Far be it from me to complain, but reviewing massages for a living can get a little samey. You fill in your consultation form, you tell them your shoulders are tense (whose aren’t?), they pour on the gorgeous smelling oils and play you like a piano, you relax, have a snooze, remember you’re supposed to be writing about this…
I know, dear reader, it is indeed a chore.
But save your pity. This week I had a completely different experience at a lovely spa in the centre of London, which I shall tell you all about in a minute, so bear with me. When I worked in Soho, I would have loved to be a member of the serene Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre beneath the Café Royal, to escape the cynical workaholism of the media world and float down in the lift, shedding off insecure layer after layer, until I became mere spirit.
The spa is based on Eastern philosophies and laid out according to the principals of Feng Shui. To my soulless Western mind translates as elegantly simple design, with a subtle use of light and space: a calming contrast to the frantic, cacophonous world of Piccadilly Circus above. All is pale stone and soft earth tones with a stunning rectangular blue swimming pool in its centre.
The therapists include a Reiki master, a meditation and yoga teacher, a nutritionist, lifestyle coach – and an intuitive specialist, Sinéad de Hóra (below) who I am here to see.
In my experience, a good massage should be intuitive – improvisational and attuned to the client’s needs – so I am intrigued to know how Sinéad takes this to another level .
The treatment I am having today is Clarity and Focus (90 min, £190), for those suffering from stress and anxiety.
Sinéad is a lovely, happy person, with a presence that makes you instantly feel de-stressed. As she leads me to the treatment room, she explains that she will give me an intuitive consultation to decide what kind of treatment I need, without me having to fill out any forms.
Lying down on the treatment bed, Sinéad presses, strokes or simply holds her hands over my body and head, reading my body like braille. She pays a lot of attention to my stomach and my head. After a few minutes, she checks out her findings. She can sense a lot of stress in my left shoulder (correct), a lot of tension in my glutes (I was lying on my back: how could she tell?) and that I was incredibly tired (that you can tell just by looking at me). I have a lot of creative energy, but I hold it back, so she wants to work on my solar plexus to unblock my inner fire.
I’m impressed by what she picked up. It’s so much more in depth than your average consultation, and a rather brilliant display of her skills, inspiring confidence about the treatment.
The treatment I have is not your typical relaxation massage. It has specific aims – which means it sometimes hurts. My glutes take a bit of a pounding, to the point where I nearly cry out in pain. However, I notice I’m not clenching them anymore and haven’t since the treatment.
Other areas are coaxed, stretched or pressed into a state of wellbeing. It reminds me of a Thai massage – one minute you’re blissed out, the next you’re biting your towel and fighting back the tears – with touches of warming energy healing and blissfully long Balinese strokes. Trained in a huge range of massage techniques, Sinéad applies whatever the body needs.
What’s interesting is that when Sinéad focuses on each area, I notice a lot of related thoughts come up. When she’s working on my clenched glutes for example, I’m thinking about all the things that make me angry. Around my shoulder, I start on a stream of intense worrying. When she massages my stomach, I muse upon all the projects I’m working on – that’ll be my creative fire. The thoughts fade as quickly as they arise. Sinéad later tells me this is part of the process, that she is locating the stuck emotions and releasing them.
“Because I’m responding to what you need right now,” she says “if you come another day, it will be a totally different experience.”
At the end, Sinéad shares with me anything she learned from my body during the treatment. She recommends specific stretches to raise my energy levels in the morning. She also has a vision of me cycling, which she links with my creativity (true: I used to cycle loads and found it enormously inspiring), and says I’m craving sea air. “You need space in your life to relax,” she advises.
I feel uplifted and positive after the treatment and take her advice to give myself more time by hanging out in the spa for a few more hours, swimming in the pool, lounging in the Jacuzzi and sauna, and blissing out in the super cool relaxation pod.
Sinéad emails me two days later to check how I am feeling, as she said it takes 48 hours for things to settle. I notice I have taken some pressure off myself and feel more open and responsive to people. I’ve also made a couple of important decisions that will free up my time. I feel (dare I say it) happy.
I have no real clue how the treatment works, but I do feel that having someone intuitively respond to my physical and emotional needs is immensely healing. Sinéad’s experience and expertise inspires trust, and her intuition or ‘gift’ is pretty impressive, even to a cynic like me. It’s a psychological as well as physical journey, and one that continues long after the treatment.
I’d happily go back for more.
For more about Sinéad and her Intuitive Therapies click here.