Heard about the tuning fork facial It sounds bonkers . . . but it works
22:31 GMT, 10 June 2012
From luxurious and indulgent to plain weird and wacky, my pursuit of relaxation and well-being has led me to try all manner of therapies with varying levels of success.
My worst experience by far, and one that had me questioning my own sanity, came when I allowed a heavily built Russian woman to hose me down with ice-cold water and then beat me with birch twigs. It was meant to get rid of cellulite, but the only thing I ended up losing was 80 and my dignity.
So when I was asked to try a new 65 therapy called a Sound Bath, involving feathers and tuning forks, there was a part of me that thought: ‘Here we go again.’
Claudia Connell with therapist Holly at Lush in Chelsea
It may sound like listening to the radio while soaking in the tub, but the Sound Bath, which is exclusive to Lush spas, is nothing of the sort. It has been designed to induce a state of deep relaxation and to clear your mind of stress and intrusive thoughts. As somebody who can never switch off, it sounds just what I need.
The belief is that being in a chilled-out state and listening to especially chosen sounds and vibrations around you will release old angers and fears and enable you to embrace new challenges with enthusiasm and positivity.
When I arrive at Lush’s spa in Chelsea, West London, I am greeted by therapist Holly Jaques who, to my enormous relief, doesn’t talk to me in that creepy, whispery, sing-song voice that spa workers are prone to use.
She brings me a wooden ‘wonder box’, which I am instructed to open. As I do so I’m startled as a puff of dry ice-induced smoke appears and I spot a chocolate mushroom and an apple infusion in a bottle labelled ‘drink me’.
Done to set the scene and create an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue, it’s all very Alice in Wonderland, and I half expect Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee to appear. Instead, I am led through to the therapy room and told to lie on the treatment bed.
Incense is burned and Holly waves dry ice over me with a white feather to encourage bad thoughts to waft away. It’s all over quickly, which is just as well as I’m trying hard not to giggle. It reminds me of being in my gran’s living room as she puffed on one of her 60-a-day ciggies. Thankfully, the smoke quickly disperses.
Scientists have found listening to 20 minutes
of classical music can reduce stress by half
My face is spritzed with jojoba oil, and volcanic hot stones are then placed on my cheeks and forehead and used to massage me. I’m not the biggest fan of facials, they just seem to be an hour of a therapist slapping cream on and then taking it off again, but I’m rather enjoying having oil rubbed in with hot stones. It’s an unusual sensation, but strangely relaxing.
In the background an ‘outdoor’ soundtrack is playing. I can hear birds chirping, rain falling, a breeze blowing and . . . a bluebottle buzzing. Why have they included that I hate the wretched things.
N ext it’s time for the scary-sounding ‘tuning forks’. I half imagine musical pitch forks that I am to be poked and prodded with but they’re actually specially shaped pieces of metal that make different-pitched sounds when struck.
Holly hits the forks and places them either close to my ears or directly on my skin to feel the vibrations. The aim here is that the tuneful sounds will clear my mind of annoying chatter and help me focus.
They sound a little bit like a xylophone, and once you’ve thrown chimes, wooden blocks and hand bells, which Holly also strikes, into the equation, it does start to feel like I’m in the middle of a primary school concert. But after a while I do find my mind clearing and my thoughts less busy.
In order to make sure I can experience the Sound Bath at the optimum level, an ‘ear candle’ treatment is included. I’m not sure I like the idea of a lit candle being placed into my ear canal. What if I get burnt The reality, though, is surprisingly gentle and soothing.
The candle is made of vegetable wax and disintegrates rather than melts, so you’re not trying to dig lumps of candle out of your head in the days that follow.
I have to admit that my hearing is immediately invigorated — but that has its drawbacks. For me, one of the worst parts of a spa treatment is the awful new-age music they insist on playing. I don’t want to listen to whales mating while I’m being pampered.
What not to hear during a beauty treatment: Sinead OConnor
However, half way through my Sound Bath, the CD is changed to music with more of a folksy and Celtic feel. Imagine Sinead O’Connor doing a duet with a morris dancer and you’ll get the idea. The songs are beautiful, but they’ve been cranked up to a high level. With my new bionic hearing it’s not conducive to relaxation.
In the final stages of the treatment, Holly produces a huge bamboo stick, a bit like an Australian didgeridoo, and for one, terrified, split second I wonder if she is planning to beat me with it.
Thankfully she simply shakes the stick, filled with dried rice, several inches above my body as the sound of waterfalls is played. I love the sound of running water but it always brings with it a sudden need to visit the loo.
Looking at the clock I see that we have ten minutes to go and pray that my bladder holds out. In the final stages of the treatment icy cold marble stones are placed on my face to re-awaken me and I’m given a stimulating ten-minute head and neck massage.
Unlike other treatments that promise you an hour but, after all the form-filling, only give you 45 minutes, the Lush Sound Bath is a full one-hour-plus treatment.
As I head home I’m not really sure what to make of it all. Is it weird Absolutely. For those who like traditional spa treatments I would say the Sound Bath is probably not for them.
Personally, I feel weirdly spaced-out and detached. Instead of a planned shopping trip I decide instead to head home and relax on the sofa. That night I sleep like a log for the first time in weeks.
According to the literature I should have left feeling ‘relaxed, revitalised, balanced with sharper hearing and greater mental clarity’.
For the most part I would say that’s true, and even if it wasn’t, it was still worth it to experience one of the most truly bizarre therapies I’ve ever come across. And it certainly beat being whipped with birch twigs by Olga.
The Lush Sound Bath is available at their spas in London, Poole, Leeds and Kingston-Upon-Thames (lush.co.uk)