As featured in LUX* 01 magazine. Photography: Mark Read.
More than just a back rub: this Chinese-medicine spa treatment gets Juliet Kinsman's yu and qi in working order.
Let's face it, gone are the days when a little gentle pampering and whale music will cut it in a hotel spa. I want braggable results from my treatments - and at LUX* they kindly pander to that sense of entitlement. (The only whale music you'll get is if you head out to the Indian Ocean on a boat in the right season - which they can also arrange.)
So often, back at home, we wait for symptoms of poor health before we do anything about our wellbeing. We moan to a doc who maybe prescribes pills or a lotion, and then sends us on our way. That's not the MO with Chinese medicine, which I salute for healing for centuries by looking at individuals' health holistically - and it's why I jumped at the chance to try the new treatment, Zhengliao, which outside of the Daoji Clinic in China, is only available at LUX*.
Based on a traditional pain-relief treatment, it aims to drain you of toxins, repair your kidneys, balance your qi and regulate your yu (literally meaning 'stagnation', it's the congestion of energy, blood, phlegm, food and water). Who can argue with that? When I saw on the spa menu that it does all this in a couple of hours, I signed up.
Before I dive into the details of this unique treatment, let me set the spa scene. Arriving at LUX* Me spa of LUX* Le Morne, after changing into robe and slippers, you're gently chaperoned to a balé overlooking plunge pools, and beyond the stunning peak of le Morne itself. A gentle waterfall in the lush inner garden provides the soundtrack, overlaid by a little classical piano music. The scent is distinctly of orange blossom. In front of me a bright yellow weaverbird is skittering along the infinity edge of the pool. I was already feeling rejuvenated, and I hadn't had my treatment yet.
This is how my two-hour bespoke Zhengliao session rolled. Spoiler alert: it might sound a little wacky and New Age to some of you. Truth is, these methods are ancient, and they work wonders. A gong placed over your abdomen marks the start and the end of the treatment, sending good vibrations - literally. Acupressure points were expertly massaged, and there was cupping. Not as in when you're on a packed rush-hour train; it's when glass balls are sucked onto your back through a vacuum, boosting blood flow. There was a session of burning sage, since this incense-like medicinal herb is said to have a cleansing effect. And, most unusually, there were heated woodenboxes applied in a similar way as hot stones are in massages. Now, how this all works exactly to reduce stress, improve digestion and sleep, you'd have to have me get a degree in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) to explain. But luckily the therapists know the aim of what they're doing, and if the end result is what a balanced energy system feels like, I'm a convert.
Zhengliao costs from $150 USD for a two-hour treatment: http://www.luxresorts.com
Qi (pronounced 'chee'): Your qi - or chi - is the energy that circulates around your body. In Chinese philosophy, balancing your negative and your positive qi is central to all that is practised from meditation to medicine. As Jeff Butterworth, Chief Spa and Wellness Officers puts it, it's your life force. (It's also a corker of a word to squeeze onto the board for a triple-word score in Scrabble.)
Words: Juliet Kinsman