I’ve always thought the English seaside is better out of season. No crowds, easy to park, wild seas, breezy (OK, gale-force) walks on the shore. It’s a therapy in itself. If you want a bit more, though, in the therapy line, there’s a little jewel box of a day spa in Brighton – Uniquely Organic Eco Spa. Jewel box? It starts with the colours. The rooms are golden, emerald, amethyst; giant Buddhas smile benevolently; and Indian bedspreads cover the walls. The therapists wear brightly coloured harem trousers and tread the wooden boards in bare feet. Incense wafts through the air.
My first surprise comes in reception – ruby red – where I fill in not just the usual questionnaire about ailments but a chakra version too. Kirsty Kianifard, who created Uniquely Organic, has a very particular vision combining her intuitive side with energy work at its core (she’s a Reiki master incidentally) and her training in cosmetic science. While this is in no way a conventionally ayurvedic Indian spa, she has harnessed different elements to create a series of treatments she has called Chakrosanct.
Chakrosanct is UO’s signature treatment and will be my first today (it will blend seamlessly into a facial). To work out which of the seven chakras to choose, the questionnaire asks such seemingly random questions as: do you often stand with your arms crossed? do you get cold easily? are you a daydreamer? are you a good listener? Finally, you choose your favourite from several colours. I was torn between the sunshine yellow (solar plexus chakra) and sky blue (throat chakra). Having analysed my answers, my therapist Charlotte had no hesitation. It was the Sacral Chakrosanct (Svadhisthana) for me. This involved a lot of back massage – perfect as far as I was concerned and in fact the one I’d intended to ask for.
When I say analysed my answers, this is not really what goes on here. It’s much more intuitive than that. Charlotte explains that the sacral chakra is the seat of the emotions and closely linked to the throat chakra (that sky blue one that appealed to me). By working on the energy of the sacral chakra, you release the blockages (physical, emotional, spiritual) and let them go. Maybe you even talk about them, given the throat is about communication and, not unreasonably, the voice.
All this may sound a far cry from your usual massage and you’d be right. It might even make you feel a bit nervous. This was why Kirsty came up with the idea of the Charkosanct as a kind of halfway house between conventional massage and energy work. So, what happens?
It starts with a foot washing ceremony while I sit in a chair. Then the lights are lowered and I climb on to something that resembles a bed more than a massage table. I’m even covered with a duvet. Candlelight flickers, it’s warm and cosy – I’m in definite danger of drifting off…
Charlotte uses a combination of different styles of massage including Thai (thumps on the soles of the feet and cat-like tread up the legs), Reiki and reflexology. There’s a lot of work on the back which is exfoliated and moisturised as well as massaged with exactly the same products as are used later in the facial. Charlotte observes that the skin on my back is dry and doesn’t get much love. It’s certainly getting some now. There are long, slow, ever-changing strokes, circles and stretching, pressure points and stones or, in fact, one stone, a tiny Cornelian gemstone that I am given at the end to put in my pocket as close as possible to the sacrum. It takes an hour and a quarter and is bliss.
The other Chakrosancts include some of the same methods but each has its own special touches. The root chakra (Muladhara) includes lymphatic massage and is invigorating and deep. Manipura (Solar Plexus chakra) uses hot stones while the Visuddha (Throat chakra) uses sound vibrations and singing bowls. Some people start at the beginning (Root) and work their way over time to the Crown (Sahasrara) which, Kirsty explains is “closest to Reiki. When I treat people,” she continues, “I work on two levels, physical and energetic. Each of the seven chakras has its own oil and massage and these are the most popular treatments we do. The results have been incredible and people can take years to work their way gradually from beginning to end.”
The other side of Kirsty’s background in cosmetic science comes to the fore in the facial which uses products from Pinks Boutique, a company specialising in beauty using only natural and organic ingredients. So, no petro-chemicals, no synthetic fragrances, no GM, no animal-derived products and none of the chemicals prevalent in most brands (including, Kirsty says, having analysed them in the lab, even the most expensive). “You really wouldn’t want to put this stuff in your mouth, so why would you want to put them on your skin?” asks Kirsty reasonably enough.
It’s not the only reason this is an unusual facial. Forget the usual cleansing and toning and mask formula, this is one unbelievably long face and scalp massage that reaches down to the throat and the shoulders and the upper back. Hot damp flannels remove one product before the next is applied and the massage begins again. I have only one word of warning. Whatever state your hair is in when you arrive, it will look like a haystack when you leave. It is worth it.
After all this you’re left with some herbal tea in the meditation pod where you can sit on a bean bag in subdued lighting that changes through the chakra colours. There are headphones and an iPod and a choice of meditation tapes. Relax for as long as you like.
Uniquely Organic EcoSpa. 40 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2FN. 01273 726973. For more information, visit www.uoecospa.com.