We all have things that are stressing us out. If you’re in London there’s all the extra congestion created by the world’s greatest sporting festival. And if you’re in the country you’ve had the wettest June and July on record to contend with. Then there’s all the other stuff in your life that goes on from day to day.
There’s no shortage of ways to cope with the tension, but one of the most effective is a massage. If however, like me, you’ve never had one, how do youknow which type is best for you? Should I go for Thai massage or Swedish, Esalen treatment or Hot Stones?
The last time I was at Summer Lodge I took a little time out to talk to the Spa Director, Rosemary Sumner about the different options.
Deep Tissue Massage
“Some types of massage tend to be rather gimmicky,” she explained, “they are in fashion for a while, then they lose favour. We specialise in the therapies that have been proven for years and years.”
“Deep Tissue Massage, as the name suggests, is the most intense. It’s more therapeutic than relaxing. We apply controlled pressure using our bodyweight, which is transferred through the heel of the hand, the knuckles, the forearm and the elbow – we don’t do much with our fingers. This way we really get deep into the muscles to manipulate and loosen the fibres. This also releases the lactic acid and increases the blood flow so the nutrients and oxygen can get in there.”
“We do a thorough consultation with clients when they arrive,” Rosemary continues, “and some specifically ask for a deep tissue massage. They tend to be people in high pressure jobs who struggle to relax….the go-getters They like this intense type of treatment because they are very results orientated and want to feel that the treatment is really doing something for them. Although it is slightly uncomfortable they can really feel the effects.”
“Swedish massage is different again. More your traditional massage…it’s still a deep massage, but it could be more relaxing, because the strokes are smoother and faster, not using elbows, and not applying so much pressure. We use grape seed oil for both the Swedish Massage and the Deep Tissue Massage, which gives you the glide, so you can move smoothly across the skin.
The third classic type of massage is Aromatherapy Massage. “All the therapists at Summer Lodge are trained aromatherapists and we blend different sorts of essential oils to treat individual guests according to their needs. We don’t buy in ready blended oil, we adapt it to that specific client. We mix different essential oils into the grape seed oil, which acts as the carrier. You’d add a couple of drops of each oil…between three and five essential oils. It all depends on what people want…and you don’t want to use too many essential oils at one time.”
At the consultation we always ask them what they intend to do after the massage. If they are going to have dinner we’ll use essential oils that will elevate them and lift them up, so they’ll be relaxed, but still able to walk to dinner. If they are going straight to bed then you’ll use completely different oils. As aromatherapists we learn about 42 different essential oils and study the different properties, high, middle and low notes. The high notes tend to be citrus, grapefruit, lemon, orange, eucalyptus. The middle notes will be peppermint, geranium. Low notes are things like lavender or camomile…so you mix them to create the right balance.”
The oils are very powerful and enter the blood stream. This means that if you are pregnant, suffer from epilepsy or have a number of other medical conditions then aromatherapy is not recommended.
Hot Stones Massage
Then there’s hot stones massage. “We use Basalt stones which have become extremely polished and smooth. These are heated in a tank of hot water then placed along the back, and used for applying various massage strokes. The heat in the stones then deeply penetrates into the muscles, releasing tension. You oil them, and they glide over your skin very smoothly. You have to move them quite freely, it’s deeply relaxing – hot stones done properly is a lovely treatment.”
Finally I discover that the Spa at Summer Lodge has just started offering massage with lava shells. These are buffed and polished clam shells, and the effect is similar to the hot stones massage.” A teabag-like sachet is placed inside each shell. This contains a mixture of algae and sea kelp which, when combined with salt water, generates enough heat for an hour-long massage.
So, these are the classic types of massage that have proved most enduringly popular. And they’re all available at The Spa in Summer Lodge. The hotel, with its four acres of lush green gardens and air of total tranquillity, is therapy in itself. But next time I’m definitely going to go for a massage – and lava shells sounds a good place to start!