I have never been to Mauritius but have friends who go there every year with their children and rave every time how wonderful holidaying g on that island is-for both adults and children. As half-term approached, London looked increasingly grey and cloudy. Luckily, where there is a will, there is a way and Urban Retreat at Harrods had a trick up their sleeve, with the Mauritian Retreat, courtesy of Maradiva Villas Resort and Spa ( ile Maurice ) in the Indian Ocean, member of the Leading Hotels of the World and Leading Spas.
Last Sunday, as I nursed a horrid, weather inflicted headache, I drove to Urban Retreat to have Ananda Blissful Oil Massage. My receptionist looked a bit bored and uninterested while she searched for my details on their computer system and when she found it, she told me to go and sit in the waiting area, her face lacking any sign of enthusiasm….
A few minutes passed, while I was sitting on a comfy purple sofa, looking at the beautiful pictures from Maradiva Resort and then a softly spoken voice called out my name, brushing my ear as a gentle breeze-Heidi, a very pretty, dark-haired herapist was standing before me, in her crisp long white tunic and trousers, her eyes radiating soothing joy-all I could do was smile in return and follow her, leading me graciously towards the treatment room.
The room itself was large and airy, with a treatment bed covered in fluffy towels and beautiful pictures of the resort creating the sunny mood. Heidi asked me to change out of clothes and to fill in the questionnaire, covering my skin and medication, if any was applicable.
When she came back a few minutes later, she went through the questionnaire and started the treatment by washing my feet in a large silver bowl, telling me that each guest of Maradiva Spa is treated as Holy, hence the cleansing foot ritual. With this ceremony over, we bowed our heads to each other saying Namaste and Heidi told me to get on the treatment table and relax.
Ananda ( a martial art derived from Indian tradition practised in the southern part of India ) massage was originally given to the older wrestlers, offering them a traditional Indian deep tissue massage, leading to a well-aligned body and a relaxed state of mind. Now it forms part of Maradiva Spa signature Indian Therapies on offer. Other treatments, based on the Spa‘s holistic and Ayurvedic principles include facials, body scrubs and wraps, as well as deep, rejuvenating or cleansing treatments.
Heidi started with ‘cupping’ my body with her small but firm hands, from the soles of my feet and going up to my neck. What was lovely is that at some stage she climbed on the treatment bed, as her hands moved upwards, along my spine and then up to shoulders and neck. This allowed the massage movements to be firm and go deeper into the muscle tissue, very quickly leading to a deep sense of relaxation that spread all over my body.
The oil that she used on my body ( all oils are mixed by the Spa ) included peppermint and ginger. Heidi massaged each of my legs, from the soles leading up to the hips, unknotting the tension, particularly in my calves. The massage was nicely strong but Heidi did ask me several times whether the pressure was ok for me. The music, upbeat in tempo, soothed me, yet also created happy vibes that made me relax and smile at the same time.
Heidi then concentrated on my spine, starting with a pinching massage move, on both sides of my spine. By that stage I was struggling to keep my eyes open and almost felt like pinching myself in order not to fall asleep, lulled by Heidi’s massage and the music-I swear to you, if I closed my eyes, I would have felt right on the island-the only thing missing was the sound of the lapping waves.
I also enjoyed the part of the back massage when each arm is bend at the waist level, allowing you to stretch your upper body and the therapistto go deeper into your muscle. Heidi’s hands then went on to massage both of my shoulders, my neck and the head ( as the oil is used on your scalp and hair, be warned that your hair will look oily post treatment, so do bring a brush along, so you don’t looklike the scarecrow when you leave Urban Retreat ). At times my shoulders felt a little sore during the massage but that’s because I do spent a lot of the time in front of the computer, generally gathering tension in my upper back and neck. With my muscles unknotted, Heidi told me to turn over and move slightly up on the treatment table.
Heidi started with massaging my face around my orbital bone, eyes and the mudra point, located between my eyebrows and often called the third eye. The oil that she used on my face had saffron and rose essential oils and their smell was subtly gentle and made my skin feel dewy and soothed ( I am a big believer in using oils on your body or face, particularly when it’s either hot or cold and your skin needs extra nourishment ) by the whole sensation. She then proceeded to massage each of my legs, from the soles of the feet, to each toe and going up to hips again. The music had a slightly upbeat tempo but I felt as if I was lying under the gentle sun and felt energy circulating around my body, feeling freer and very, very relaxed.
The treatment includes a very gentle abdominal massage, that follows a clock-wise notion and is gentle ( it really benefits you digestion ) and also covers your waist-line, and the therapist’s arms also overlap and go to the side and slightly behind your back.
Each of your arms is massaged, each finger lovingly soothed with the hands warmed by massage oil ( and I have to say that unlike during some treatments that I had in the past, the amount of oil is used is perfect-not too much, not too little-your skin absorbs it and feels soft but you won’t be dripping with oil and neither will you skin feel as if it was only gently misted ).
Then a warm towel is applied to your shoulders, neck and face and what follows is the blissful face and head massage. All the movements are precise and well-thought out and by the time that Heidi finished the massage I felt utterly and completely blissed-in all the honesty, I was almost convinced that I went to Mauritius and back in the course of that wonderful treatment. Heidi applied a hot cloth over my feet and told me to keep my eyes closed, while she sprayed a fine, rose scented mist over me-and then I opened my eyes and Heidi, her serene smile radiating even from the depth of her soulful eyes, asked me how I felt. All I could do was smile like an innocent child and say that I felt at peace.
Heidi said to me that my muscles felt particularly tight around my calves area and upper body and told me to do little, five minute stretches during the day, which help the muscles and the posture long-term. She also told me to preferably not wash the oil off my hair, face and body for at least two hours, in order for them to work their magic. She then applied a little of fine milled powder and a tiny flower to my mudra point and with that the treatment was complete and I was left to come down to Earth completely and get dressed. Harmony reigned in the room and my headache was gone.
Heidi waited for me outside and I thanked her profusely ( during the treatment I asked her about the Spa and the training and she told me that one has to be a fully qualified therapist in order to work at Maradiva Spa, but they train you for three months before you start working with clients. What made her approach even more endearing, was when she said that in her opinion, ‘a good therapist never ceases to learn something new’ and to hone their skills and practise ) for the blissful massage that her expert hands gave me.
I walked out of Urban Retreat and descended down to the ground floor via the escalator, walking out into a street full of grey, drizzling with rain, light outside. My head felt clear and my mind at peace, all I could think of was how content I felt in that moment in time. And I did make a wish to experience further treatments in Maradiva Spa in Mauritius when the opportunity arises-their treatments and therapist certainly seem special.
Maradiva Villas Resort & Spa festival of detoxifying and relaxing treatments is exclusive to the Urban Retreat at Harrods, till November 5th. Treatments include massages, facials, Indian therapies, body scrubs & wraps
Ananda oil massage ( signature treatment ) 1hr, £85
To book a treatment call Urban Retreat at Harrods on 0207 893 8333
P.s the luxury tour operator, Destinology, have a special offer to celebrate the pop-up spa:
Stay at Maradiva Villas Resort and Spa in Mauritius from just £2089 per person. This offer includesreturn economy flights with Emirates from London Gatwick, as well as seven nights half board in a garden suite, based on two sharing. The offer must be booked by 31 October 2012 and is valid for travel in either November or between 20 January – 28 February 2013. For further information or to book visit www.destinology.co.uk or call 0800 634 2866