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Treat me right: Synaesthesia massage at Lush Spa

Lie back and think of southern England

Written by . Published on February 14th 2013.


Treat me right: Synaesthesia massage at Lush Spa
 

How much? £125.

How long? 1 hour 20 minutes

Who is it good for? Nature lovers, spiritual types, chill seekers.

The setting
The sweet call of the lark, ethereal music that you will hear nowhere else on Earth, the scent of calming tea in a cottage kitchen....

This is not Wordsworth, circa 1800, but Whitechapel, Liverpool, 2013. 

And at the heart has sprung an idyll - a world apart from the street that is home of the incessant beat of trance music and the hypnotic whiff of the Lobster Pot. 

The Lush Spa has arrived, one of only six in the UK. This is Lush with all the heady essences of fresh and natural cosmetics you've come to love, but with tinkly bells on. 

Lush Spa Liverpool %283%29

A Lush with a kind of hush...
Up on the first floor, bleached wooden shutters banish the clamour of the world and invite you to relax at the table of a kitchen made of dark reclaimed timber. There are nature books and shelves of potions that would not look out of place in a witch's croft. Off to the side are three treatment rooms, one with two beds for friends or family members and a huge sunken bath in another. 

This is as far away from the stereotypical Scousewife's idea of a good time as you can get. Think Dorset hippiness and happiness, rather than a screeching seagull with a Greggs pasty in its beak. 

Lush Spa Liverpool %2821%29 

The claim
Mark Constantine, Lush MD, has scent-shape synaesthesia. Thus he perceives everything he smells as having a definite shape. 

He wanted to create an experience that would relax people enough to allow their subconscious to be open to a little influence. So he commissioned music by Simon Emmerson of The Imagined Village, who, coincidentally, has sound-colour synaesthesia too. Working with behavioural therapist Lady Helen Kennedy, the team created a mood-changing massage which works with all your senses. 

“The massage movements are choreographed to the music so you will be the centre of a physical ballet,” says the blurb. The music has been recorded with English birdsong woven into the tunes and is played at a sound level that insists on being felt by the body. The oils (scent), the music (sound), the massage (touch), the colours in the room (sight) all combine to create your chosen state of mind. The result - the curious merging of the imagination. The idea is to influence your subconscious a little to change your behaviour.

Lush Spa Liverpool %2814%29More Robert Palmer
than Patsy Palmer
The reality

You are warmly greeted by one of the three therapists who are all are from spas locally and have been re-programmed "The Lush Way", having trained for months at the company's HQ in Poole, and in Leeds. Attired in identical black shift dresses, think Robert Palmer rather than Patsy Palmer.

You take a seat at the handsome table. The room is based on Constantine's own kitchen. 

Your gaze is drawn to a huge blackboard. Across it is scrawled: "Would you like to have AMBITION or ESTEEM, be UNINHIBITED, to develop your SENSE OF HUMOUR..." it shouts ..."Enjoy a MIND CLEANSER or RELAX, be ENERGISED, have more PERSPECTIVE, be ENLIGHTENED or just AT PEACE?"

Pick a word, any word. 

OK, "Ambition." 

Now pick two bottles. 

Out of around 20, you are drawn to two, labelled “Focus” and “Take Charge”, which are, coincidentally, the very oils that make up “Ambition”. So you're getting a double dose. By the end of this you will be as iron as Mrs Thatcher, but lovely. 

An oval, toffee-coloured bar is produced embossed with the word Ambition. It gives off a powerful, spicy, indefinable aroma. Aniseed? It is a solid massage oil that melts at body temperature. Lest we forget why we are here, our therapist hands us a small slate and some chalk. "Ambition," she says. “Write it down." 

Lush Spa Liverpool %286%29
In the therapy room...
Dry ice with a divine essence fills the dimly lit space. Your eyes adjust and you notice a small bell by the side of a bed, upon which rest possibly the heaviest towels you have ever encountered. Ring the bell when you are ready.

And so it begins. A full body massage with your oils, a choice of a stomach massage or hot stones there to balance the aura. Picking the latter, you close your eyes. The Imagined Village crescendo builds from thrushes at dawn to blackbirds at dusk and tawny owls in the dead of night and back again. The massage starts at the head and because the focus is on “Ambition” legs get special attention, the idea being that they will give you drive and turbo charge you forward. Okay.... 

All the time, your mind wanders and wonders. Eighty surreal minutes it is at an end. Left alone to come to, a delicious infusion of tea, a special “Ambition” blend, awaits you back in the quiet kitchen.

Right now, all is as well with the world as it can possibly be - without actually owning a VW Campervan. 

Lush Spa Liverpool %2811%29
Does it work?

Driven? Fearless? What?
You rumble back out into daylight Whitechapel like the Zen daughter of Tank Girl and Bill Oddie.

Verdict
Sensual and spiritual... I can't believe it's not Buddha. 

To book
Lush Spa, 9-11 Whitechapel, L1 6DS. 0151 236 6952

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