Mindfulness has become a go-to word for all things wellness-related, used (and abused) as a term for calming the mind and living in the present moment. At its core is the simple concept of paying attention to what’s happening to you right here and now. While this may sound obvious, studies show the benefits of staying ‘in the present’ to be improved sleep and mood, and reduced anxiety (and therefore blood pressure).
I discovered this meditative practice in 2011 when suffering from stress and anxiety, because, let’s face it, who isn’t? The best part? It actually worked... If you haven’t heard of the app designed by Andy Puddicome called Headspace, stop what you’re doing and download it now. It might just change your life (if nothing else it will certainly help you gain some elusive headspace).
Fast forward to 2017, and mindfulness is so in our, er, minds that visionary spa brand ESPA has even added it to its spa treatment menu. At its flagship spa in Central London, the team has introduced a series of treatments to ESPA Life at Corinthia, including breathing techniques, massages, sleep therapy and two dedicated mindfulness fitness sessions.
Being one of London’s premium spas, ESPA Life at Corinthia is hard to beat when it comes to design, service and treatments – which are decadent. The addition of mindfulness into their menu just goes to show that it can (and should) be incorporated into everyday life.
My Mindfulness Massage (90 minutes, £190) begins with a blind scent test to select the oil that I am most drawn to; unsurprisingly, mine is ‘restorative’. I lay face down on the treatment bed while my therapist Saviana rings a variety of bells above me – granted it’s a bit ‘new age’ but stick with it; it’s strange but also strangely hypnotic.
Breathing is an intrinsic part of mindfulness, so Saviana asks me to take several deep breathes to relax my body and mind, counting in for four seconds to enable my entire chest cavity to fill with air, before breathing out slowly. This is repeated a number of times; by the end, I’m definitely more at ease.
I’m then asked to visualise a colour and imagine myself surrounded by said coloured mist (mine was blue) while taking deep breaths in and out. This lasted for approximately 10 minutes. While this is again a little bit hippy-dippy, it really does bring your attention to the present moment – other thoughts dissipating with each and every breath.
Saviana then turns her attention to my feet, massaging in a slow, circular motion to help balance and ‘ground’ me. I don’t know how and if this 'works' per se, but I was definitely hooked. By the time the massage starts I’m literally putty on the table.
Saviana uses continuous flowing movements, a little like a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi treatment, to massage my entire body – starting with my legs and moving up. There is a great rhythm to her technique and a light-to-medium pressure to her touch. Focus then returns to breathing as I am asked to inhale steam deriving from oil placed under the treatment bed – I wonder at this point if it would be rude to laugh, but the heady scent combined with Saviana’s expert touch leaves me too hazy to bother.
A re-energising scalp massage using warm rose quartz crystals, which are surprisingly smooth and relaxing, concludes the treatment.
It may not be for everybody but what’s utterly brilliant about this treatment is the breathing. During the entire hour-and-a-half, I didn’t worry about work deadlines or think what to have for dinner. My mind didn’t wander at all, which is an absolute miracle. If this is a new, innovate way to bring wellness into the massage room, then I’m sold.
Post-treatment, you can return to the spa to chill on a relaxation bed, have a swim or steam or, do as I did and commandeer one of the Sleep Pods for some shut eye. Whatever you do, don’t race back to the outside world – stay in the present for as long as possible. You can thank me later.