I always get a slightly panicky feeling once the glitter-spangled, stuffing-scented fog of Christmas has cleared to reveal the menacing glint of a new year up ahead. What adventures – or disasters – will the next 12 months bring? And what resolutions should I make – to, let’s face it, break by mid-February or so?
This year, I have decided not to join the men and women across the country who have nobly committed to learning Mandarin Chinese, quitting fags or finally learning to play that classical guitar. Instead, I’m going to take the lazy way out and merely aim for an adjective: and that adjective is “calm”.
Calm means that this year there will be no problems, only “challenges” – and I am banned from muttering expletives under my breath at the obstinate individual who won’t move down the Tube carriage during rush hour.
It also means I am going to be more adventurous when it comes to spa treatments, and explore calm-tastic alternative therapies, instead of sticking to my comfort zone of massages and facials.
Grayshott – a cutting-edge Surrey health spa set in a creeper-clad country house that once belonged to Alfred, Lord Tennyson – is the perfect place to embark on such a mission. From an ancient treatment that uses beeswax candles to relieve stress-induced migraines (Hopi ear candling) to floating one’s troubles away in a soft membrane of air (dry flotation) and neuro-linguistic programming to manage anxiety, the therapies on offer suggest this is a serious luxury spa hotel, rather than a luxury hotel with a spa.
This I discovered like a punch in the face during my Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) session with therapist Gill Crane. Also known as “tapping”, it involved sitting in a darkened room while Gill tapped on my collarbone (one of the “end points of the body’s energy meridians”, which are also targeted in acupuncture). While doing so, she urged me to relive the memory of my last stressful situation in savagely vivid detail.
There is no proven effect of this other than as a placebo, but the idea is that people can train themselves to tap their end points during stressful situations to quash self-destructive knee-jerk reactions to pressure – whether that is shouting at your partner or reaching for that bar of chocolate. At first I found the session awkward, and the tapping slightly invasive, even. But soon I felt weirdly calm, as though a safety valve of building pressure had been twisted open somewhere in my veins.
“Tapping on the right parts of the body can have a powerfully calming effect on people,” Gill explained afterwards. “What we do in here, raking up old memories, is like the dress rehearsal, so that when people are faced with problems in real life, they can tap themselves and instantly feel calmer.”
I would advise mixing up anything as mentally intense as EFT with more, ahem, traditionally relaxing therapies to get the most out of a trip to Grayshott. I opted for a spot of cranial therapy, a subtle but intensely relaxing touch treatment which involves lightly holding the skull, as well as a deep tissue massage. These techniques, combined with generous hours spent circuiting the sauna, steam room and spa pool, left me feeling as light as the wisp of a peacock’s feather.
There is something deeply unusual about the ambience at Grayshott, considering it’s a spa hotel – though it’s hard to put one’s finger on it immediately. The place seems bathed in a resplendent seriousness, rather than feeling sterile. Meal times, featuring wholesome, spirited dishes such as mushroom, truffle and tarragon soup, and vegetable coconut Thai curry with haricot beans and papaya, are taken in the sun-dappled, nourishingly silent dining room lined with Venetian mirrors.
Free time can be spent watching the manor’s lake shift between colours with the day from your bedroom balcony (the Manor Suites with four-poster beds are the best of the lot); sipping complimentary herbal tea in one of the sumptuous period public rooms, with their original brick fireplaces and art deco, wood-carved walls; or roaming the gardens knotted with roses bushes and wisteria.
And my EFT? Well, I’m trying to stick with it – though I fear that bashing on my collarbone when someone drives their trolley over my foot in the cereal aisle might look a wee bit aggressive. When things get a bit much, I have taken, instead, to discreetly tapping on my wrist and relaying my new year’s resolution in my head: calmness. Two weeks down, just over 11 months to go … Let’s hope I can stick to it.
Doubles cost from £275 including all meals and a massage. Healthy Stay top-ups, which include three additional treatments, from £140.
Read the full review: Grayshott Health Spa
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