What makes a great massage experience varies from person to person and gender to gender. There are the general expectations such as timeliness, cleanliness, and friendly personality but what really makes you leave saying, “I feel great. That was well worth the price…”? This morning, Darren and I both had massages at The Sanctuary Spa, Kiawah Island Golf Resort. We spent the rest of the day discussing our unbelievably awesome experiences and I noticed several differences. Here’s a first-hand perspective from both male and female viewpoints. Do the differences go deeper than gender? You can be the judge.
The Female Perspective
I arrived for my appointment at 9 am. The friendly staff showed my to the changing area and didn’t assume that I knew how to use the lockers. Not only did she say how to do it, but she actually walked me through the steps. (Not in a condescending way, but detailed.) I’ve been to a number of spas in countries all over the world, but I’d still prefer the staff didn’t make assumptions. I remember the first time I used a locker at a spa and they didn’t tell me what to do. I had to ask one of the other guests who rolled her eyes at me before explaining how it worked. I was embarrassed before I even took my clothes off. Thankfully, the staff at The Sanctuary Spa were helpful and encouraging.
Since I was 30 minutes early, I walked around the women’s locker area. There was a pool with a relaxing waterfall and two sauna areas. Separate bathrooms and shower areas flanked the changing room. I wandered into the first area and noticed several body lotions with soothing smells. I tried the vanilla and coconut. Both were lightly scented and creamy. In the other shower/bathroom area there were sinks with face creams. Normally, I don’t bother trying them but I couldn’t help myself; I wanted to know what it was like. I rinsed my face, applied the cream, and washed it off. It didn’t make my skin feel oily or dry. It felt clean and fresh. I felt a little bit like a child in a candy store with the option to test anything he or she wanted. I even smelled the shampoo and conditioner before heading to the waiting area. I smiled when I walked out the door thinking about all of the other women who had a similar experience, testing the products and reveling in the delighted senses.
In the waiting area, that was both quiet and comfortable, there were about 12 different magazine choices. I read one about organic spas and found a spa in Virginia that I’d like to visit. At 8:58 am, my masseuse, Heather, walked in to get me. Two minutes before my scheduled time was a good sign.
She showed me to the room and explained where I could put the robe and what way to lay on the table. She explained what was involved in the 60 minute Signature Massage, a unique experience using heated, grain-and-herb filled wraps that are placed on key tension areas and major muscle groups to induce deep relaxation and increase the therapeutic benefits of the therapist’s massage strokes, and asked what type of pressure I’d like for her to use. We decided on a light to medium pressure. She also pointed out a place where I could put my jewelry and casually suggested that I take the elastic out of my hair. She offered to get me a drink before leaving the room and allowing me to derobe. I had only been with her for under five minutes and I could easily detect her professional manner.
When she returned, she offered me a choice of refreshing scents that were placed next to my face during the massage. While resting comfortably on the table, she began. Normally, I don’t truly enjoy messages. I ask for light to medium pressure but I end up leaving feeling more tense and sore. I don’t want to feel like someone is hitting me with a 2×4 or purposely trying to hurt me. This experience was different. It felt great, even on my back. My last massage included conversations such as, “OK. That’s too much” and “Do we need a safe word?” but this time I melted into the table and my tension followed along.
Heather followed my lead in terms of how much talk occurred during the session. A typical spa experience for me includes very little talking but I had longed for adult conversation since my last two weeks were mostly spent at home with my 20 month old daughter. I chatted away and she responded with enthusiasm.
It’s now 12 hours later and I’m still feeling fantastic. My body and mind are rejuvenated. Perfect pressure, soothing music and scents, adult conversation, and relaxing surroundings all came together for the best spa experience.
The Male Perspective
Since I work at a computer all day, I get very stiff and have tight muscles, especially in my back and hamstrings. This can lead to the odd headache and back ache especially when combined with bad posture. A deep tissue massage is just what the doctor ordered.
The Sanctuary Spa at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is staffed with very warm and professional people who go above and beyond to ensure you are enjoying your time with them. I was quickly checked in, provided a fresh cup of water, and given a tour of the spa. Fresh and warm robe and slippers were provided which made for a great start to a much-needed relaxing experience.
The men’s room had everything you would need from home, including shampoo, soap, shaving cream, and mouth wash. A massage session also gave me all-day access to private showers, steam room, sauna, and pool if I were so inclined.
Since I was a couple minutes early, I ventured into the co-ed waiting area where snacks, drinks, loungers, and some reading material were all made available. I noticed a collection of special herbal teas on display and decided I’d try one out whose name sounded fitting enough: “Soothe”. It was some of the best tea I ever drank and I have full intentions on purchasing some when I get home. It certainly hit the spot and allowed me to relax even further as I read the latest Men’s Journal.
Right on schedule, Missy arrived and led me into the massage area of the spa. She was very pleasant and calming and asked me about any muscle issues I might have or areas I’d like her to focus on. I explained what I do for a living and that I do have back and neck pain from time to time.
Missy, with her 15 years experience, knew just what areas to focus on for my hour-long session. She asked me what amount of massage pressure am I comfortable with and provided just the right amount of lower back support in order for me to completely relax. Since it’s been a couple years since I’ve had a massage, my muscles were very tight throughout. I wasn’t so much interested in the serene, calming experience as I was in ridding myself of neck and back pain and Missy delivered. She had to use all of her strength and leverage in order to get to the sources of my aches yet she was able to do so.
Not only did Missy help with many back and neck aches, she also gave me a few tips and exercises I could do at home which would really help. I’ll be reaping the benefits of that hour-long massage for months to come.
What we wanted from the spa experience varied with different issues and pressure preferences but overall we both wanted the same thing…. a masseuse who explained the process and listened to our wants and needs. They are like bartenders following the lead of their clients and providing a tuned service. When you get your hair cut, the stylist asks you what you’d like and then he or she tries to mirror that request. A massage experience should be similar; clearly preferences vary. What shouldn’t vary, though, is the soothing, relaxing, rejuvenating environment. The transition to relaxation and renewal began in the tranquil setting of The Sanctuary Spa.