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Relaxing at the spa

Magic fingers caress your tensions away

Relaxing at the spa
Magic fingers caress your tensions away

If you’ve never had one, you’ll find that a Swedish massage is a purely sensual experience. Magical hands glide across oiled skin. Tensions melt away under your therapist’s touch. You’ve entered a state of massage bliss where your body is at peace and your mind is at rest. Is someone snoozing? Oh! It’s you!

“Stress has a negative impact on your body and your physical well being. So … decompressing and allowing yourself to rest, relax and [let] yourself think is really part of a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your body,” says Youlanda Deveaux, regional vice president for Mandara Spa in The Bahamas, the Caribbean and Latin America. “You either take care of yourself or you are going to spend a whole lot of money and time in the doctor’s office.”

Once considered a pastime of the rich and famous, spa treatments are becoming increasingly popular with everyone. From the over-the-top luxury and amenities of the Mandara Spa at Atlantis, Paradise Island, to the intimate and cozy Royal Suite Day Spa at the British Colonial Hilton in downtown Nassau, there are many price points from which to choose.

There’s the rub
Nassau and Paradise Island feature a collection of spa properties with knowledgeable therapists who have a commitment to excellence.

Day spas offer a variety of massage services. Possibly most popular is the traditional Swedish massage. It features long strokes with some deep kneading of muscle tissues to help reduce stress and soothe the body.

During a hot stone massage, the therapist heats smooth basalt stones and rubs them over your oiled body. The stones are just warm enough to enhance the soothing effect of the massage.

As its name suggests, deep-tissue massage targets your body’s deepest layers of muscle and releases tension in overstressed areas. With its mix of slow, short, strokes and penetrating finger pressure, this massage won’t have you drifting off to sleep. The therapist employs her thumbs, forearms, and even elbows.

Generally more expensive than other forms of massage, the four-hands massage features two therapists working together, often using synchronized moves. A spa’s menu may also feature sport massages tailored to relieve stress on joints; nurturing massage for mothers-to-be; couples’ massages and reflexology, which is based on the belief that each organ in the body corresponds to a reflex point in the foot.

“A massage relaxes the mind, body and soul,” says Ketra Phillips, a certified massage therapist and aesthetician. Phillips opened her own day spa at the Hilton last May. Her Royal Suite Day Spa promises “royal treatment with a magical touch.”

Healing touch
“People think massages are for persons with a lot of money, but they aren’t. Here, especially, it’s very affordable,” says Phillips. A massage isn’t just pampering, she maintains, but has many health benefits.

Although more research is needed to confirm the benefits of massage, some studies have found massage helpful for stress relief, blood pressure control, boosting immunity, cancer treatment, infant growth, pain, stiffness and sports-related injuries.

“The benefits are endless,” says Lissa McCombe, manager at Windermere West Day Spa and Salon. “Experts say that up to 90 per cent of diseases are stress related and perhaps stress is what ages us fastest–inside and out.” She believes massages, body scrubs, facials and other services help to reduce blood pressure and promote relaxation.

“A massage improves circulation. The stretching improves joint movements giving us more range. Regular massage revitalizes skin. Your body gets more oxygen to where it needs it,” says McCombe. This helps the rejuvenation of tissue and, for women, the removal of stretch marks.

McCombe also touts the benefits of prenatal massage. She says some women find it promotes faster, easier labour and shorter hospital stays.

Signature treatments
“At Mandara Spas the whole experience is designed to stimulate your sense of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing,” says Deveaux, an MBA graduate who specializes in setting up high-end spas with superior guest services.

Waterfalls and towering bamboo decorate the entrance to the Mandara Spa at Atlantis. A spiral staircase leads to a relaxation lounge and boutique on the second floor.

As a prelude to the massage, Mandara recommends “taking of the waters” in steam and sauna rooms. There’s also a hydrotherapy jacuzzi tub and a cold plunge pool. There are separate areas for men and women so swimsuits are optional.

Following this introduction, women can relax in the aromatherapy room. There’s a plasma television in the men’s lounge. There’s also fruit infused waters and herbal teas to sip on.

A popular treatment is the Balinese massage which is a choreographed massage using a combination of aromatherapy, acupuncture and traditional Balinese massage techniques.

The Elemis aroma spa seaweed massage is another favourite. A warm seaweed body mask containing cleansing oils is applied to your body before you’re cocooned in a foil wrap. The body mask detoxifies and stimulates. Guests also receive a scalp and foot massage, followed by a full- or half-body massage.

Mandara Spa, Atlantis’s award-winning sister spa at the One&Only Ocean Club, offers eight Balinese-style treatment villas, all furnished with teak massage tables, a waterfall shower, day bed and jacuzzi tub in a private open-air garden. Following each treatment, guests savour herbal teas and fresh fruit presented in a Japanese tea ceremony.

The signature treatment at the Royal Suite Day Spa is the “Royal Junkanoo.” It’s the treatment of choice for guests wanting to experience a variety of massage techniques. It’s “similar to a sports massage but it has a combination of all the different techniques of each other massage–Swedish, deep, sports and hot stone,” says Phillips. “A basic Swedish massage is light to medium pressure. A deep tissue massage is with deep to firm pressure and a sports massage is with a lot of stretching.” This treatment lasts an hour.

Other Royal Suite hits include the 50-minute “Simply Irresistible Massage” for two (a full body chocolate aromatherapy massage followed by a foot and scalp massage); the “Fit for a Queen” (body scrub, massage, facial and pedicure) and the “I am King” (deep tissue massage, deep pore cleansing facial, sports manicure and pedicure).

“We are not a big, luxurious spa. Bigger spas operate on a clock. It’s more rushed. When you come here you’ll always feel welcome,” says Phillips. “We want our guest to come and stay and relax. We believe in going the extra mile. Whether you’re spending $5 or $1,000 we’ll see that you’ll enjoy yourself, guaranteed.”

Tips for your spa visit
• Arrive 20-30 minutes ahead of your appointment, allowing time for a leisurely check-in.
• Don’t wait until the last minute to cancel or reschedule your appointment.
• Turn off your cell phone.
• Shower before your massage.
• Underwear is optional.
• Discuss problem areas with your massage therapist before treatment.
• Drink lots of water after your session.



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