I now know what true serenity is. No, I’m not new age and definitely not nuts. This is the only word that even touches what came over me during the Karma full body massage, Lush Spa Edinburgh’s latest addition to its treatment menu. But we’ll get to that.
I, like most people, carry what sometimes feels like a tonne weight of tension in my back and when I sit typing at work, the dull ache can drive me to distraction. So, to tackle this, every so often when my bank balance allows, I book myself in for a massage. Usually these are more of a quick fix situation: I go, it eases the pressure, I almost drift off to sleep and then step back out into the world only to find in a hour’s time, there it is again, slowly creeping back into my muscles.
Karma, fortunately, is another country away from this frustrating scenario – quite literally. Inspired by Indian Ayurvedic practices, as its name suggests, the massage is performed by not one but two therapists, working in tandem to soothe exhausted limbs along to a specially composed soundtrack.
For a blissful 65 minutes, you are transported from the sweltering city of Kolkata, to the Rajasthani desert, the Darjeeling mountains and the humid Kerala jungles (complete with rain showers and calls from lion-tailed macaques), all the while heady steam, oils and herbs fill the nostrils. The aim is to appeal to every sense and to top up your ‘prana’, an energy and life force found deep within us, diminished by everyday stress.
The setting is an escape in itself. You enter the spa via the bustling Princes Street shop, leaving tempting glittering displays behind as you head downstairs to what looks remarkably like a rustic, English country cottage kitchen, where the initial consultation takes place. (I had no idea the place even existed and apparently I’m not alone – the spa, it turns out, is quite a well-guarded secret) I’m greeted by both Danielle and Janine, my masseurs, who introduce me to the concept of Karma and the meditation exercise I’ll be encouraged to practise during the treatment.
While sipping on a copper beaker of cool water (to help the immune system), I’m asked to focus on something I need to forgive myself for (insert anything said in the heat of guest list trauma here) and imagine a bright white ball of light, gradually making its way from my toes to the centre of my forehead to cleanse me. I’m intrigued.
During the massage, several things happen to me that never have before. First, the nervous energy normally coursing through my veins quietens down. I put this down to the gilded bowl directly underneath my face, pumping out steam from a concoction of spice and foliage-based extracts (including patchouli and pine oils) and enveloping me in warm and transcending fragrance.
As Danielle and Janine join forces, their synchronicity is astonishing – while one tackles my feet, the other is kneading my shoulders – and my muscles loosen as I float away into the melody. There is an uplifting moment with an orange oil and an upbeat track (an unusual twist on the typical slow, whale-like music I’m used to at a spa) and I sink even further into relaxation when my arms are gently moved around, my body is manoeuvred into a foetal position and my knees are lifted up to my chest.
And there are further surprises. Half way through, I am asked to turn over for a hot stone stomach massage. It’s a strange sensation but one that I’ll feel the benefit of days later, as it apparently aids digestion, speeds up circulation and regulates breathing. I also enjoy Shirodhara, a form of Ayurveda therapy that entails pouring a trickle of liquid (in this case, softening coconut oil) directly onto the forehead to, as the masseuse phrases it, ‘let my troubles wash over me’. My hair is saturated in sweet coconut and the resulting head massage is heavenly. Troubles? What troubles?
I reunite with Danielle and Janine outside the treatment room afterwards and am served a restorative cup of mango tea. We get chatting and the pair explain to me that Lush’s celebrated stance on animal testing and cruelty free beauty is exactly why they are employees – another benefit to the massage I hadn’t even considered.
When I’m sent on my way home, I feel at peace. There is a difference between pampering and a genuine treatment and Karma is it: not just a physical remedy but, if you’re open to it, potentially cathartic for the mind.
Karma is priced at £225 per session; Karma perfume, £59 per 100ml