Day spa: Chaun Spa
Longing to get away from it all? Soothe your stressed-out soul with some much-needed pampering at Auckland's newest, most luxurious spa.
I've never been very good at taking time out for myself. The pressures of work and motherhood seem to fill up the hours, and when there's a crisis, my own self-care is the first thing to go. Stress is an ever-present element in our lives, and too often, our method of coping is to deny, deny, deny - until one day when we collapse.
So it's high time we made taking care of ourselves a top priority in our lives. While snatching a few minutes for meditation, a sit-down with a cuppa, or a quick delve into a book are all noble attempts, there is nothing so rejuvenating and relaxing as taking a whole day for yourself. It's not just an indulgence - it's a necessity.
The new Chuan Spa at the Langham Auckland is the best kind of place to spend much-needed me-time. I could use a hundred adjectives to describe it - opulent, blissful, luxurious, indulgent - but what struck me most about my time there was how the out-side world didn't seem to exist. It was like being on another planet, where "stress" isn't even a word in anyone's vocabulary.
The Spa director, Ana, welcomed me with a cup of ginseng oolong tea. The Chuan Spa's ethos is to celebrate the five elements - water, earth, fire, wood, and metal - and each day a different element is focused upon, represented in the tea and juice that are offered to guests and the candles and scents that permeate the treatment rooms. Also, as Ana explained, every spa guest is given a short questionnaire to fill out before their treatment. Based on what I circled on the questionnaire, my therapist would better know how to help me relax. I really appreciated that attention to detail - it definitely personalised my spa experience.
Ana led me to the first part of the Chuan Spa journey, the Tri-Bathing Ritual, so named because there are three separate stations of preparation - a snail shower, a sauna, and a steam room. After locking my mobile and clothing away in a locker, rendering myself officially cut off from society, I changed into my togs and started the journey with 10 minutes in the snail shower. Warm jets of water sprayed me from the sides and a rain shower poured on my head. It was bliss - like being caught outside in a warm summer rainstorm.
My next stop was the steam room, which was infused with herbs and smelled like the inside of my rice cooker (in a good way). I sat on the iridescent tiled benches and let the heat soak into me. I don't know how long I lazed in there, as by the time I stepped out and glanced at the clock, I realised I was 10 minutes late for my appointment. Spa guests are encouraged to come early so they have time to enjoy the Tri-Bathing Ritual before their treatments, and to stay afterward if they wish.
My therapist Ashleigh greeted me once I'd changed into a robe and disposable knickers (which were quite comfortable, actually). My treatment was called Five Elements Rebalancing. The first part, she explained, was a half-hour soak in the over-sized couples' bathtub. Ashleigh showed me to the most gorgeously appointed treatment room I'd ever seen and left me to strip and soak. By the time she came back to check on me, I was practically asleep. Baths at home are usually accompanied by a curious three-year-old asking me repeatedly if I need any toys, so I revelled in the chance to stretch out in a tub that was big enough to float in, all by myself.
After I'd managed to crawl out of the bath and onto the massage table, Ashleigh told me to lay on my back for the first part of my hot-stone massage, which encompassed my face, head, body, and, unusually, my stomach. I'd never had my stomach massaged before - not even when I was pregnant - and thought I'd be shy about a stranger seeing my stretch marks and wobbly bits. But Ashleigh soon set my mind at ease. "I'm not here to judge or stare, I'm here to make you feel good about yourself," she said. "When I'm massaging, I'm thinking about the number of strokes I've done or what I've got to do next. I'm not thinking about your stretch marks!"
Body confidence is something that Ashleigh wishes her clients had more of. "When you can just be at ease about your body, and just not worry so much about being uncovered or about your therapist seeing you naked, you can relax and enjoy the treatment so much more. A few weeks ago, I did a pregnancy massage on a woman who was a week away from her due date. Toward the end, the baby started kicking… It was the most beautiful treatment I've ever done. I loved helping her to feel pampered and relaxed."
After I'd been massaged into oblivion, Ashleigh gently awakened me, brought me my robe and slippers, and told me to take my time getting up.
She met me in the hallway and led me to the Touch Room. I settled into my massage chair while Ashleigh pampered my feet with a salt scrub and moisturiser, then wrapped them in hot, wet towels. Afterward, my feet were soft, smooth, and perfumed - a result I've never got from foot treatments at home!
Ashleigh then led me into the Dream Room, which contains three comfortable chaises separated by filmy curtains. Clients are encouraged to relax here after their treatments, read a magazine, and drink tea that is geared toward their personal element. I had a beautiful light snack of tomato and buffalo mozzarella on thinly sliced toasted ciabatta, which was served to me as I settled into my chaise and put my feet up. I was brought osmanthus blossom tea to further assist with balancing my Earth element, which smelled like peaches and tasted delicious.
After half-an-hour of relaxing and waking up a bit more, I finally returned to my locker, got dressed, and wafted toward the exit. When I got home that evening, I had a slight headache, no doubt from the massage helping to release all of the toxins pent up in my muscles from stress. I drank heaps of water and went to bed early, where I had an amazing deep sleep. Waking up the next morning, I felt refreshed and rejuvenated - and ready to book another appointment!
Katherine Granich is the former editor of OHbaby! Magazine and a connoisseur of beauty therapy treatments. You name it, she's tried it… Unless it involves needles or scalpels, that is.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 6 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW