Some people understand that the purpose of a vacation is to rest the mind and body from the hectic pace and constant barrage of other people’s needs that define our everyday lives. I seem to have forgotten that over the past five years. As a travel blogger, even when I take a vacation from my day job, they’re “working vacations.” I’m constantly on the go, gathering content for use later on my websites. At home, I work 7 days a week and sleep poorly. In other words, I’ve become a classic workaholic. This has been bothering me lately. A lot. So I decided it was time to do what you’re supposed to do on vacation; I booked a massage.
It had been five years since my last massage. So when I showed up for my appointment at Canyon Ranch at the Palazzo in July, I was a bundle of stress with knots that felt like marbles in my neck and shoulders. I’ve been to a spa maybe half a dozen times in my life; some I liked, some I felt apathetic about. I’m still a spa newbie, but not a total wide-eyed innocent. That being said, I have to admit, I was excited to book a massage at the famous Canyon Ranch. (It had to be famous, since I’d heard of it; I don’t really follow luxury brands all that much.)
I checked in 30 minutes before my treatment, received a robe and slippers, a locker and a key on a wrist bungy cord, and a brief tour of the facilities. (Men’s and women’s facilities are separate, of course, but there is also a co-ed area, since they do have couples treatments here as well.) There was fruit available and coolers of water with cut up cucumbers and citrus in them (very refreshing). Everyone who worked here was very professional. There were no surprises.
My massage at Canyon Ranch was not the best I’ve ever had. That honor resides with my experience at the Bellagio, where I was so relaxed, I fell asleep with my face in the hole in the table during my massage. I did not nap here. But I did like my massage therapist at Canyon Ranch very much.
Krista was all smiles and warmth. She asked me if I had any medical conditions she should know about. I mentioned my arthritis. When I started to tell her that I carry my tension in my neck and shoulders, she laughed and said, “Yes, I could tell during the walk down here.”
Wonderful. Not only don’t I have a poker face, I don’t have a poker body, either.
She called this “posture analysis.” I thought it was more fun to think of her as a “body psychic.” She also correctly guessed, as soon as she felt the knots in my shoulders, that I work in front of a computer all day.
I had booked a seasonal treatment–a 50-minute Swedish massage with orange blossom herbal infusion. In addition to my body, she also massaged my face and scalp, which was wonderfully relaxing. The 50 minutes went by way too fast. (Also I smelled great afterwards, if I may say so myself.)
Unfortunately, she had no success loosening the knots in my shoulders, though she tried very hard. I just could not get my shoulder muscles to relax enough to let her work her mojo. (Tip: This is why they suggest that you arrive early for your appointment and take advantage of the Aquavana facilities to loosen your muscles. Had I hunkered down in front of some warm jets of water and sat in a steam room for awhile, we might not have had so much difficulty with those knots. Lesson learned.)
Because I didn’t intend to utilize the Aquavana facilities, I hadn’t brought my swimsuit. (I had only allocated 2-3 hours for spa time, with a full schedule of activities afterwards.) Once I saw all the cool things that were available there, I could have kicked myself.
The Aquavana experiences include a Finnish sauna, hydrospas, “igloos” with “Arctic mist,” a crystal steam room, experiential rains, radiant lounge chairs, and an herbal laconium steam room. Granted, I didn’t technically need a swimsuit to partake of any of these. In fact, the woman who gave me the tour strongly encouraged me to feel free to go nude. Yeah, I’m just not that much of a free spirit.
Instead, I reclined in the women’s lounge, which was relaxing all on its own. It is designed to get guests to leave the stress of the real world behind, from the cell phone ban to the consistent, warm earth tones to the dim lighting and soothing music. While I stretched out on a plush lounge chair in my fluffy robe, I listened to the relaxing notes of flute, piano, and strings. I think I even heard whale song at one point. It was wonderful.
Why don’t I do this more often? I thought. Oh right. Workaholic.
After my massage, I also relaxed in the co-ed lounge (the “Conservatory”). It was a beautiful, comfy place to hang out for awhile, with soothing water features and plenty of drinking water and fruit. It also provided direct access to my two favorite rooms in the place:
The Salt Grotto, my own personal nirvana, was a warm, humid room with a fountain running over salt bricks. (The salt supposedly helps with respiration. I couldn’t really tell the difference.) Curved, heated seats forced my body into a relaxed posture. It felt like being cupped in the warm hand of a giant. The room was dark, with a starscape on the ceiling. It all felt very womb-like to me. I could have fallen asleep in here.
The Wave Room was a water-themed environment featuring curvy lounge chairs in a dimly-lit, bluish room with a round water feature in the center and a light projecting rippling waves across the ceiling. It was totally quiet except for the faint sound of birds chirping. I might have enjoyed this room more if I hadn’t gone in here after the Salt Grotto. In comparison with the Grotto, it felt a bit cool to me. I’d recommend reversing the order if you plan to experience both rooms.
In short, I was very impressed with the facilities here. If Canyon Ranch’s goal is to get guests to relax for awhile, it succeeded marvelously with me–despite the fact that I robbed myself of the Aquavana experience. I was really digging the calm and quiet oasis away from the nonstop noise of the world outside. Unfortunately, 2-3 hours of relaxation isn’t going to reverse five years of stress-related damage to your body.
That really drove home for me the biggest lesson from my visit: When you feel like you can only devote a couple of hours to “relax” on your vacation, you’ve got a problem. Suddenly, all the minor but annoying health problems I’ve noticed cropping up over the past couple of years started to make a lot of sense to me. It’s time for me to incorporate more downtime into my life.
Are you a workaholic? Do you have a hard time unplugging on your vacations, or sitting around doing nothing? Then you might benefit from a little spa time yourself. It probably won’t change your daily life, but it might help you achieve a better work-life balance overall. Because nobody ever got to the end of her life and said “Man, I wish I’d worked more.”
Disclaimer: I was generously hosted by Canyon Ranch, though I did leave my customary 20% gratuity for Krista. It came to $35, so the seasonal massage I got must have cost $175, in case you’re curious about prices here. If you want to skip the massage, a day pass is just $40 and gives you all-day access to the facilities.
Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Canyon Ranch—because I would have felt like a creeper bringing my camera with me to the spa.