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I truly believe that massages, received continuously, could increase one’s lifespan. I feel so healthy after I’ve had a quality massage that if nothing else, it has to at least increase your quality of life. Anyone who has not tried it, should give it a chance if at all possible. I will admit however, that finding a good masseuse can be as challenging as finding the right hair stylist. Having received many massages and spa treatments in the past, some good, some…..not so good, I have formed some beliefs on what spa-seekers and those wanting to experience a massage or spa treatment for the first time should look for in their spa experiences:
- Be clear about what you want and speak up if something doesn’t work. If you need lighter or heavier pressure, tell your masseuse. They want you to let them know.
- DO NOT strip down to your jockeys if you are not completely comfortable. Remember that the point is to be completely comfortable and relaxed during your session. Just because your friends have said that they drop their drawers in a heartbeat doesn’t mean that you have to. Keep your undies on if you’re more comfortable that way. They’ll still be able to get that knot out of your back.
- Be sure to inform your masseuse or therapist of any problem areas you have. That way they can either avoid or treat those areas. I have neck and shoulder issues so I usually ask to have more attention given to those areas. Also, let them know if the room temperature is comfortable for you. I hate to be hot and cannot relax if I’m overheating so I always make sure the room temperature is right for me.
In case anyone is wondering what would constitute as a bad spa experience, let me give you a few examples.
- I once paid top dollar, probably the most I’ve ever spent on a massage to a masseuse that not only was hitting on me while I was butt naked on his table but also managed to pass gas while giving me a rather weak massage. A high-end spa doesn’t guarantee a good spa treatment. It’s your time and money so speak up if it’s not satisfactory.
- While in Jamaica lying on a comfortable table in a beautiful gazebo next to the turquoise sea, my masseuse yelled out constantly to her other masseuse buddies, forgetting that I was there to relax. Falling into a state of relaxation only to be jolted awake by a booming voice is not what I call relaxing. I ended up just laughing at the silliness of the situation. What else can you do?
- If it seems like an especially, unusually cheap deal, your radar should go up. I once had a massage that was going pretty well until a train came roaring by leaving me to wonder if it was going to come through the middle of the spa. Be sure to check on the location.
So where have I had continued success over the years in my own backyard? Here are a few that I have found to be tried and true:
Photo by Lavender Hills Spa
Calistoga, Ca. Lavender Hills Spa in Calistoga–http://www.lavenderhillspa.com Right before you make the turn into downtown Calistoga which is spa central, there is a small, discreet little spa which sits by itself. This is a day spa, and is great for couples, friends, and singles wanting to be pampered. For couples, they have really cool individual bathtubs in a private room which allows each person to customize their bath to their own preference. For example, you can have a seaweed bath and your partner can do a mud bath but still have the experience together. Really nice. I have had the pleasure of experiencing their Volcanic Mud Bath and their Seaweed Bath both of which left my skin feeling fantastic. The volcanic mud bath is a nice, soft mixture that is really soothing and leaves your skin baby soft. I’ve had mud baths that looked and felt like you were stepping into cow dung but thankfully, their mud is not like that! I have also had some wonderful therapeutic massages at Lavender Hills and they make it easy to combine a bath treatment with a massage treatment. Their website has some great recommendations for lodging should you care to stay in the area.
San Francisco, CA.
Photo by John Wilson
John Wilson is who I like to go to in SF. http://www.johnwilson.iwantamassage.com I don’t go to him as often as I would like because like everybody else, I get caught up in life, and time restraints. However, when I do see him, I leave standing up straight and loosened up, feeling the way I should on a daily basis. He’s an expert on tight shoulders and upper body trauma but is completely trained in full body massage including Shiatsu, Swedish, hot stone massage, and deep tissue massage. John is a sole practitioner whose concentration is in the therapeutic healing process which I can tell you takes place after just one session.
The Spa Studio- http://www.thespastudio.com
Photo by Spa Studio
The first certified Green Day-Spa on the Peninsula, this lovely little spa is located in downtown San Mateo which is a nice addition to a day of shopping or dining out. Downtown San Mateo is full of good restaurants, bookstores, and quaint shops so a treatment at this spa is a great way to fully enjoy the area. The Spa Studio uses organic products and their prices are very reasonable. I’m constantly getting emails from them on the endless specials they offer. I’ve had great massages from them and recently noticed that they added a “Men’s Corner” to their website. If you’re looking for a different kind of gift to give the man in your life, a Masculine Maintenance Facial might be something to consider!
Ocean Yoga-www.oceanyoga.com – This studio offers so much beyond just yoga. I love their yoga classes but recently attended a belly dancing class which was a better workout than the dreaded treadmill and a lot more fun and feminine. I also had a fabulous warm stone massage from their massage therapist Lisa Cockerill, and as a result, slept better than I have in a long time. I often tell massage therapists that I prefer firm pressure to get the king sized knots out of my neck and back. Lisa has a fantastic touch, very firm but not so much that I was begging for mercy. She allows you to just relax, checking once or twice on how the pressure is and lets you enjoy the state of relaxation from the warm stones. I’m definitely going back as soon as I can.
* The all time funniest spa experience I’ve ever had was in Montecatini,Italy where Fellini’s 9 1/2 was filmed. Montecatini is a well-known spa town, almost dreamlike but when your Italian is limited and you feel intimidated asking questions, you run the possibility of screwing yourself over. Because we were simply afraid to bother anybody, my friend and I asked for very limited services just to get into this beautiful area and experience what it was about. After we changed into lovely, soft, white robes, the attendant sent us to a beautifully tiled room where we just sat and soaked our feet. That was it. Until they directed us to go into the next room for “inhalation therapy.” Basically, you sit in front of a jet that blows out high pressured steam which caught me off guard and it got me in the eye. My friend then asked me to take his picture in front of this jet thing to have evidence of our “spa experience” in Italy. Honestly, the inhalation therapy makes sense but we failed to appreciate it at the time. They then sent us off to drink an invigorating glass of sulfur water. Yes, SULFUR WATER. I stuck my tongue in the glass and decided I didn’t need to live a longer life if drinking that crap was required. I’m all about good health but I do have my limits. This just shows you that when visiting spas in another country, it may be something different than what you’re used to. Take a look at this spa in Italy so you can check it out for yourself. Only I could screw up on a place that beautiful! http://www.termemontecatini.it
Having a spa treatment or a massage is an indulgence for some and a path to good health for others. If you’re going to do it, it should be enjoyable because it’s your time and money so there are qualifiers to consider. Just make sure that above all, it works for you and you leave relaxed.
Continued good health to everybody!
Macaques monkeys enjoying hot spring bath in Nagano, Japan