Here's a resolution you'll want to keep. Treating yourself to a luxurious massage, facial, or body treatment, or simply lounging in a spa for the day, can do wonders to rejuvenate body and soul. For the ultimate San Francisco spa experience, start at the top -- book into the Nob Hill Spa at the Huntington Hotel, and choose from more than 30 restorative treatments like the Bali Ginger Spice Scrub, the Green Tea Facial, or the ScenTao Hot Stone Aromatherapy Massage. Or greet the new day with a morning Ener-Chi class, a fusion of chi kung, yoga, and Pilates, then linger by the infinity pool in the enclosed two-story atrium that overlooks the city while you sip ginger iced tea. After a eucalyptus steam you're ready to contemplate the spa menu, featuring dim sum delicacies like shiitake mushroom shiu mai or ginger chicken pot stickers.
The acupressure facial at Sunset Sauna & Massage is a worthwhile indulgence. First your face is swathed in hot calendula and peppermint-scented towels, then your skin is lightly spritzed with rosewater, and for the next hour the aesthetician stimulates acu-points on your face, neck, and shoulders, releasing tensions you didn't realize you had. Other services available here include the Salt Glow scrub, kelp and aloe body wraps, and a rose petal mini-facial.
For those serious about results-oriented massage, the talented staff at The Mindful Body offers a variety of massage styles, seven days a week. To get the right massage for your needs, first brief yourself on the methods, then chose a technique that appeals to you, or ask for integrated bodywork and combine a few. Here's the lowdown on some popular techniques:
Swedish: Usually done with oil or lotion, it is comprised of long, relaxing, soothing strokes. Shiatsu: A Japanese style involving rhythmic finger pressure on specific points to release tension and stimulate circulation. Deep-tissue:As the name suggests, an intense massage that works through layers of muscle to bring relief. Sport: Targets specific muscles, reduces strain and discomfort from training, reduces chance of injury, and aids performance of athletes. Reflexology: An ancient healing art -- points on the foot that correspond to organs of the body are stimulated, and feet are often soaked in an herbal bath.
I literally floated out of BodyTonic after a 75-minute treatment that included orthobionomy massage, which involves gentle repositioning of the body to reduce tension and pain, improve circulation and promote relaxation. Other spa services available here are tradional massage techniques as well as acupressure, manual lymphatic drainage, and vibrational healing.
To experience the relaxing Japanese tradition of communal bathing, spend a few hours at the Kabuki Springs & Spa. Facilities include a hot pool, cold plunge, dry sauna, and steam room. Both Japanese-style seating bathing areas and Western-style showers are available. Added touches include complimentary bath products like sea salts and chilled cucumber facecloths, as well as refreshing teas and lemon-infused water. The springs are open to women Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday and to men on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday. Tuesday is coed, and bathing attire is required. The Kabuki also offers spa services, specializing in Japanese amma/shiatsu massage. The Nob Hill Spa at the Huntington Hotel: 1075 California (at Jones), 345-2888, www.nobhillspa.com. Sunset Sauna & Massage, 1214 20th Ave. (at Lincoln), 753-2559. The Mindful Body, 2876 California (at Divisadero), 931-2639, www.themindfulbody.com. Kabuki Springs & Spa, 1750 Geary (at Fillmore), 922.6000, www.kabuki-springs.com.
MeditationOn a rainy Monday night in December, I drove across town to Cherie's Hair Design on Judah St. to attend Nestor Perez's meditation circle. I had no idea what to expect -- I'd never "officially" meditated. Images of monks, crystals, and New-Agey priestesses fluttered through my head.
When I arrived, the salon had been transformed into a beautiful, peaceful space with fresh flowers, candles and comfortable chairs. Nestor, who is charming and quick to laugh, bears little resemblance to a monk or priestess. He offered me a slice of macrobiotic pear pie. I asked him why people should meditate.
"We meditate to gain freedom from the torments of our minds -- the expectations, fantasies, behaviors, and destructive emotions," he explained, "When we aren't fantasizing or expecting anything more, we see things as they really are. We learn to slow down and sit still, and by doing so we gain inner power, balance, and clarity."
I voiced my concerns about not being able to empty my mind of thoughts. He laughed, responding, "In meditiation we don't try to empty the mind of thoughts -- that's impossible, but we can train ourselves to accept them and flow with them, like a surfer on the waves." This made me feel better.
Asked about the benefits of meditating, Nestor explained that it helps to see things clearly and have control of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Meditation lessens the mind's tendency to misperceive, allowing us to cope with problems in a more constructive manner. On a physiological level, it can bring the brain-wave pattern into an alpha state, which is a level of consciousness that promotes healing, reduces blood pressure, and relieves pain and stress. Other advantages of meditation are improved memory, vitality, and learning ability.
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