A ten-hour day multiplied by the sweltering 42-degree temperatures plus eight taxi rides to and from meetings across the Emirate divided by one blinding headache and squared by intensified sciatica. That’s quite an equation. And yet, while mathematics comes nowhere near the crest of my skillsets, I found the perfect solution.
For those who suffer from an on-going medical condition, the very thought of experiencing a spa treatment places you in a difficult quandary: you relish the thought of being pampered, of yielding to the dexterous touch of a professional, of allowing yourself to just…let…go. But then your muscles tighten, your mind fogs over and your pulse rate quickens as you consider the damage one wrong move could make. Is it really worth it? Many have turned away – retreating to a safe haven, painkillers in one hand and a hot water bottle in the other. I was in the very same quandary myself at Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi recently. But my need to enjoy at least some respite from the throbbing pains helped me overcome this dilemma.
How often I have flown carelessly through the pre-spa consultation – never considering the consequences, simply nodding in the right places as the therapist’s voice drifts lyrically in the distance while I impatiently anticipate my surrender to those supple fingertips which promise to squeeze out the stress and indulge me in some serious ‘me’ time.
Stop right there.
She’s not doing this for her own pleasure or to waste time – she’s doing this for me. I gently shake myself out of my daydream and outline to her my recent operation. She scribbles some notes down on her clipboard and her expression becomes more thoughtful and more serious. Opening my oversized mouth has changed everything. No signature full body massage for me. But wait, her face shines with a new clarity – an alternative idea: a facial and some reflexology. Great, I think to myself, just what I always wanted – some special time for my face and feet. It hardly sounds an exquisite experience to be had. But how wrong I was…
Devi, my therapist, gently whispered me through the treatment. My every concern was her concern. Was the music too loud? Was the temperature just right? Did I need to move to ease the pain? Sometimes, therapists can make you, unwittingly, feel guilty for breaking the silence with conversation, but Devi made me feel comfortable enough to know that I could speak up anytime. Likewise, I didn’t feel pinned to the table, unable to move for fear of disrupting the therapist’s routine. Here, if I needed to shuffle, I’d shuffle. If I needed to raise my knees, I would. If I needed to have the facial on my side, then so be it.
The first touch to the top of my head signalled the beginning of my treatment. With a gracefully feline approach, Devi kneaded away at my head and shoulders and, as a cat paws its bed, coaxed out the most stubborn of knots. Inwardly, I purred as my eyes grew heavy and my shoulders sunk that little bit deeper into the cushioning beneath.
My senses were continually and gently surprised as I experienced this pendulum-like treatment, which swung perpetually from hot to cold and from velveteen to granular, and all the way back again. It was at this point I realised there was far more to a spa than a standard full body massage. What had I been missing all this time?
After massaging my arms and legs – clearly yet subtly steering away from the area of pain – Devi moved on to the reflexology aspect of the treatment. Yes, like so many, I feared an inescapable attack of the giggles would ruin the ambience as she approached my feet, but the giggles did not come – just a deeper sense of calm. As she tweaked and manipulated, stretched and squeezed, I felt the tension flow through every inch of my body, drifting towards my feet. And suddenly, as if obeying the commands of Devi’s fingertips, the tension eased and the knots unravelled, leaving nothing but calm.
After an hour and a half, my therapist softly uttered that my treatment was complete. There was no harsh switching on of the lights, no abrupt signals to hurry, no movements outside the treatment room as the next customer waited impatiently to be ushered in. Quite the opposite, I was given the most precious of gifts after a treatment – time: time to soak up the aromas, time to feel the benefits, time to awaken and enjoy a new, rejuvenated me.
I lay, weightless and carefree, and considered my equation once more.
A ten-hour day multiplied by the sweltering 42-degree temperatures plus eight taxi rides to and from meetings across the Emirate divided by one blinding headache and squared by intensified sciatica.
Zen the Spa at Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi.
By Alexandra North