, furniture, and all those sorts of things.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Great.  Thank you.

JOHN PETROZZI: Great. We’ll be back soon.


JOHN PETROZZI: Hi and welcome back to Living Is Easy. And today we’re speaking to Miriam van Doorn, who is an expert in the spa industry.

And Miriam, before we went to the break, we sort of alluded to what makes a spa industry or what makes a spa center. Are there any particular colors or smells and scents of furniture that make a spa center unique?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Oh, most definitely.  It’s very important that the color scheme of the spa as well as the smell of furniture and things like that-


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: You’ll find that, you know, Body Essence, particularly, we have probably the largest rooms, individual treatment rooms, so when you’re walking you don’t feel claustrophobic.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So there’s lots of space for you to walk around and the ceiling is nice and high. But most importantly all the colors have to be quite subdued and calming. I’ve used a lot of green and also grain being the color of your hot choco.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yes.  And I love that. And I’ve also used bamboo flooring on the floor, we’ve used bio paint. So it’s being very aware of the environment, you know, in the design of the spa. And that’s what’s happening here in Australia and overseas as well. The people in spas are getting the grain tick of being more environmentally aware, also electrical and electricity wise, water wise because as you can understand, being a spa and using water, uses a lot of water.

JOHN PETROZZI: Sure. I can imagine especially those Fishy Showers.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: They do.  One treatment of a Fishy Shower is equivalent to about three bathfuls.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So that’s a lot of water which is better than, you know if it is using rainwater, or at least recycled water if it’s available.



JOHN PETROZZI: So greens are a great color?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Greens are a great color. I’ve also used white because it’s clean and very Zen-looking, as well.

JOHN PETROZZI: What do you mean “Zen”?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It’s very important to place objects in the right place as well so that there’s a good balance.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Feng Shui-wise.



JOHN PETROZZI: And have you noticed just around the world that a lot of people use these sorts of things to keep their spas clean and energetic?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: They do because they know how important it is of feeling, walking into a space, needs to be in such that you’re walking and you instantly feel calm.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Yeah.  Because there are some beautiful amazing spas being built, especially in Bali, as well as Thailand, Singapore, India; it’s just amazing in so minimal amount of money that is being spent on making their environment, absolutely beautiful and relaxing.

JOHN PETROZZI: Wow! Gee, it sounds nice.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Great job to have.

JOHN PETROZZI: Happily mentioned. It’s really gotten you around the world, hasn’t it?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It has and it’s given me a very high standard of treatment and people and places as well.  I think that was my hardest thing when I came back home being in Asia with some personal attitudes towards clients who’s very different, I find in Australia than in Asia.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It’s very important to work from the heart’s pace and, you know, be very honest with what you do.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And it’s coming more and more with, you know, going to the holistic side and people also finding out about themselves more.

JOHN PETROZZI: In terms of the staff, you mean, or-?


JOHN PETROZZI: Yeah, the staff, of course. So, I suppose, in that sense, because people do make a business, do you have certain, I suppose, training protocols or things that you want your staff to be attending to each time when the clients come in to the center?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: We definitely do.  We have some standards and they’re all written down. So if there’d be new staff that would be coming in, then they’re all trained in the same way. And we have regular staff meetings. There’s regular training with the product houses that we use. So it is on-going but it’s also team-building.




MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And as a client, you would know, when you walk into an environment like that, they go “Aw”, you know, “They really love to work here”, “They love being where they are right now”, and “They like to learn and advance their studies”.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: And they get excited when you work with a particular client especially in a more of a day-spa environment because you get to see their client more often than if you were working in a destination hotel spa, because then you might only see the client once and then they’re gone.  But here, it’s on-going so you can see the change, you can see the growth.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It’s very satisfying for therapists.

JOHN PETROZZI: I could imagine. Miriam, before we leave, is there anything you can tell us about first-timers who haven’t gone to a day spa? And any words of encouragement or any reasons for us to pop in and try the treatments?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: I think a lot of people with body awareness are a little bit shy. And they think “Oh, no! They’re going to see my body.” The thing is that, the body is always draped with towels or sarongs and you do, if you’re having a body treatment, you’d always get disposable underwear to wear.


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: So modesty-wise, there’s no need to feel shy. I had a lady last week who rang up and she said “I really loved to come. You know it’s my 40th birthday and I’ve never been to a day spa. However, I’m very shy and I don’t feel very comfortable,” and so I explained to her the same. And I said “You know once you’ve been in and you realise how relaxing and beautiful it is, and especially if you go to professional establishments, then you’ll say to yourself, “I should have done this a long time ago”.

JOHN PETROZZI: That’s always the way, isn’t it, when you experience something?

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: It is.  But it’s always a thing with things that I knew and-


MIRIAM VAN DOORN: You know, if you haven’t had it before. And you know, you’re having somebody touch you, so if you’re not used to that, if you’ve only done that with a partner, then, yes, it can be a very different experience. But it’s also about letting go. And, you know, even with trying a yoga class or trying anything new, there’s always a little bit of reservation, we have a certain idea of what it’s going to be like. And for us in this industry, if we can surpass people’s expectations, then, you know, fantastic, we’ve done our job.

JOHN PETROZZI: Fantastic. Miriam, it’s wonderful talking to you and learning so much about the spa industry and really your experience in the industry itself. Thanks for joining us on the show. I really appreciate it.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Thank you very much, John. I really enjoyed it and hopefully I’ve discovered, well, you have discovered a little inner joy if you’d come and visit.

JOHN PETROZZI: Yes, I have. I’d love to come up to your firm. Thanks again, Miriam.

MIRIAM VAN DOORN: Thank you very much.

JOHN PETROZZI: Thank you. And that was Miriam van Doorn of Body Essence Day Spa in Brisbane, actually newfound Brisbane, and we’ve learned all about day spas. It’s been great having Miriam on our show. Hope you guys join us again next time.

And you’ve been listening to Living is Easy. I’m John Petrozzi. Until then, stay well and stay happy.

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