The pace of life seems to increase with each passing year, making time to relax harder and harder to find. When you do get a moment to yourself, it's even more stressful if your spa experience leaves you less than luxuriated.
Luckily for you, here at The Good Spa Guide we are dedicated to finding the best and most relaxing experiences that the spa world has to offer.
No wonder meditation advice often instructs you to imagine yourself on a desert island. Quiet contemplation, time alone and peace are as vital to a relaxing spa experience as the treatments themselves. So, when you are choosing where to relax, consider the location first and foremost.
Retreats and destination spas differ significantly from hotel spas in that everyone is there for one purpose: to spa. When you are all robed-up, the last thing you want to do is come face-to-face with a group of business people or shoppers. Not having to change for lunch, and not feeling conspicuous with pink mud in your hair, allows for a truly unspoiled relaxation experience.
If you have the time to escape the city, a rural retreat or coastal hideaway could be the perfect sanctuary from stress. But a spa does not have to be set amongst acres of fields or on top of a cliff to be peaceful. Many inner-city spas are thoroughly soundproofed, ensuring silence while the world continues outside.
Atmosphere, ambience, environment, mood … whatever you want to call it, when you arrive at a good spa, you feel as if you are entering a tranquil oasis. The world of spa should whisk you away from all the trials and tribulations of real life, on a billowing cloud of bliss.
A serene environment is all about sensual touches. Scented candles wafting delicate aromas; soft lighting; ambient music; comfortable furniture; soft robes and fluffy towels: attention to detail is the name of the game when it comes to faultless relaxation.
If you want to relax, here are some treatments to try.
Aromatherapy massage: Sometimes, relaxation is all about keeping things simple. A classic relaxation or aromatherapy massage aims to unwind you using soft, flowing strokes and gentle kneading rather than pummelling out knots. Aromatherapy oils complement the massage with sweet aromas to relax your mind. The Spa at Pennyhill Park in Surrey offers a fantastic signature aromatherapy massage. You could also try spas using the aromatherapy-influenced brands ESPA and Aromatherapy Associates, such as Bulgari Hotel and Residences in London, The Spa at Sopwell House in Hertfordshire, The Mere in Cheshire, and Rudding Park in Yorkshire.
Ayurvedic treatments: In-depth, intense, indulgent and irresistible! Many ayurvedic massages incorporate warm, fragrant oil over your body or head, which feels incredibly soothing. Try this in London at Antara Spa at the Chelsea Club or Ayurveda Pura Health Spa and Beauty Centre, and in Devon at The Spa at Bovey Castle.
Floatation: Using a water and salt solution, you literally float on the water, so your whole body is fully supported and you feel weightless. This freedom encourages your mind to drift and weave around; you can literally just relax and dream during your time in a floatation tank. You can try a session in a floatation tank at Ockenden Manor Spa in Sussex, or the Vale Resort in Wales.
Hot-stone massage: Your therapist will use warm, smooth stones to relax your muscles before working into areas of tension; you'll feel less discomfort, even if you've got really bad laptop-shoulders. We've had fantastic hot-stone massages at The Treatment Rooms in Brighton and at the Grand Jersey in St Helier, but hot-stone massages are available at most spas.
The best restaurants deliver service so close to perfection that they "catch your napkin before it hits the floor"; the very best spas also anticipate your every need.
Just getting to your destination can leave you frazzled. At a truly relaxing spa, you'll feel relaxed from the moment you step through the door. Staff should whisk away your bags and park your vehicle, all the while protecting you from the glorious British weather with an umbrella and a smile. Spa staff should anticipate your arrival, greet you by name, and settle you down on a comfortable sofa with a soothing cup of tea.
While your massage will work wonders on stress and tension, a great therapist will make the experience special. Paying attention to your needs throughout a treatment, she will keep a check on your comfort, so you can relax in the knowledge that you are in safe hands.
Great service at a spa means that you do not have to lift a finger, let alone raise an eyebrow.
The perfect spa and the perfect treatment will help you relax, but remember what you can do for yourself, too. Have some me-time on a regular basis to stay stress-free. Turn things off. Light a candle. It's not selfish, it's sensible.
Photo of the indoor pool at Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, Wiltshire.