Friday, 8 June 2012

Treatment Review: Hydrotherm massage with Ben Barnett

On a sunny afternoon last month I made my way down Regent Street to Steven Carey Hair Design, not for a trim, but to meet massage therapist Ben Barnett. Ben is an internationally experienced therapist, as well as a reiki master, auricular acupuncturist and all-round feel-good expert.

His specialty is hydrotherm massage - this is a method where the client lies on their back on a water-filled cushion not unlike a gigantic hot water bottle, and the massage therapist slides their arms underneath to provide a full-body massage. It's very popular with those who aren't suited to the conventional face-down massage (where your face is positioned over a circular opening in the table itself) either through injury, pregnancy, or personal preference.



Ben combines the hydrotherm massage with guided meditation to provide an intense double hit of relaxation (not that he would call it that - he's as calm and peaceful in demeanour as you'd expect a massage therapist to be). At the outset of the session, he discusses the client's aims and concerns, and in particular how they'd like to feel on leaving the session - for example energised, calmed, or inspired. The guided meditation is then tailored to create the desired mood. Ben records the sessions so that the client can then take their own personalised meditation CD home for future use.

For my session, I asked to feel comforted and reassured. Ben worked from my feet upwards, using a beautiful aromatic oil blend (from Aesop - great taste) to massage me into a soporific state. According to Ben's understanding, each part of the body is related to an element of life and experience. For example, the legs are to do with patience (or impatience), and the stomach and thighs are where we absorb trauma, either our own or other people's. The information Ben picked up from my body was fed into the content of the guided meditation, allowing him to tailor it more specifically to me.

Ben in action
The experience of the hydrotherm massage is very different to the face-down version. Rather than pressing down on the back and compressing the heart and lungs, Ben was able to work from underneath my back, lifting me so that the weight of my body created the necessary pressure. It's much easier to breathe deeply on your back, and deep, slow breaths add to the relaxation element.

By the end of the session I felt profoundly different to when I arrived. I didn't take in everything that was said in the guided meditation - much of it washed over me as I zoned out into relaxation. I didn't worry about this as I knew I'd have the CD to listen to afterwards and wouldn't miss anything. It was quite emotional - I teared up once or twice - but overwhelmingly a positive experience.

If you fancy trying something that goes beyond the standard massage experience, visit Ben's website and get in touch with him to find out more.

Disclosure - treatment provided free for purposes of review

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