One of my favorite assignments as Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises is experiencing the Canyon Ranch SpaClub® onboard the ships. As work goes, this is not a bad gig. The SpaClub onboard Marina is a relaxing haven and the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring ashore.
A day pass allows you access to the entire spa, or if you’ve booked a spa treatment, you may enjoy the facilities before and after your treatment. Soak in the open-air whirlpool hot tubs on the private Spa Terrace and then recline on a chaise under the rays of the afternoon sun. Or gaze out of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the Relaxation Room at the beautiful shoreline of your current port of call and muse about the day’s wonderful adventures. There is also a sauna, a steam room and an experiential shower with Tropical, Cold Fog and Waterfall settings. The various temperatures and pressure levels of each setting are perfect for relaxing muscles in preparation for a massage or after a good workout.
The SpaClub offers a multitude of services — from manicures to makeovers to fitness classes to seaweed wraps to facials — you name it. If it restores and rejuvenates, you can find it at Canyon Ranch. I personally am always a sucker for a great massage, so I chose to book this traditional spa treatment. However, I was a bit adventurous in selecting a type of massage I had not experienced before.
The abhyanga massage is part of the ancient ayurveda healing tradition, considered to be one of the treasures of India. The helpful young woman who welcomed me to the spa claimed I would feel more “energetic and active” after this “fairly vigorous” massage treatment. For me, the only challenge during a massage has always been to stay awake until the end. So the concept of an energizing, invigorating massage definitely intrigued me.
I did some research before my treatment, and the more I learned about abhyanga massage, the more seeming contradictions I discovered. It both tones and relaxes the muscles. It boosts mental alertness and calms the nerves. It increases body temperature and improves circulation while also allowing for a deeper, more recuperative sleep. I was very eager to experience this massage that sounded like a cure for anything that might ail me.
My massage therapist, Drainah, hailed from Thailand, a country also practiced in the ayurvedic techniques that originated in India. She showed me to the treatment room and let me get situated on the massage table before returning to begin the treatment. The key to abhyanga massage is the warm oil that is used. Drainah told me she was using Bindi oil, designed in the ayurvedic tradition and infused with herbs to nourish the skin and stimulate circulation. Aromatherapy is an important part of abhyanga massage, as the aromas help to heal and balance the body and mind. In the first illustration of the paradox of abhyanga massage, the pleasant scent of the oil was indeed both stimulating and relaxing.
While “fairly vigorous,” the abhyanga massage is not a deep tissue massage. The pressure is firm but gentle. The invigorating effect actually stems from the rhythmic motion of the massage, repeated circular movements on the back and long, smooth repetitive pressure along the legs. Drainah also utilized certain pressure points on my feet and hands to stimulate a deep sense of calm.
As the massage progressed, I began to realize that its benefits were similar to exercise, without all the annoying huffing and puffing. Like exercise, abhyanga massage relieves stress, cleanses the body of toxins, improves circulation and tones the muscles, all of which ultimately recharges and rejuvenates the body while also creating an overwhelming sense of calm, balance and relaxation.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d invented a paradox between two states that were actually quite harmonious — alertness and relaxation. Without launching into a social discourse, I had to acknowledge that I’d bought into the concept that one pounds an energy drink so you can be alert and driven to work hard all day long, in the hopes of crashing into a recliner at the end of the day so you can then “relax.” In actuality, the ideal state of being seems to be something closer to both alert AND relaxed.
At least this was certainly my opinion by the end of the massage. I felt both energized and blissfully tranquil, and at that moment I couldn’t imagine a more pleasant state of being. Nor have I discovered one since.
Practitioners of ayurveda actually recommend a daily abhyanga massage as part of your morning ritual. Don’t I wish! If anyone out there happens to have access to a personal masseuse, I highly recommend following this advice. (You can actually perform the technique yourself, but I somehow doubt my skills would compare to the therapists at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub.) For those who can’t enjoy a daily indulgence, I suggest treating yourselves to an abhyanga massage at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub on your next voyage with Oceania Cruises!