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You would never expect that a humble home located on a quiet residential street, just outside of Montréal, houses a powerful energy vortex where ancient eastern and modern western wellness practices converge for the treatment of spa clients. But that is exactly what Spa Phiane is all about.
Since emerging 20 years ago as one of the first spas in the Montréal area, the clinic’s ethereal way of treating clients has earned it a reputation among Québec’s elite as a place to relax, re-energize, and rejuvenate through a unique series of treatments created by founder Phiane Duquet. It’s an innovative technique that won her gold at the 2021 International Massage Association massage championships.
Duquet and her family fled war-torn Laos in 1977 when she was just ten years old, moving first to Thailand and then to France. It was part of a massive wave of refugees who embarked under treacherous conditions to escape the communist regime. “When you are young, it’s like an adventure,” she recalls, adding that her grandmother made it seem like a game. “It wasn’t until later that I understood that it was terrible. Today, all my work is based on her wisdom and ancestral care.”
Duquet studied a range of massage and aesthetic techniques from around the world, taking courses in France, Germany, Thailand, the U.S., Canada, and Switzerland. “But, at the end, if there’s no soul in your treatments, it’s empty,” she explains.
It’s an art form, an ancient dance
For her, that “soul” comes in the form of a unique massage blended with traditional dance and meditation. “The human being is a most precious work of art, made of body and soul, which is the essence of a person’s inner light and beauty. The massage heals that essence, not only the appearance and symptoms.” She trademarked her unique brand of massage l’œuvre de beauté (the beauty work of art).
To watch Duquet at work is akin to watching exotic temple dancers gracefully move through veils of energy. There is a tremendous elegance, rhythm, and flow to her body as she massages, with an emphasis on gently turning her arms, wrists, and fingers in a way that allows energy to flow between her and her client.
“It’s really an art. It’s a dance.” Her rhythmic gestures elicit a meditative state for both the practitioner and the client, which — together with massage — eliminate negative energies and prepare the body for lymphatic drainage. “It’s like a detox. You take care of the body, the skin, everything, and also you help them rise spiritually.” She says her gestures infuse the skin with chi, or vital energy.
She personalizes treatments that respond to how the client is feeling. In all cases, the treatment begins with education and meditation to clear the mind and open it up to receiving the therapy.
Traditional eastern energy healing methods
Duquet’s treatments incorporate Taoist healing and Kintsugi energy methods. Taoist healing originated in China and emphasizes living in harmony with a universal energy source. In Japan, Kintsugi is a philosophy that celebrates imperfection. “It sublimates beauty by emphasizing flaws and breakages with gold or light. There’s a spiritual character in this art,” she explains.
“I went to Switzerland to take a course with Master Mantak Chia, the founder of the Universal Healing Tao System.” Through a series of ancient Chinese meditative and internal energy exercises, she learned to increase physical energy, release tension, improve health, and gain the ability to heal.
As Canada’s only recognized instructor in Japanese traditional Kobido massage, Duquet is one of five around the world. Kobido is a non-invasive facial lifting and contouring technique that raises cheekbones and drains excess liquid, leaving a more youthful appearance. It includes the use of semi-precious stones.
“The techniques were made for the Empress of Japan, using gold and gems like amethyst. Each stone has a signature vibration for different purposes, depending on the client’s needs.”
Principles of yin and yang factor prominently in her techniques. For example, Duquet says that to reduce inflammation — which, according to eastern practices, is a sign of excessive heat in a part of the body — practitioners apply yin-based techniques that spread and push out the inflammation. Alternatively, when there’s a lack of energy, yang-based techniques help to reignite it.
All treatments are amplified by the spa’s signature sacred oil — a secret blend of frankincense, myrrh, and benzoin — inspired by an ancient formula from Laotian Buddhist monks. The blend took Duquet three years to perfect.
Much of her inspiration comes from her grandfather, a Kung Fu master, who taught her the principles of acupuncture and reflexology, including anatomy, the meridians, and points on the soles of the feet that release energy flows throughout the body. “He encouraged me to explore different forms, to find unicity. That’s why I learned 16 techniques, all of which have helped me to develop my art.”
Among 200 loyal clients who regularly seek out Duquet’s treatment is Québec’s Minister of Health. Early on during the COVID pandemic, massage therapists were forced to close their doors because Québec did not consider them an essential service. Unfazed, Duquet approached the minister and proposed that if she won in the world massage championships, the government should include therapists on the list of essential services.
She spent a year honing her skills before entering the competition this past January. “My grandmother used to teach us the Laotian dance. It’s really a form of meditation, using yin-yang energy. So, I put these movements and gestures into my massage, and I won the gold medal with that,” she recalls.
Early in 2021, the Québec government announced that massage therapists, including those who work in a spa, can continue their professional activities, in spite of stricter measures aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19.
When it comes to embracing Chinese traditional medicine, Duquet believes Canadians are lagging. She explains that in France, acupuncture is already part of a physician’s practice and is taught in universities. “The big challenge is to get people ready to embrace this knowledge. That’s why I became a World Wellness Weekend ambassador, to bring people together.”
For now, she plans to compete in next year’s world massage championships and is working on a new technique that uses chopsticks. “What I want to do is show that ordinary tools can offer extraordinary results.”
She is busy planning the first Canadian massage championship in Montréal next year, to showcase massage therapy worldwide.