Thursday, December 18, 2014

Spa etiquette

“Ohh, that feels sooo good!” I groaned to myself as May, my masseuse dug her fingers into my lower back. She poured some oil into the palm of her hand, rubbed her two hands together and placed them on my sacrum, the same spot that is always aching, probably because of the misalignment in my spine there. She then moved up to my shoulders and gave them the same treatment. Her movements were so hypnotic that I found myself nodding off until … wait, did she spend as long on my left shoulder as my right?

You see, much as I would like to, I can never fall asleep during a massage. Having been a masseuse myself before, I’m usually evaluating a massage that I’m having instead of giving into the pleasures of having my muscles kneaded and pummeled.

Having been both the owner of a massage centre and a client at others, I guess I do know a thing or two about what to expect when going to a spa, and what we can do to enhance the spa experience even further.

Always check out a spa before going there. Have any of your friends been? Did they have a good experience? There’s nothing like a word-of-mouth recommendation. Nowadays, with social media being so prevalent, it’s easy to google an establishment to see what others have to say about it.

If you’ve decided on a spa, call up ahead of time to find out what kind of treatments they offer. Tell them if you have a specific request or problem and ask whether they have a therapist that’s suitable for you. If you want a massage, find out what kinds of massage they have on offer and what they would recommend for you. Find out ahead of time how much all these treatments cost, so you won’t be taken by surprise when you actually go.

Now, how long should a massage last? It’s really up to personal preference. Some people think, the longer the better. For me, I think an hour and a half is ideal. An hour is really too short for a therapist to give enough attention to all the parts of the body, while two hours can feel a bit draggy.

Once you’ve made your appointment, DON’T be late. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the spa about 10 to 15 minutes before your appointment. The spa is probably taking back-to-back bookings, especially on busy weekends, and it’s not fair to the therapist or establishment to push other appointments back just because you’re late. At my massage centre, if a client were more than 15 minutes late and her therapist had another booking right after, we would apologise and say that we couldn’t give her the full hour that she requested. If, for some reason, you can’t make the appointment or are going to be late, do call up to cancel or re-schedule. It’s only polite.

Once you get to the spa, have a seat and enjoy the soothing ambience for awhile if you have time. It’s always good to start a massage in a relaxed frame of mind rather than being hurried and harried. Turn off your mobile or put it on silent mode. You don’t want to be disturbed, nor do you want to disturb other clients in the establishment. Visit the restroom before your session, so you don’t have to go running out in the middle of your massage to pee.

When your therapist shows you to your room, make your requests known to her ahead of time. It’s okay to say if the room is too cold or warm, too bright or noisy, and what kind of oil you prefer if there’s a choice. You can specify which areas of your body you want her to concentrate on and which areas to avoid. Once she starts massaging you, you can also tell her if her pressure to too soft or hard. It’s perfectly within your rights to speak up. The therapist will appreciate your feedback as well.

At the end of the massage, take some time to readjust by having a seat and a drink of water or tea. It’s best to keep yourself hydrated at all times. Give your feedback and comments to the front desk. Do leave a tip for your therapist as well if you want to show your appreciation.

I’ve generally had good experiences in spas and massage centres, with a few bad eggs in the mix. Having been in the business before, I know how hard it is to be a therapist. Whether it’s a bustling foot massage shop in the middle of a busy Bangkok street or a high-end spa at a ritzy resort, it’s always good to be considerate of your therapist and treat them with the respect they deserve.

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