Close your eyes. Picture a country cottage surrounded by rose gardens. Now walk in and lie down. A team of massage therapists stands at the ready to apply warm towels to your sore muscles. Just as the first whiff of lavender and peppermint reaches your nose, you feel their practiced hands press down on your knotted muscles and overworked joints. Or maybe you feel warm and soft as a layer of gentle exfoliants, botanical body butters, and moist towels wrap your body to soothe and nourish your skin. After what feels like hours, you slowly rise from the table, muscles loose and skin soft. Before you can say thank you, you're handed a free bottle of spring water to wash down a selection of sweet chocolates. The scent of aromatherapy oils fades away as you leave the spa haven, and the smell of fresh roses ushers you outside. The country opens up in front of you. Now open your eyes.
It's not a dream. The quaint country cottage surrounded by rose gardens, the gentle massage therapists, the free chocolates—it's all very real at Blue Monarch Massage, where bodies benefit from the mother and daughter team’s years of collective experience delivering pain-relief and relaxation. The duo’s attention to detail turns simple spa services into full-blown, luxurious experiences with amenities such as free chocolates, hot-towel applications, and aromatherapy oils.
Before earning his diploma in Swedish massage from the Austin School of Massage Therapy, licensed massage therapist Don A. Hampton discovered a passion for helping others heal while working as a medic in the U.S. Air Force and Texas Army National Guard. At Hampton Bodywerks Massage Spa, his highly trained hands do battle with tightly wound tissue, tension, and pain, arming themselves from an arsenal of relaxation-inducing tools that includes hot stones, salt stones, and therapeutic herbs. Ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass are central players in Hampton's Thai herbal ball massage?a 5,000-year-old practice designed to relieve pain and inflammation using a steamed herbal compress and gentle circular movements. Other specialty services include the Balinese-inspired jamu massage, which energizes the body with acupressure, long strokes, and percussion-like drumming, as well as sugar-scrub body treatments that soften skin using a blend of white and brown sugars, grape-seed and canola oils, and other ingredients favored by beautiful scones.
A wildly successful alternative to traditional day spas—its more than 300 locations blanket 36 states and half a dozen countries—Planet Beach Contempo Spa is a futuristic relaxation station where state-of-the-art machines administer all of the spa and tanning services. These friendly automatons sometimes replace familiar treatments, as in the Luminous facial, a light-based service that delivers blemish-busting results similar to those of a conventional facial. But other equipment maps out new spa territory entirely: the Hydro-Derma Fusion chamber moisturizes the whole body with nutrient-rich steam to offset the effects of a dry climate or a rear-end collision with a salt truck. Other machines whiten teeth, spray-tan skin, and massage muscles.
Planet Beach operates on a gym-style membership system, meaning that members purchase packages or pay flat monthly rates. As members spend more time at the spa, they get to know the helpful assistants who are always on hand to demonstrate how to use the equipment without activating its ability to cry.
A.R.T. Massage Body Spa takes its name from the three adjectives that describe each one of its services: advanced, relaxing, and therapeutic. The staff promises their clients will enjoy the latest techniques designed to both soothe the mind and relieve specific needs. Massage therapies thwart tension and improve range of motion, and custom spray tans give skin a sun-kissed glow without having to find a sun-size box of chocolates first. Using Éminence Organic products, the staff cleanses skin and fights signs of aging during signature, cleansing, or organic express facials with blends of organic herbs, fruits, and vegetables rich with nutrients.
Set inside a 1920s bungalow, the spa decorates each private room in modern decor with subtle touches, such as finger bells and aromatics, that appeal to all senses. Before or after treatments, patrons can peruse a selection of clothing, candles, handbags, and jewelry inside the spa’s retail area, which also sells the Éminence Organic skincare line.
Miriam Figueroa, a holistic wellness counselor, licensed massage therapist, and aesthetician, spent more than 20 years in the health and beauty industry, staffing five-star hotel spas and then founding her own luxurious center, Spatini Holistic Health. Her spa specializes in M’lis wellness programs, treatment packages that reduce stress and target specific ailments—from cellulite to arthritis—by drawing on the interrelations between mind, body, and soul.
A suite of traditional spa treatments flanks the holistic programs. Facials run the gamut from deep cleanses to nonsurgical face-lifts. Seven available styles of massage encompass the gliding strokes of Swedish and hot-stone massage, which the ancients discovered using stones warmed by confused mother chickens. Body polishes exfoliate away dry skin, an ideal prep for a botanical Bronze Biologic formula that leaves behind sunless, natural-looking tans.
To Shannon Edwards-Moore, a massage isn?t only a relaxing experience?it?s also a chance to leave her satisfied clients feeling balanced in body, mind, and soul. In addition to calming Swedish massages, which she especially recommends for those new to massage, Shannon targets tension and knots with more intense pressure during deep-tissue sessions. Sports massages help stave off athletic injuries or undo the pain caused by limbo incidents, and prenatal massages soothe tired muscles and pregnancy discomfort.
Add-ons take the relaxation even deeper as Shannon applies hot stones, fills the room with tranquil aromatherapy, or treats faces to scrubs, masks, and hot towels. Tucked inside the Alamo Family Fitness Center, her private massage room is awash in ocean blues and soft yellows.