Western science has discovered compelling new information about stress and how to combat it. Through the advancement of MRI machines, they are able to track how the brain triggers emotions in response to our environment. They are beginning to have a better understanding of how our consciousness works. What is particularly exciting to me, is the proof that massage has far more reaching benefits with regards to our physical, emotional and spiritual selves than has previously been believed by Westerners. By tuning out of our hectic lives and encouraging blood to circulate, we are able to refresh our bodies, to rid them of toxins and feel a darn site better.

As a practicing masseuse, it’s important to know what other practitioners are doing. I want to introduce you to some of the really good ones I’ve seen recently:

First up is the Chi Yu Wellness Centre. My therapist was the owner, Mami, a beautiful Japanese lady with an uncanny ability to hit the nail on the knot and make it vanish. She is one of the best I’ve experienced. I decided to try the Oriental Aromatherapy in celebration of the year of the Water Dragon. A thorough and precise consultation, whilst sipping a home-made tea, concluded that my kidneys and lungs were off kilter.  Mami then picked out 3 oils. Sandalwood – an excellent moisture retainer for skin and a soothing hand in calming the mind;  Frankincense -  helps clear congestion in the kidneys and lungs which also addresses my water balance as the lungs distribute water into skin; Geranium – helps to regulate the secretion of various hormones, enzyme acids and bile and tones up the internal systems.

Mami (pictured) then got to work stretching, manipulating and performing acupressure on my various muscle groups, pressure points and meridians. At one point she turned ninja on me as she leapt on the bed, straddled me and went to work on my back. This move gives her a perfect position to apply balanced pressure with her both left and right hands. I hate it when a therapist applies more pressure with their dominant side. Every move was precise, with purpose and felt amazing. Her routine flowed effortlessly. It felt as if my body was a mass of circuits and she was refreshing each one, paying special attention to the ones which weren’t playing ball. But at no time did she cause me any pain. She knew exactly what to look for and where to target her moves. ‘Twas amazeballs.

Next up, Cult Beauty expert Annee deMamiel. Annee comes over to the UK seasonally to work her magic from her room at the Beauty a la Carte spa in Fortnum & Masons’ beautifully grandiose shop. Annee starts the 90 minute facial with a consultation so encyclopedic, I wonder if she can read minds too – her background is in Traditional Chinese medicine. This ancient philosophy is based on the balance of Qi (pronounced “chee”) or vital energy, that flows through our body. Our Qi regulates our spiritual, emotional, physical and mental balance and is influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang. What Annee is looking to find is where your imbalances are and then she works on rectifying them.

She checks my tongue and takes my pulse. Apparently some people leave out vital information when questioned, but nothing fools Annee for she can read it on your tongue, see it in your eyes and hear it with your pulse. As this was my first foray into acupuncture, she went easy with the needles – two between my big toes, two in my inner ankles, 1 on each shin, 2 a little way up my wrists and one in my 3rd eye, then a cashmere blanket placed over my body to keep me warm.

Her signature facial started with a wonderful vibrating stone placed over each of my chakras. She smoothed hot honey over my face which I wanted to eat, and then using a herb compress, gently but firmly kneaded and rolled it, pressing the honey deep into my skin. I melted into the bed in a state of bliss. When all was said and done, my face looked about 10 years younger. It was bright, glowing and plumped up. It felt like everything about me physically and mentally was restored to a beautiful harmony.

That evening I had a committee meeting, where I proceeded to drink 4 glasses of wine and smoked 2 cigarettes. When I went to brush my teeth later that night, I looked in the mirror and was saddened to see the glow had vanished. The chemicals in the booze and fags had acted like vampires and sucked the life-force out of all the great work Annee had done. I could see how immediate these toxins act, what a wake up call!

Lastly, I’d like to talk about the fabulous Ushvani. The setting for this day spa is a beautiful Edwardian town house in Chelsea, when you walk through the door it’s like entering a Malaysian palace. It is rare to find a spa on this level in a Western city, I’ve only had similar experiences in the far east. It is rare that you see anyone other than your therapist here, so luxurious that it felt like I was the only client in the place.

I opted for the signature Bali/Malay/Thai massage. After a long soak in the hydrotherapy pool, tropical shower and sauna I was ready to be transported to Pandora. The massage was totally relaxing. I loved the hot compress, the choice of music, the harnessing of the power and beauty of the hibiscus flower, the after massage service with accompanying sugared wintermelon and the way Lauren (my therapist) spread my scapula…was the best stretch. I also love the Ushvani products, especially the Ushvani Balm, it gives Tiger Balm a run for its money.

The only thing I think they could work on is the advice given at the end of the treatment. If its not precise, the diagnosis can come out sounding unsure. Have confidence in the truth or don’t say anything. olivia inge