The Spa Spy blog

The Power of Touch: Beata Aleksandrowicz

Having a good massage is a blissful experience, even more so when delivered by an expert. 

So naturally I was looking forward to a session with the legendary Beata Aleksandrowicz, creator along with her husband Jean-Marc of Pure Massage.

Kate Winslet gushed about her Pure Massage experience in the Maldives in January’s Vogue, but Beata herself has taken a step back from the table to concentrate on training and writing. She is a yoga teacher, a newspaper columnist, educator, businesswoman, spa consultant and runs various charity projects. However, she does continue to see a few regular clients, and the odd journalist - which today includes me.

Meeting Beata

I arrive at a South West London address, a red-brick flat overlooking a park, with no sign or name over the bell. Beata appears grinning at the door. She is petite and pretty with elfin blonde hair. She leads me through to a high-ceilinged front room with a massage table set up by the fireplace, flickering scented candles and classical music playing gently in the background. Serene but cosy: Zen-hygge.

I sit amid piles of cushions on the large cream sofa and ask Beata to tell me how she developed Pure Massage, which you can read about here.

Listening to her speak in her soft, lyrical Polish accent, I feel touched and energised by her passion. She is driven by the recognition that what happens between a client and therapist in massage can be extremely powerful, and not acknowledging this can be dangerous, abusive even. But if we do understand and harness this power, it can do extraordinary things.

This theory is also grounded in science. Neurobiological and psychological studies have shown that our bodies carry stress and traumas as well as our earliest pre-verbal interactions. Being touched can trigger all kinds of memories and feelings, but most therapists aren’t trained to handle that. How often has your post-treatment advice included something about your emotions (I can think of three times out of hundreds)?

Massage

How does Pure Massage feel?

Now the attention turns to me. In the consultation, we talk about my shoulders, which after years of constant massaging are still clenched like a bat’s wings. Surely someone in my job should have the most relaxed shoulders on the planet.

Beata says not necessarily. My shoulders are this way because they are trying to protect me. If I am having an intrusive treatment (ie one where the therapist is trying to attack my knots) my shoulders will become even more defensive.

It makes me think of the Anais Nin quote from Beata’s website: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Beata says the only way my shoulders will relax is when I feel safe, and that I must tell her if at any time I feel uncomfortable. I trust her completely, but I am still slightly nervous about what will unfold. 

Beata leaves me to undress and lie face down on the heated bed. She returns and presses slowly into my back behind my heart and lungs, telling me to breath in deeply, whispering encouragement and lengthening each breath.

Massage

The massage begins at the base of my spine, pulling across my back so that I was almost lifted side-to-side, rocked like a baby. This taps into some deep, long-ago memory, and I relax, almost dribbling with pleasure. She applies oil with intense, powerful, flowing strokes all over my back that seem to work deep down beneath my skin. I feel my shoulders fighting back as she presses them down, but as she pushes into my hairline, they finally let go. It’s gorgeous and sensual – certainly one of the best back massages I’ve had.  

After a long while, Beata invites me to turn over and presses her hand on my heart, holding it there for a while. She then massages my stomach, arms, feet and hands – or at least I think she does. My thoughts are suddenly flying all over the place, memories rise to the surface. Then she holds my head firmly, almost pressing those thoughts together, containing them until they still. It feels so right.

After, I am speechless, but eventually manage to share what I experienced. The after-care advice veers into philosophy, Buddhism, the power of now. But I sense what happened – as Beata said of her own first experience – is beyond words, deeply mysterious, connected to unconscious and pre-verbal states.

So, yes. Blown away is about right.

The effects are lasting. Some of the things that I learned through Beata showing me how to listen to my body are potentially life-changing. I can see why she fears becoming ‘the guru’ – if I were a Madonna-like celeb, I would want to book private sessions with her every week.

As it is, she has spread the touch, training other therapists in the Pure Massage Spa Training Method at Dormy House, Neal’s Yard Sloane Square, Fenwick New Bond Street, Amilla Fushi in the Maldives, and next year, The Lanesborough.

But are they as extraordinary as Beata herself? Only one way to find out…

If you have experienced Pure Massage, let us know what you think @goodspaguide