Insider's Guide to Spas
Simon Marxer, Director of Spas, Miraval Group


Simon Marxer On Transformative Treatments & Authenticity

Mary Bemis

The Director of Spas for the Miraval Group, Simon Marxer oversees all of the spas (Miraval Arizona, the only full destination spa; two Miraval Life in Balance Spas at Monarch Beach Resort and The Park Hyatt St. Kitts; with Miraval Austin slated for December 2018, and Miraval in the Berkshires slated for 2019) and is charged with creating new and innovative treatments and services that uphold Miraval’s longstanding position as a pioneer of transformational spa experiences. We caught up with each other to talk shop. Here’s Marxer’s take on treatments that transform and products and partners that are truly authentic.

On Spa Treatments

One of the things we prioritize with our services, and especially our more recent services, is really creating a treatment space for people to experience something different, as well as creating a space for people for self-exploration, where one has to let go of surroundings and place and sense of time and really focus within . . . Spa-goers are looking to feel different—transformed—after their experience.

An example is the Vasudhara which has been the most well-received treatment we’ve ever created. [A 50-minute transformative treatment that’s part Watsu, part Thai massage in which one’s eyes are shielded from light.] It’s all about what people bring to the experience. There are folks who come completely open and unsure about what they’re going to experience, and then have a completely profound experience.

The key to authenticity is truly not overprescribing what happens at each property, and to draw on the talents of the people at each.

Another good example of a treatment that pushes the boundaries is the Path of the Jaguar, an energy-focused experience. [This 50-minute service involves a series of indigenous, chakra-clearing healing practices led by a shamanic healer.] The main thrust is one of empowerment, as well as an energetic renewal. There’s sort of a clearing of the heavy energy, the negative energy that can settle. This service helps release those burdens we carry and helps to create a sense of vitality and renewal. It helps folks embark on a new path, free of these burdens.

We incorporate crystals and gemstones to help one expel all that negative energy into those gemstones. People take a stone with them after the treatment, and some bury it on property, or leave out to be recharged. I think people are looking for a deeper experience and a more personal experience. We really push the boundaries . . . it’s deeply personal for people. Miraval really attracts people who are looking for a bit more out of their experience. I can’t count the times that I encounter someone in the dining room or in passing who needed Miraval to help them celebrate something big in their lives, or needed help to move them through it.

On Product Partnerships

We have a variety of partners. My introduction to Laurel Shaffer of Laurel Whole Plant Organics was through our property in Austin. The lead esthetician there was so passionate about it, Laurel struck me as a partner we should look into. I had a chance to talk with Laurel, and found that her inspiration behind the product really aligns with our goals at Miraval—it’s an authentic expression of inspiration.

She’s so inspired by plants, and she creates these beautiful products. We feel very fortunate to be partnering with her to create products inspired by place, and we’re beginning in Austin. We have an enormous advantage there, we have a farm. Laurel came and visited the farm and took the time to really understand what we want to create. Through conversations, she has begun to craft a signature product inspired by Austin. I think it has 16 ingredients, and eight of them will come from our farm.

She took the time to find more local farms within 50 miles of the Austin property that shared her values, and she sourced the ingredients. It’s inspirational. When we speak about the opportunities we have within the partnership, it’s great to have someone who’s as passionate about the experience of their product as we are about creating experiences at Miraval.

That’s a perfect example of a partnership that makes intuitive sense. We look to leverage those partnerships to have a bit deeper relationship beyond the product. For example, we ‘ll be incorporating programs with Laurel and talking about the power of botanicals in the treatment room and in the kitchen—the beauty of nature.

On Authenticity

For me, it’s not just the story or the beauty of the product itself, it is a complete and authentic total approach. I see people trying to chase what they see as trends—and not in an authentic way. If it’s just a trend, one can feel that intuitively. I think that’s one of the bigger mistakes people make, they’ll chase a trend or add a section to their line that doesn’t align or feel authentic. I’m sensitive to that. Laurel was totally authentic, completely transparent. Her brand didn’t make claims that felt so silly. She just said, We try to create a beautiful product, and we think we have, and we’d love to share it with you.

When we look at partners, we look at people we can grow with. That’s a very important component. Miraval is not a finished product, we’re evolving. Yael Alkalay [founder of Red Flower] is another great example of an exceptional partner. What she has done is work with us. She’s an inspiration. She came and did a program with us . . . guests were making their own lip balm. She was just wonderful.

The key to authenticity is truly not overprescribing what happens at each property, and to draw on the talents of the people at each.

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Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.