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So last weekend saw me take in some much needed relaxation at the Runnymede Hotel & Spa with my school friend Lou. The week leading up to it had been quite full on with lots of exciting opportunities on the horizon but tinged with a little bit of stress and nervous energy. The spa weekend that lay ahead couldn't have come at a better time.
You could say Lou and I are Spa'Naturals - not only do we love a good spa (time to hang out, slow down, gossip and chew the fat etc) - but we also realised that we have had the opportunity to road test many different spas and treatments over the years. It's certainly given us the barometer to know what's good and what's not so good for us.
There have been naked spas in Berlin (yes...really, and no...it wasn't female only...I did scream!). Facials that have taken place *literally* in the back streets of Vietnam with my head suspended over a tin box (no lovely products used...just Dove body-wash rubbed all over my face - and no, I am not kidding!). There have also been sumptuous outdoor massages in the warmth of the Indonesian sun and opportunities for lovely foot rubs with a slightly different take on reflexology, in Singapore. You could certainly say we have had our fair share of spa experiences!
But before I get too dreamy-eyed about the spas that have been, it is safe to say that the Runnymede Spa was great value for money and provided us with just what we needed for our relaxing weekend. Our package included an overnight stay, one complimentary treatment (I chose a facial and Lou had a hot stone massage) and full use of the spa facilities. A lovely meal at the Lock Restaurant (located on site) and a full English breakfast were also included. We topped this up by sneaking a bottle of fizz in and lots of yummy eats and treats too! :)
But every day is a school day and being in a spa environment obviously means that Haelan isn't far away from my thoughts. I love to bring new learning and ideas back to my treatment room, so I took the opportunity to road test a couple of treatments to see if they could be contenders for the Haelan offering. One certainly got a big thumbs up and it is my hope that it will be gracing the treatment menu in the not to distant future. But for now I will keep you on your toes and wondering what it might be! But I digress...now where was I? Oh yes...lesson's learnt...
Lesson 1 - Connection
So there I am, waiting with baited breath for my first treatment...I'm so excited because only hours before I had been quite stressed - lets just say it involved a badly parked car (not mine), the police and a tow truck (for their car, not mine!)... and so the treatment couldn't have been more timely. The therapist arrives to greet me and asks - are you Rachel Kelly? Er...I'm Rebecca Kelly? Oh yes...it must be you. Come with me then. [So we enter the treatment room] Rachel, if you could just get undressed and leave your clothes here and then hop on the bed, I can start your treatment! Hmmmmm...connection? Where's my connection, I thought. Where's my 'how are you, where do you come from, what kind of day have you had?' type questions. Where's getting my name right?!
Connection is one of the core themes that runs through Haelan like a stick of rock and is also vital for the client-therapist relationship. Not only to ensure the client receives the best possible treatment and outcome but also to make them feel both emotionally and physically secure with the therapist. Sadly, I didn't feel like I connected well with my therapist on this occasion. Did I like the treatment? Yes. Did I get the best out of the treatment and leave feeling like I was the most important person in the world....er possibly not. Whatever the relationship. Whatever the interaction. Connection is key.
Lesson 2 - The Ballet Code
Believe it or not, massage is not unlike dance...well certainly in the way I deliver it. And as American dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison suggests, where dance is bigger than the physical body, I believe so too is the massage stroke.
I treated myself to a few different treatments during my stay, one of which was a body wrap which included a 25 minute massage. The wrap involved having salts and algae rubbed into my body, which although might sound odd, was actually very relaxing and invigorating all at the same time. I was also eagerly awaiting the massage. As a massage therapist myself I won't lie and say that I am not a teeny bit particular about the depth and pressure of a treatment! It was a huge relief to realise that my therapist had good massage hands! However the one thing it did lack was the feeling that the strokes went on past my actual physical body. What I mean by this is that her strokes ended leaving me wanting her to massage further up past my neck, or further down my back or right down my arms to the tips of my fingers rather than stopping just short of the forearm. The key lesson here is don't short change the client. Instead, to remember that massage is like ballet and to extend the massage strokes past the physical body leaving the client feeling like their body is bigger than it actually is and that their whole spirit is being massaged too.
Lesson 3 - No talking please!
Luckily I was granted therapists who didn't like a good old yarn and chinwag whilst delivering my treatments. But if you have ever experienced a treatment where a therapist talks their way through it, you will know what I mean when you don't feel like you have been given the space to just float away and be with your own thoughts. Our most powerful healing takes place when we are in that lovely hypnogogic state which lies in between deep sleep and full consciousness. To be able to access this you need to be given the opportunity to switch off and relax. Lou however was not so fortunate. Although her chatty therapist delivered a good quality treatment, Lou was not given the opportunity to just float away and switch off from life. Being asked inane questions such as where are you going on holiday or what is the weather doing this weekend can be irritating when you are trying to rest and relax. "My therapist likes a good chat" were Lou's first words (well almost...admittedly they did come just after she said how nice it was). So lesson No.3 was a great reminder to ensure that I always give my clients their space and to be led by their needs...after all it is not to say that some client's don't want the opportunity to chat and gossip. I know I like to sometimes!
So all in all, it is safe to say that Lou and I had a weekend of Spa'Tacular Relaxation and have already looked to pencil our next one in! If you want to get away from it all and enjoy a bit of 'me time' but without blowing the bank balance...then the Runnymede Hotel and Spa gets a thumbs up from me! This Spa'Natural is certainly looking forward to her next one!