Combining the healing powers of Chinese medicine with the restorative effects of aromatherapy, the Group’s new spa massage treatments and homecare range strike a blissful balance
The heavy wooden door slowly closes and the busy city disappears. Inside the ambient reception of The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, I breathe in deeply the scent of incense and surrender my outdoor shoes for a pair of comfortable spa sandals. In this tranquil wood and tatami room, simply decorated with orchids and flickering tea-lights, the sound of water cascading somewhere in the distance, I already feel calmer.
I clear my mind of the world outside and focus my attention on completing a detailed diagnostic questionnaire to gauge my current physical and emotional wellbeing; the information I give will enable my therapist to tailor the Mandarin Oriental Signature Spa Therapy to precisely my needs, today.
The spa treatment and product range are based on the Chinese elements
Mandarin Oriental Signature Spa Therapies are a new range of bespoke treatments now available in most Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Spas and developed in consultation with specialists in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and master aromatherapists, Aromatherapy Associates. Each two-hour signature therapy combines a relaxing, full-body oriental meridian massage – which works along the meridian lines to release the flow of energy (qi), in the same way that acupuncture does – with the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, which encourage cell renewal and enhance blood circulation, among a range of other benefits.
The treatments are based on balancing the five elements in Chinese medicine – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – and use five corresponding essential oils custom-blended for Mandarin Oriental. These are Awaken, Bloom, Flourish, Release and Reflect, and depending on the diagnosis, one of these five oils is used, in combination with a bespoke meridian massage for that element, in an indulgent therapy that restores the mind, body and spirit to perfect harmony.
It leaves the mind, body and spirit in harmony
A soothing foot ritual – a typically Oriental touch – marks the start of each treatment. While bathing and wrapping my feet in warm, scented towels, the therapist, Kirsti, talks me through the treatment and philosophy. From my answers, she can see that my dominant element is Fire but that the balance of energies is slightly out of kilter. Symptoms of this imbalance can include shoulder and back pain and insomnia – both of which I am very familiar with. Kirsti explains that she will use the corresponding essential oil, Bloom – a thoroughly uplifting blend of ylang ylang, neroli, rose and chamomile – in my treatment.
The massage begins with a back diagnostic in which pressure is applied along the spine; the points that flush red indicate areas to be worked on. The test confirms my upper back and shoulders need attention, so Kirsti starts with a firm massage using the Bloom oil. The room fills with the scent of rose as she works her way upwards and then down my back, pausing in areas to work away persistent knots. I can feel the tension slowly dissipating.
The therapist moves on to massage my legs. Kirsti explains that for someone with a strong Earth element, for example, she would pay particular attention to the legs, as the meridian lines for stomach and spleen are located here and the pressure points can help relieve problems such as water retention. For this massage, she uses the Flourish blend of coriander, cardamom, lemon and lemongrass.
For me, the focus of the acupressure is my arms, along which run the meridians for the heart and small intestine. I turn over onto my back and Kirsti focuses some gentle massage directly on my stomach before working along a number of pressure points in each arm, and finally on my face and scalp, as I lie in blank serenity. It’s heavenly.
I am roused from my blissed-out state with the gentle chime of a bell and a cup of Berry Berry tea – a firm, fruity blend recommended for my elemental type. Kirsti demonstrates some exercises and also offers some nutritional instruction to help extend the benefits beyond The Spa once at home.
There I can also prolong the sense of wellbeing with the natural wax candles, body lotions, body scrubs and shower gels from the accompanying home-spa range. Essential oils stay in your system for 24 hours, so to prolong the benefits, you simply need rub half a cap of the shower gel on your chest every morning before you shower.
And the benefits do last. In common with many guests who have tried this new therapy, I felt the wellness effects lasted longer than with other similar massage therapies, with the home-spa treats bridging the gap until my next visit to The Spa.