Mindfulness really has been having a moment and has become a go-to for all things wellness-related so it was only time that a Mindful Massage would be introduced to a spa menu. Mindfulness been used (and abused) as a term for calming the mind and living in the present moment. At its core, it is a simple method of paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment. Studies confirm its benefits for health, improving sleep and mood whilst reducing blood pressure and anxiety. I discovered this meditative practice in 2011 when I was suffering from stress and anxiety. And it worked. You have probably heard of the App from Andy Puddicome called Headspace. If you don’t have it on your phone, download it now. It might just change your life. It will certainly help you gain some headspace.
Fast forward to 2017, the visionary spa brand ESPA brought mindfulness to the spa treatment menu. At its flagship spa in Central London the team has introduced a series of mindfulness treatments to the menu at ESPA Life at Corinthia. The mindful therapies include a facial, breathing techniques, massage and sleep, with two dedicated mindfulness fitness sessions.
ESPA Life at Corinthia really is one of London’s premium spa locations. Its facilities are hard to beat, the design and finish is world-class and the treatments on offer are ground-breaking. The incorporation of mindfulness into these different therapies demonstrates how it can (and should) be incorporated into everyday life.
The theory behind using mindfulness in treatments is that ESPA Life wants to ensure that guests gain the maximum benefits from each spa experience, both mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. It’s all about being present in the moment, so I visited the impressive spa on London’s Embankment to see what all the fuss was about (and more importantly to see if it lived up to the hype).
The Mindful Massage treatment begins with a blind scent test to select the oil for the massage. I chose Restorative, perhaps I needed it. On the treatment bed, you lay face up with your eyes closed and the therapist starts ringing bells at various points above your body. It was a bit ‘new age’ but stick with it, as it was also strangely hypnotic. Following this your therapist will guide you through a series of focussed breathing-techniques.
Firstly, you focus solely on the breath. Breathing deeply through the stomach and then the chest, filling the whole chest cavity with air to the count of four. This is repeated a number of times to help ground and focus the mind. And it really works. You do a short visualisation exercise. The therapist asks you to close your eyes and choose the first colour that comes to mind (mine was blue) and imagine that you are surrounded by coloured mist which you eventually breath in and out. This whole thing takes about 10 – 15 minutes. Again, perhaps a little out-there but it really brings your attention to the present moment. Thoughts of the outside evaporate in an instant.
Then the physical therapy starts, firstly on the feet focusing on the metamorphic zones with small circular massage movements. Delicately light, but not ticklish, it’s supposed to balance and ground you and it does, I was hooked.
Deeply therapeutic body massage
It’s then time for the main event – the deeply therapeutic body massage. It’s a full body massage where each area of the body is attended to in turn. Left leg, left upper body and so on. The smooth, continuous flowing movements are a little like the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi, but only to a point. There’s a certain rhythm to the technique and it is done with light-to-medium pressure. Then it’s time to turn over. The focus returns to breathing as you inhale steamed oils from under the treatment bed. Deep breaths and the same routine continues on the legs and arms in turn. Following this, the whole back is treated as one and the intensity increases, working deeper into the muscle tissue. I drift in and out of a hazy consciousness. It’s like a dream. To conclude you turn over once again and experience a re-energising scalp massage using warm rose quartz crystals.
Then it’s time for a few more bells and by this stage I had lost my inhibitions and fully embraced the hypnotic effect. Then it’s all over.
What’s brilliant about the Mindful Massage treatment is that the mindfulness session at the beginning is really effective at bringing your attention to the treatment room. Not once did I worry about work, deadlines or even think about what’s for dinner. My mind didn’t wander at all, which is a first. It’s a clever use of breathing techniques to help centre you in the moment. This calms the mind from racing away, soothes your anxiety and promotes total relaxation. This is an innovate way to bring wellness into the massage room. I’m sold.
Time for the Sleep Pods
Post-treatment you can return to the spa to chill on a relaxation bed, have a swim or steam, but I suggest commandeering one of the Sleep Pods for some shut eye. Don’t race back to the outside world. Enjoy the benefits of the treatment cocooned in one of the unique Sleep Pods. You can thank me later.
90 mins – £190