odds and ends from a life under construction

sweet cheeks

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After a hectic few weeks (okay, months, if we’re honest) between work and working out, I decided it was time to treat myself and get a massage. I considered a few different types, from athletic-specific rub-downs to a traditional Swedish massage, but in the end, a well-timed promotional e-mail from Elixir, my favorite wellness spa here in Denver, made the decision for me.

I last visited Elixir when I was pregnant – the therapists there had lots of prenatal massage experience, so I visited them several times over the course of nine months. Every month I get their email newsletters, I get discounts each year on my birthday… but I hadn’t taken the plunge to book another massage there until this week. Elixir introduced a new series of massages called “Sweet Cheeks” to treat cellulite. Which, let’s be honest, sounds more than a little gimmicky. There are two different massages in the series, one that focuses on evening the texture and tone of skin and uses dry brushing, and one that supposedly helps firm and tighten skin and uses a technique known as cupping. I opted for the dry brushing first (although I’m considering the cupping as well). I’m not terribly concerned about my cellulite, especially since I still have weight to lose, but the experience of the massage sounded pretty interesting:

We begin with a cleansing dry brushing and foot reflexology to improve lymph function.  An alginate mask is applied to the thighs to firm and tone. While the mask sets the therapist will massage your back releasing healthy hormones into your system.   You are then cradled in a canopy of detoxifying herbal steam to tighten and smooth skin. The therapist will give you a relaxing face and scalp massage while your body steams. We finish with an application of Shrink To Fit to the thighs.  This is a rich serum cream that reduces the appearance of cellulite and restores elasticity to the skin.

One of the great things about Elixir is their customer service. From the moment you call for an appointment to the moment you walk out the door after your treatment, you feel taken care of. When I arrived for my massage, I was presented with a warm neck wrap and a cup of tea to wear and drink, respectively, as I waited for my therapist.

In the treatment room, the first thing I noticed was the canopy. I had been wondering how the body steaming would work, and the canopy suspended from the ceiling answered that question pretty quickly. My therapist looked much less murderous than this one, though.

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The first order of business was stripping down and putting on a flimsy pair of disposable underpants. I had called ahead to see what I needed to wear, and I was told that my underwear would get soaked in the steam canopy. Luckily, childbirth beat the modesty out of me. And after I’d crawled under the warm blankets on the massage table and my therapist came back in, the hands-down best massage of my life began.

I started out on my stomach, with blankets covering everything but my head. Renee, my therapist, placed a warm pad on my back and gently rubbed for a few moments before moving to my feet. She massaged a cooling lotion into each foot and wrapped the entire foot in a warm towel. Honestly, it felt like I was about to get a pedicure. At this point, I had to consciously try to avoid falling asleep.

Renee started with my right leg, removing just enough of the blanket to apply an algae mask. At no point was any more of my body exposed to her than what would be exposed by a swimsuit. The mask was warm and thick, and after she spread it over my thigh, she covered it with some sort of paper that she later used to remove the mask after it had dried. She then moved to my left leg and repeated the mask process before tucking me back under the blankets. And while she waited for the mask to set, I received the most thorough back and arm massage I’ve ever gotten. The warming pad had loosened me up a bit, and Renee was able to dig in deep with her elbows and work up and down, from side to side, to release all my desk-sitter kinks (I’m sure I’ll have bruises tomorrow).

Once the mask dried, Renee removed my now-cool foot towels, carefully peeled the mask off my legs, and dry brushed each leg from ankle to hip. She then applied a cooling lotion, what I’m guessing was the Shrink to Fit, before helping me turn over. The entire mask process was repeated on the front of my thighs, and instead of the back massage Renee attended to my calves and feet.

Between the cooling effect of the Shrink to Fit and the fact that I was pretty much naked under rapidly cooling blankets, I was starting to shiver a bit. Renee lowered the steam canopy just in time. She discreetly helped me cover my chest and bikini area with small towels, but the rest of the blankets were removed so the steam could reach as much skin surface area as possible. The spa has an assortment of herb blends to use with the steam machine, and I was hooked up with one that does something to cellulite or fat cells or… honestly I don’t know. But it smelled nice and I immediately warmed up (and my skin felt amazing afterward). While the canopy did its work, Renee focused on the uppermost part of my body with a relaxing head, neck and face massage.

Warm blankets were at the ready for the moment the steam canopy was raised, since I’d probably be freezing thanks to being covered in water droplets, and I had an additional sample of Shrink to Fit waiting on a nearby counter for me to apply before getting dressed. I also got to keep the dry brush Renee had used, and she provided me with a sheet of instructions on when and how to perform the brushing myself (I’ll probably do it post-workout, before I jump in the shower). I didn’t want to leave the treatment table – I felt too relaxed! I was ready to immediately sign up for another session, but I think I’ll wait a few weeks and then try the cupping version (Renee does both, so we can bond over the experience of having to look at my saggy nakedness). At this point, I don’t even care if my cellulite gets any better.

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