Annabelle Spranklen reports on a holistic spa treatment
Have you ever laid down on a therapist’s bed and told yourself ‘OK, during this treatment I WILL most definitely relax and maybe even nod off?’ Except you end up thinking about needing a wee, that annoying itch on your left toe and whether or not you cancelled your Amazon Prime in time. Nothing seems to be out of bounds during a spa treatment, well, if you’re anything like me that is.
The truth is, many of us struggle with the idea of doing nothing. In 2014, the University of Virginia held an experiment. They left some students alone in a lab, deprived them of any kind of external sensory stimuli for a few minutes and gave them the option of pushing a button to receive a mild electric shock. What did they do? 67% of them pushed that button showing that most of us would rather feel pain than idleness.
We’re constantly told we need to be mindful, that we need to create some mental space and stop and slow down for our own sanity – but it’s easier said than done. It’s hard to be mindful on demand when we’re pretty terrible at it. So how do we make it easier? Can someone else do mindfulness for us?
It turns out, yes. Luckily, there’s a new trend of mindful experiences designed to do exactly that. One such example is the Lanesborough Hotel’s Ila Kundalini Back Therapy, designed for ‘emotionally exhausted souls.’ Naturally, upon booking, I’d assumed it was just another generic, knot-melting massage, one I’d leave feeling chilled out and slightly lighter on the shoulders, but nothing much more than that.
The first surprise came when my therapist asked whether I knew much about chakras. I was honest – I’m not a huge spiritual person and I’ve always viewed alternative therapies as slightly woo-woo, not for level-headed people like me.
So, there I was, lying on the bed, nose down, trying my best not to fill my brain with trivial to-do lists. She asked me to take three deep breaths then moved down to my feet, lathering a foot scrub over my heels and soles which was followed by the sensation of a warm hug of a cloth. Then her hands began moving up my legs as if she was playing an instrument, tapping and rubbing as she went. She wasn’t easing out the knots or asking me about the pressure, this was already feeling different.
My mind was still very much wandering at this point, so far, so normal for me. That was until her hands reached my upper back. Wherever my head was at the point, there was an abrupt shift. It was as if someone switched off the button and I suddenly felt a loss of control, it was black, I felt as if I was climbing something. Out of nowhere, a wave came over me and I began sobbing uncontrollably into the bed. I remember being very aware of the crying but I couldn’t stop it, it felt like a release of some kind, one I could not explain.
As someone who finds it incredibly hard to switch off, the treatment had a profound effect on me. After the experience, I was desperate to understand what happened, to make sense of it all. My therapist said that through chakra healing she was activating and channelling the Kundalini – the dormant energy at the base of the spine. This released tension and negativity that may have been there for years, sometimes even since birth, and my body was brought back to a state of awareness and balance. She explained that my emotional outburst was a reaction to her opening my heart chakra and it’s something many women experience during the treatment. Afterwards, I felt a sense of mental clarity, a feeling of immense relief and peacefulness.
For 60 minutes, this treatment helped me retreat from others and from my own busy mind. It was mindfulness for people who don’t do mindfulness, where you’re given a helping hand in letting go that’s almost too impossible to resist. And it worked, I’m the proof.
Kundalini Stillness, from £160, The Lanesborough Club & Spa, London