Feeling rushed and windswept, not to mention shattered from a series of sleepless nights (no doubt due to the usual stressful occurrences at this time of year: a pressing work and social diary, more late nights and Christmas shopping to do), I hurried along Newman Street, London, looking for the Fitzrovia branch of Spa and Massage. I walked one length before reaching for Google maps and then I found it. From street level it didn't look like much, but once I slipped through the gate and descended the stairs, I was welcomed by a Zen-like aesthetic; sumptuous dark wood panelling and dimmed lights. From the moment I stepped inside, my senses were hugged by the velvety aroma of delicate oils, and I instantly started to relax as I awaited my treatment.
The 'Dream On' massage, specifically designed to alleviate sleep deprivation, promised to use a combination of Swedish massage, reflexology and head massage, to pummel away and soothe my tired mind and body.
Now, we all know that massage is good for wellbeing, but it usually comes with a hefty price tag and finding the time can be a whole other challenge. But when I heard that Spa and Massage, who have five clinics across London, offer the chance to have a good night's sleep without the need to fork out a huge sum of money, at just £60 for 60 minutes, I jumped at the chance.
As previously mentioned, the last few weeks had been fairly hectic, and I am quite a sensitive sleeper, in that if I'm out of routine - as is the case with increased social engagements and stress - I find it much harder to get to sleep, and even harder to get any deep sleep.
Yes, I know all about hot milky drinks and abstaining from using the computer, but sometimes, especially in December, it's much easier said than done.
This is when massage can play a crucial role in completely relaxing the mind and body, so that the wind-down techniques have a chance of working.
Massage does this by helping the body to produce serotonin, the hormone and neurotransmitter responsible for keeping our brains and nervous systems working. Alterations in levels of serotonin are understood to significantly affect mood, hence why some medical treatments for depression focus on adjusting these levels.
Sleep forms part of the body's natural circadian rhythm, the other part to this being wakefulness. When the sun sets and the body prepares for sleep, it produces melatonin, a derivative of serotonin, but modern day technology and the use of artificial light in our televisions, computer screens and smart phones, often means that this natural pattern is disturbed - thus messing up our neurotransmitters.
Massage, through the use of various techniques, is able to re-align the body's circadian rhythm, resulting in more restful sleep.
Interestingly, it is estimated that 80% of the body's serotonin levels can be found in the gut, and reflexology in particular is often used to treat digestive disorders, as well as mental stress, and breathing and circulation problems. In particular, the 'Dream On' massage pays special attention to the Adrenal gland (located close to the pancreas), because it is associated with being able to cope better with stress. This may be too much information, but I have long had mild digestive problems and so, coupled with the recent stress, 'Dream On' sounded like the ideal massage for me.
Vera, my therapist, was calm and gentle, and I felt at ease in her company. My surroundings were very clean and comfortable. The massage began in a plume of lavender and Vera pressed on pressure points on the back of my legs, at times using her knees. Firm but never painful, I knew it was doing me good. Then my back was kneaded free of all tension and I started to drift away. A touch of head massage eased my neck and shoulder pain, and my arms and hands were also massaged free of strain.
Then the magic began.
Vera supported my knees with warm towels before working on my weary feet, and for the duration of this part of the massage, I think I melted. It felt like I was in there for ages (in a really good and indulgent way) and I simply couldn't believe that all that pampering had taken place in the space of an hour.
When I came round, I just wanted to stay there, but after buying some of the amazing (and British grown) organic Carshalton lavender oil (the best in the world and known for its sleep-inducing qualities), I left.
Usually, when I relax after a massage the journey home tends to wake me up. But no, not this time. Conscious enough to be safe, I slowly ventured home (a tube and a train for me) and fell into bed.
I slept like a baby and I can honestly say that I can't remember the last time I had such a decent sleep. The next morning, I woke-up rested and ready for the world. My mind and my body felt fantastic, and since then I haven't stopped telling everyone how good the whole experience was.
Will I go back? Absolutely, whenever I can!
The treatments menu details a range of different techniques, all at affordable prices, and the clinic locations in Earl's Court, Bayswater, Fitzrovia, Camden and Belsize Park, plus the fact that they're open seven days a week with a no-appointment-necessary policy, means that it really is easy to access these life-changing treatments. What's more, it is possible to share the love by purchasing gift vouchers for all your deserving friends and family. Check out their website - www.spaandmassage.co.uk
I cannot stress this enough: I have been to some wonderful, world-renowned spas, and I regularly invest in massage as a way to look after myself, but I have no hesitation in saying that this treatment was one of the best treatments I have ever had!
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