Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Making the Most of a Spa Massage

image from Center for Wellness
I have had a proper massage at a spa exactly three times in my life. Being a good New England prep, I have always thought of them as being a waste of money -- they are certainly a very expensive way to treat oneself. Oh, I've had countless ten-minute massages while waiting for my nails to dry at the salon, but those can hardly be compared to a real massage with spa water, lotions, darkened rooms and calming music.

The first time I went to a spa for a massage, it was given to me as a birthday gift. Although I was looking forward to it, I felt a little awkward when I arrived, because it seemed like everyone else had been there a million times and knew the process better than I did. I didn't even know if panties were supposed to stay on or not -- I had enjoyed a facial or two at a spa in the past, but that wasn't quite the same. The massage was wonderful and relaxing, and of course the hour ended much sooner than I would have liked.

It certainly isn't hard to fall in love with getting a massage, but the cost is high at a spa, so after trying it out once, I tried a few other types of massage places. I went a few times with a friend to neighborhood massage spots. Yes, the kind that have a reputation of offering, um, more than just massages. I still have never gone to one of those alone, because even though the prices are great, they tend to be in spaces that are a little less than relaxing -- often with bed sheets standing in for curtains between each of the tables -- and it made me feel more comfortable to go with someone else. I also had a couple of therapy massages after a back injury that left me standing not quite upright, and those were extremely helpful in relieving the pain caused by back spasms.

Recently, someone gave me another gift certificate to a spa. Knowing that a massage was the treat I really wanted, I checked out the pricing, and found it to be high, even for a spa in NYC. So, having heard from some friends that good foot massages -- the reflexology kind -- are just as relaxing as back massages thanks to all the pressure points in our feet, I decided to give that a try. I must say, I have found a new love! They most certainly are just as relaxing, and they cost a bit less than back massages do. Reflexology also has many followers as an alternative medicine, and I've read that it can even help release toxins. Whether or not one goes in for the studies on the benefits, there is no denying that it feels great.

One who goes to spas regularly may not even think twice about what to expect, but if one has never gone, here are a couple things that will make the most of the appointment and the money spent.

First, be sure to arrive much earlier than the appointment. Not only is it the opposite of relaxing to have to change quickly, but there is often a lounge area one can relax in after changing into her robe, so that she can start relaxing even before the massage begins. Water with wonderful additions like orange or cucumber is usually available, and often little treats like flat bread, cheese and fruits await the robed as well.

When it comes to changing into a robe, there really is no right option -- just whatever feels most comfortable, no matter the type of massage chosen. Clothing must come off because massage oils and lotions can stain, but when it comes to undergarments, that's up each person. For back massages, however, earrings, necklaces and bras really should be removed so the technician can rub ears, necks and backs easily.

One will probably want to shower after the appointment, thanks to the oils used. Back massages often include massaging the scalp, and no one wants to walk around town with oil and lotion in her hair. Many spas have thermal showers, steam rooms, and saunas too, so as long as one is conscious of the other women who might also need to use the features, one can enjoy herself for quite some time after the appointment and relax even more.

With discounts for massages available on discount sites like Groupon, Gilt City and others, finding a good price on a nice treat certainly is possible. I am already looking forward to the next time I indulge myself and get to enjoy another relaxing massage... Just thinking about it makes me want to book one right now. Any suggestions on favorite places to go?


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