As Blogger-at-Large, I’ve enjoyed many wonderful travels with Oceania Cruises. Every sailing promises new and exciting experiences, from exploring exotic destinations to tasting delicious wine and cuisine to learning watercolor techniques in the Artist Loft. I embrace every opportunity to see the world and try new things, but I have to admit, I was a bit tentative about the new experience that awaited me in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub yesterday.

For those of you who have tried acupuncture, I’m sure you’re familiar with its benefits. But I had never tried it before, and when the treatment was suggested, I admit I was a little nervous about — well, to call a spade a spade — having needles stuck in my back. This didn’t seem like a service I would request as part of a dream vacation. It seemed more like a procedure I would conjure up in a nightmare after a stressful day at work.

However, part of my role as Blogger-at-Large is to experience everything that Oceania Cruises has to offer and share with you all of the fantastic options available. Neither Oceania Cruises nor the Canyon Ranch SpaClub has ever steered me wrong, so I decided to go for it. The SpaClub offered a treatment that combined acupuncture and massage, and since I had agreed to try the former, I decided I deserved the latter.

I arrived early for my appointment so I could relax on the SpaClub’s Private Spa Terrace and spend some time in the steam room. Once my muscles were warm and loose, I went to the Relaxation Room (pictured below) for some quiet time. Soon Dr. Ashish (pictured above center) arrived to take me to the treatment room.

Relaxation Room

Dr. Ashish hailed from India and studied at the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences in Bangalore. He asked if I’d had acupuncture before, and when I replied that I hadn’t, he happily provided me with some history on the practice. Acupuncture originated in China about 5,000 years ago, and it would seem that any health regimen in practice for that long must have significant benefits. While acupuncture is often used to treat chronic pain, I fortunately do not have that problem, but Dr. Ashish informed me that acupuncture has many benefits beyond the treatment of pain. It has also been shown to boost the immune system, relieve tension, reduce anxiety, and promote general well-being.

The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture was based around restoring balance to the chi, the life force of energy that flows throughout the body. But as acupuncture evolved and came to be practiced internationally, those who didn’t necessarily subscribe to the concept of chi discovered other physiological explanations for the efficacy of acupuncture. Dr. Ashish explained that the needles stimulate the nerves and send messages to the brain. The needles are interpreted as an attack on the body, so the pituitary gland releases endorphins to combat the threat. Endorphins are secreted in response to stimuli such as exercise, pain and even the consumption of spicy food, and they are responsible for sedation, relaxation, stress and pain management, and an overall sense of well-being.

Dr. Ashish went on to explain how acupuncture can also interrupt pain messages to the brain and with ongoing treatment can help the brain adapt and interpret these messages differently. But by this time I have to admit I was losing focus on the details that Dr. Ashish was sharing. All the signals in the room had indicated to my brain that I was about to receive a relaxing massage – the soft, tranquil music, the low lighting, the warm massage table – and needles or not, my body had decided to relax.

It was about this time that Dr. Ashish touched the top of my head, and a moment later I thought, could that have been a — no, surely not. Dr. Ashish asked, “Did you feel that?” He had already inserted the first needle, and I had barely noticed.

He continued with a few more needles on my back, legs and feet, gently inserting them at the appropriate sensitive points. I felt some more than others, but nothing I felt could be characterized as pain. And when he was finished, I had a very pleasant, warm, fuzzy feeling throughout my body, one I would best describe as a sense of relaxation and overall well-being, just as advertised. I have to admit that having needles stuck in my back (by a well-trained professional) was actually a very pleasant experience and one that I would definitely consider repeating.

Following the acupuncture, Dr. Ashish performed a vigorous full-body massage, and his specialized training was evident as he immediately recognized and addressed all the points where I carry tension. The grand finale was the Revitalizing Foot Treatment. This is one of the enhancements that can be added on to a massage, and I highly recommend it. After a gentle exfoliation, Dr. Ashish administered a focused massage of my feet and toes, followed by an application of peppermint and tea tree foot balm that left my calves and feet pleasantly tingling and highly energized. It was the perfect treatment after a day spent hiking to The Baths and scrambling amongst the boulders on the beautiful beaches of Virgin Gorda.

The only thing I dislike about a great massage is that it must inevitably come to an end. There is always that bittersweet moment as you savor the sense of exquisite relaxation while trying to cope with the fact that the experience is over. I can tell you this is much easier to deal with when you have a fantastic dinner onboard Marina to follow it up. And it wasn’t until I had returned to my stateroom and dressed for dinner that I realized the full benefits of the acupuncture. Unlike other massages that had nearly put me into a coma, this treatment left me feeling revitalized and invigorated. I was relaxed, but also wide awake, refreshed and ready to enjoy a fabulous evening. And best of all, I had another wonderful wellness experience in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub to add to my long list of favorites.

If you have a favorite treatment that you’ve enjoyed in the Canyon Ranch SpaClub, please share your experience with us here on the blog. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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