Andrew Gibson, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s group director of spa asked me to try their new Signature Massage and product line as soon as it became available (this June). So I scheduled an appointment for the first Saturday in June, knowing that once the Global Spa Summit was over, it would be the perfect treat. Andrew wouldn’t tell me anything about it ahead of time, so I decided just to go with the flow.
Having not been to the New York Mandarin Oriental since shortly after it opened in 2003, I was amazed at how the décor and menu still felt very upscale and current – a credit to the fact that they were ahead of the times when they opened. There were a few signs of wear (such as the sign in the Jacuzzi area) but the facility is still very pristine and I even noticed a few embellishments like additional lighting around the mirrors. The service seemed top notch – very clean, picked up, smiling attendants, etc. Of course, the stunning vistas of New York City and Central Park that can be seen from almost all of their rooms (and it was a beautiful sunny day) is never out of style.
While looking forward to the new signature treatment, I was hoping that some of the really special things about Mandarin Oriental spas would still be in place. Thankfully they were. There was the customary exchange of shoes for slippers upon entry, the welcome tea which was better tasting than I remember, time rituals (blocks of time with a very well trained therapist in lieu of booking a specific treatment), and the welcome foot bath ritual. That foot ritual is nice for everyone (therapist included) as clean feet are important, but of even greater importance in my view is the opportunity it gives for the therapist and client to converse in effort to find out what the best plan of treatment would be for the client that day.
I completed an extensive questionnaire with some yin yang questions to indicate which of the TCM Oriental principles of five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water) would be the one for us to work on today. Terms such as Flourish, Bloom, Awaken, Reflect and Release were used. Later I found that the questions helped pinpoint which of the five elements would correspond to a specific essential oil to be used in my treatment.
My therapist, Jim, was absolutely tops (do ask for him by name if you want to be assured of a superb treatment.) A chakra “test” of sorts on my back was next which helped to verify which treatment and essential oil to use. What most people don’t realize (and I think they could make a bigger deal of this) is that getting a massage with expensive essential oil is a real treat. Not only does it feel good and smell good, but there is no after-massage itchiness and it benefits the skin to leave it on.
The 100 minute treatment was superb. At the end Jim finished off by giving me a sheet of paper which had information about “Awaken,” an essential oil corresponding to the wood element we were working on that day. It had a list of symptoms when this element is out of balance, some healing foods to consider and foods to avoid. He then ended the session showing me a Qigong exercise that would be good for strengthening this wood element for my liver and gallbladder meridians.
When I checked out of the spa I was given a lovely bag with a gift. It was a collection of the Elemental Bath and Shower Oils for the various Oriental elements set in a tasteful and gorgeous box. Not sure if they include the gift for everyone…it certainly was nice.
Bottom line…just as Mandarin Oriental introduced time rituals over six years ago, look for their new protocol that includes various testing and bespoke treatments with a new product and take home protocol that extends the treatment experience to become a new standard. It is more than the sum of its parts – I found myself looking forward to using one of the oils from my “goodbye gift” a few days later.
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/susieellis
If you wish to be put on a list that automatically sends my blog posts to your email, just let firstname.lastname@example.org know and she will add you to that list. Thanks so much!