Massages and spa treatments don't just help with kinks and sore spots, they focus on our overall wellbeing and health as well.
The Luxe House
7A Dempsey Road
Open 1pm to 1am
If you're harbouring thoughts of sinking into the scented oblivion of this new luxury spa as massage therapists knead you to sleep with smooth, feathery-light strokes, forget it.
The Luxe House may tick all the boxes in terms of elegant surroundings, lush greenery and top grade essential oils, but its real mission is to massage the health back into you.
Good luck drifting off into slumberland as muscle-hunter therapist Wan Yan goes through every single muscle in your body in meticulous pursuit of kinks and sore spots, intent on exorcising them with deft strokes and expert finger work.
She is among a team of therapists recruited by the spa from China, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia who specialise in Oriental therapy from body massage and foot reflexology, to exotica such as moxibustion, cupping, and the slightly graphic-sounding ear mining.
If you were once resigned to the Good Morning towel amenities of Chinatown massage outlets for a decent cupping or tui na session, you can rejoice in the comfort of private rooms with fluffy towels and meditative piped-in music.
The Divine Body Care (S$248 for non members/ S$198 for members) is a full-on massage that works on muscular, jetlag, detox or metabolism issues depending on your needs and the oils you choose.
The Mandarin-speaking Wan Yan marinades you in a rosemary oil blend, with a mixture of smooth hand strokes and hot stones.
You can feel your tight muscles unclenching and even though it's wonderfully relaxing, the massage is an intensive one that doesn't lull you to sleep. At one point she rubs your head so vigorously you wonder if she's trying to start a fire from the friction.
The massage ends on a smoky note at least - with the added option of moxibustion (S$90/S$70) where a cigar-like moxa of dried mugwort is lit and the smoke passes over your head and shoulders for detoxification.
If you prefer your feet to receive tender loving care, the Royal Meridien Foot and Back Therapy (S$158/S$138) is great for relieving stress and aches from too much sitting at the computer.
You start with a face, head, shoulder and arm massage while your feet soak in warm water mixed with one of five special herb formulations. A foot massage follows, along with unusual cupping, in which the glass suction cup is used to massage the foot.
You sit in a nifty chair that reclines fully so you don't have to move to a bed for your back massage - you can do this with oil, or if not, you can be fully clothed during the massage.
Check out another optional treatment, the unusual ear mining (S$70/S$50), where the Chinese master uses long toothpick-like sticks to lightly scratch your outer ear and behind it - ticklish but it's supposed to stimulate the nerve endings.
Then he cleans your ear canal and twirls a bamboo stick covered with fluffy cotton on one end in your ear to make rustling, relaxing sounds. Apparently, this works to relax you and help you sleep.
What sets The Luxe House apart from the rest is its emphasis on wellness and healing, and its ability to recruit experienced therapists who - even if they don't speak English - add to the authenticity of the treatments on offer.
That, plus its hideaway location among natural greenery away from the bustling heart of Dempsey, makes it a hidden gem worth scouting out.
The Ayurvedic way St Gregory at Parkroyal on Beach Road
7500 Beach Road, Level Four
Tel 6505 5755
Encountering an Ayurvedic treatment is a reminder that massages or spa treatments aren't just for relaxation, and that they have more than a peripheral part to play in overall wellbeing and health.
The basis of Ayurvedic treatment is part of a more complex health system, it's seldom trotted out as a treatment in spas. To offer the service in its proper sense, one needs to have that full line-up: an Ayurvedic physician, a knowledgable therapist and the right equipment and setting. It's a hefty commitment and fortunately, the Parkroyal group has the vision to deliver the real thing through its St Gregory's Spas. Its Ayurvedic treatments were relaunched late last year, when it managed to get its long-time partner in Kerala, Relax Herbals, to oversee the services here.
The Ayurveda physician, Binod Sydney, makes regular trips to Singapore for private consultations, while Keralan-trained K Bindhu is the therapist for the treatments.
Like Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda is also about maintaining a balance in body, mind and consciousness. So clients get a consultation with Dr Sydney prior to their tailor-made treatment, who diagnoses a person's dosha through a simple questionnaire and also a visual examination.
The dosha is distinct pattern of energy and body type, and there are three basic types.
Vata, which controls creativity and vitality (producing fear and anxiety when out of balance); pitta, which controls the metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and temperature.
An imbalance can cause ulcers and arouse anger. Kapha supplies water to all body parts, and a balanced kapha is expressed as love and forgiveness; a lack thereof leads to insecurity and envy.
A quick dosha reading later, and I'm on the treatment bed, with the therapist first providing an oil-slicked Abhyangam massage.
The pure oils (mostly sesame) are rich in herbs, and the massage I get is generally dominated with long, fluid strokes to let the spice-and-herbed oils do their thing. There is no pressure point-pressing as such, so overall, it's a rhythmic, relaxing experience.
Then, it was my first experience of the Shirodhara oil-drip on the forehead. Although I wouldn't say it's nap-inducing, it was also less disturbing than a friend had described it.
Essentially, there is quite a lot of adjustments that have to be made to ensure the oil flows properly onto the middle of your forehead, so the first-timer is rather conscious of the pot hanging over his or her head.
And then the oil flows over the top of the head to be collected so it doesn't pool around you.
The Shirodhara is meant to induce deep rest for renewed energy, while its soothing flow aids mental tension, headaches and insomnia.
More important, the herbal aroma isn't overpowering, and when the set-up is done well - meaning you can move easily from the treatment bed to the shower room after that - it's easy enough to get squeaky clean again.
Already, Dr Sydney, chief Ayurveda spa consultant at the Anandam Ayurveda spa in Travancore Heritage Resorts in Kerala, has come up with new treatments - this time tackling neck strain and lower back pain from extensive computer use.
An ayurvedic treatment's effectiveness can be seen only after a few treatments, but it's reassuring to see the level of St Gregory's commitment to provide a close-as-possible experience, short of flying you to India.
From now until Mar 9, the Ayurvedic Experience Ritual is S$288 (Shirodhara, 45 mins; upper posterior treatment, 90 mins)
Hassle free spa-cationOne Farrer Park Hotel & Spa
1 Farrer Park Station Road
Tel 6705 7860
Five-star One Farrer Park Hotel & Spa's full suite of spa facilities makes it the latest go-to place for a de-stressing spa-cation in Singapore - one where you don't have to worry about flights and travel connections.
The spa is located at the corner of the building where the Olympic-sized swimming pool is (which not many hotels can boast).
It's like a secluded corner where one can work up a sweat at the 24-hour gym, swim and have a healthy bite while enjoying the view. Either that or just luxuriate in the spa's hot and cold pools, steam room, and massage therapies.
Designed with a spa-cation in mind, the four-hour Spa Retreat is the spa's signature ritual which includes a head-to-toe rejuvenation package.
The spa therapist is trained in the hotel's proprietory massage protocol which is an amalgamation of tried and true therapies.
Hot stones are integral to this massage, as the therapist holds the stone in her hand and smooths it over your tight muscles, pressing with just enough pressure to make you feel the heat and firm press.
Anyone who's suffered under the hands and elbows of an enthusiastic Chinese tui na masseuse will know that the pain inflicted really results in even more muscle tension.
Here, the effect is a deep soothing one, and you know that the heat is going more than skin deep, working in tandem with the firm kneading and nutrient-rich body oil.
Then, so that you emerge fresh, you get an aromatic facial which is focused on a light, facial massage. Before this though, the hands and feet are wrapped in a moisturising mask - so that they get equal attention as well.
There's a nice east-west balance to the treatments designed at One Farrer Spa because of the Asian massage know-how and the top-quality European products used, such as Decleor and Darphin.
Guests who avail themselves of the signature spa treatments can further aid the relaxation process by taking a stroll through the reflexology water walk and relaxation gardens, or soaking in the Japanese-style onsen.
Come March, the wellness proposition is upped even more when the Aesthetic and Wellness Spa, an extension of the Spa Retreat, with cosmetic and anti-aging treatments opens to the public.
This article was first published on Jan 17, 2015.
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