Stretch Marks

19th November 2010

Jill Glenn visits Senses in Northwood, for a traditional Thai massage that comes with the strapline ‘like someone doing yoga to you…’

When a massage or therapy treatment is the last thing you think you need, the chances are that that’s when it’s likely to do you the most good. Heading off to Senses in Northwood, all I can think is ‘I could really do without this now…’. How ridiculous that attitude seems a couple of hours later.

Tucked away down Station Approach, this small-but-perfectly-formed Well-Being and Thai Massage Centre is a mere convenient stone’s throw from the shops (and, of course, from the station)… but a world away in style and atmosphere. It’s been open for two years now, and feels calm, professional, serene. A real sanctuary.

After a brief but thorough revisiting of the ‘body map’ of pain or discomfort that I had completed on a previous visit, therapist Louise leads me through to the treatment room. The ‘house rule’ is that outside shoes are left at the door, which feels both hygienic and symbolic: you shed your outside life when you go into that inner chamber. It’s dimly lit, with tea lights and fretwork lampshades that cast interesting shadows across the wall and ceiling, and gentle music. This particular style of massage takes place on the floor, rather than on a coach, so once I’m changed into loose fitting clothes, I sit cross-legged on a soft mat, waiting – with a certain amount of apprehension – to have my body disassembled and put back together again.

Traditional Thai Yoga Massage (Louise practises a variant from the north of Thailand) combines deep massage, gentle stretching and twisting, and acupressure. While it would be dishonest not to admit that it does hurt at times, you couldn’t call it painful, and Louise proves very skilled at applying just the right level of intensity as she moves systematically around the body: probing, pushing, pressing, pummelling, pulling. Thai Yoga Massage is an extremely physical experience.

And it has a long and impressive history, originating in Buddhist temples over 2,500 years ago, as a means of invigorating mind and body, releasing tension, increasing vitality and creating the ultimate nirvana: wholeness of mind, body and spirit. It’s a very good fit with our contemporary over-extended world.

It’s fair to say that this is not relaxing in the classic ‘pampering’ sense of the word… but it’s not meant to be. This is about fixing the bits of you that aren’t working, opening up the joints to release accumulated toxins and generally loosening the body. And the mind, too. The end result, for me, is a curious mixture of exhaustion and absolute revitalisation; the afternoon and the weekend turn out to be surprisingly productive and positive: body refreshed, spirit restored, sense of proportion reinstated.

Conclusion: the next time I’m this stressed I shall have to find two hours that I haven’t really got – and go and have it done all over again. It’s actually the only sensible course of action…

Senses is at 9 Station Approach, Northwood HA6 2XN

Email: Phone: 01923 841222

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