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Tahitian mud scrub or advanced shiatsu? - Navigating a spa menu

Posted by kayse g.

Spas are becoming ever more innovative in designing their treatment menus, and sometimes it's hard to choose what's right for you when you can't pronounce a quarter of the options...!

Consider the front desk staff your oracle, but before you ask them for guidance ask yourself what you want most out of your treatment... do you want to relax down to your toes? clear up troubled skin? or get that knot out of your shoulder? (If you have completely no idea, a fail-safe question is: what's most popular here??) From there, the front desk staff should be able to help you choose the optimal treatment for you.

When it comes to massage & bodywork, here's a quick little mini-tour of common modalities:

Swedish massage: a popular, light to firm pressure style of massage; rhythmic strokes can be both relaxing & energizing; great for improving circulation.

Deep tissue massage: firm to deep pressure; more focused and less "flowing"; usually slower-paced, incorporating the breath to allow the muscles to relax & unwind; excellent for knots & muscle tension.

Sports massage: faster-paced, rhythmic, and usually incorporating elements of Swedish, deep work & stretching; concentrated muscle work; excellent for pre-event and post/recovery treatment from exertion.

Shiatsu &/or acupressure: strategically applied pressure, usually with the thumbs, elbows or forearms of the practitioner; typically allows the client to stay clothed in loose, stretchy garments. Thai massage or "passive yoga": usually performed on a mat on the floor (versus on a massage table), this style incorporates deep stretching, pressure points, and is very interactive between client & therapist. if you like being walked on (literally!), this is the massage for you!

Esalen massage: long, flowing integrative massage focusing on connection & presence; deeply relaxing; practitioners of this style have trained at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, for which it is named; typically longer sessions are ideal (75-90 minutes minimum).

Lymphatic massage: a very, very light pressure massage focusing on the lymph system; excellent for detoxification & can be very relaxing.

Structural massage/medical massage/Rolfing: the deepest of deep work!; focuses on structural realignment of the body & tissues; can be wonderfully beneficial for chronic knots or injuries.

... there are many, many more types of massage beyond what I've listed here --- all the more reason to experience trying them out & learning what works best for you. Enjoy!

Comments (1)
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Let's face it, some of the copy on spa menus can be as high falutin' as a 4-star restaurant. When they offer many different scrubs for dry skin, for example, it's hard to know which is the one for you. Same way with treatments that leave you "glowing". The receptionist is likely to have tried a bunch of the services and can tell you which will be best for your age. Also, they can tell you what certain products smell like, etc. Recently, I went to the Elizabeth Arden salon and had to pick between 6 kinds of manicures!
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