By Ariadna Bakhmatova, Wellness Spa Consultant
London is dotted with day Spas – you can find one pretty much on every high street. Yet only a handful of them offer a true wellness experience. Identifying an authentic holistic Spa in the capital that also doesn’t cost the earth, whilst offering a healing experience for your body and mind is a bit of a Sherlock Holmes task.
Having scanned the city exactly for this kind of experience I have hand-picked the top wellness Spas for you to keep in mind and try as soon as you can.
1. Antara Spa at Chelsea Health Club
I’d never imagine looking for a wellness experience in a football club. But the one in Chelsea has a fabulous Health Club with the Spa that could easily compete with some of the best players on the London wellness scene.
Antara is a boutique holistic Spa located at the Chelsea Health Club, offering a wide range of oriental therapies and western treatments. Its attractive opulent design is a well-blended mix of traditional and modern. This intimate space has six treatment rooms, each with its individual purpose, including a beautiful authentic Hammam; a Japanese-style room for couples with a traditional oversized steel hot tub; and a fully equipped Ayurveda room.
I arrived at Antara at the end of yet another busy week, seeking much-needed switch-off and relaxation, and was welcomed by one of the Spa’s top practitioners Lino Zinchi, a fully qualified shiatsu practitioner with a holistic approach to life. Having taken into consideration my generally overworked state of mind and body and a deep desire to relax, Lino has recommended a tailored full body massage treatment, which was a combination of shiatsu, deep tissue and some other techniques I’ve never experienced before.
Calling it a “massage”, however, would be an understatement. The therapist called it “a dynamic evolution of manipulations of joints, muscles and tendons, blended with the use of pressure points placed along the meridian lines”. And truly dynamic manipulation it was.
Lino is a real master of acupressure. He was able to find all the right points on my body that needed attention. In some cases it was a firm pressure to the very point where I could hardly bear it, still being able to silently enjoy the deliciousness of the release resulting from it.
The acupressure was combined with soothing, gentle strokes, as well as occasional vigorous, ultra-fast sweeps down my legs lasting a few seconds. I felt like all the excess of stress and agitation was literally being swept away from my body.
After the treatment I felt like I had just come out of a 7-day restoration retreat, rather than another busy working week. I had a feeling of openness and space in my body, with energy flowing freely, and stress having evaporated.
Lino talked me through his observations of my state of health and pointed out at a few things I need to be aware of. He also reminded me of the two simple yet powerful things that can profoundly change one’s state of health: deep breathing and proper chewing during meals.
The treatment perfectly engaged both physiological and energetic aspects of my body. And hence, apart from the obvious relaxation benefits on the physical level, it’s also ideal for managing stress, headache, PMS, and a range of other similar symptoms the therapist and the client identify before the treatment.
Price: 60min | £85
Content is a hidden gem of natural beauty and wellness in Central London. It’s a real treasure chest full of top all-natural skincare brands; some of them, like Ren, you might have heard of, some you probably haven’t, but the consultants at the shop know the range from A to Z and will tell you the story behind each brand and every product. Some are made as close as London’s Hackney, others are coming from around the globe, but all are 100% chemical-free. If you are into natural beauty and botanical ingredients that bring great results to your skin then you’ll definitely feel here like a kid in a candy shop – I certainly did!
Apart from an amazing range of natural skincare, Content also offers various beauty treatments using the products they sell, making it, in my opinion, the top destination for effective natural facials in London.
I opted for Dr Alkaitis Skin Food Facial. The Dr. Alkaitis range contains certified organic, biodynamic and ethically wild-crafted ingredients in their raw state for greatest effectiveness. Due to the ‘living’ complexity of the formulations Dr. Alkaitis products work with the skin’s natural functions – not against them.
This special treatment is designed to deeply cleanse and clarify congested skin, or nourish and calm sensitive, inflamed skin. It combines the Enzyme Exfoliating Mask with manuka honey and Goat’s milk yoghurt (the actual yogurt you’d be able to buy in a good supermarket) to refine pores and deeply cleanse skin, while manual extractions and lymphatic massage help eliminate toxins and rebalance the skin’s natural function. This rhythmical and harmonious treatment induces overall deep relaxation and is suitable for all skin types including hyper-sensitive, and conditions such as acne and eczema.
Another great thing about this place is that all facialists at Content have holistic background in therapies such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Naturopathy or similar, which makes them being able to look deeper into your overall wellness, advising you on what you might need to change in your overall lifestyle to achieve better looking skin.
Even though Content is not a Spa by any means, the overall atmosphere and ambience (scent, sound, light, therapists) contribute beautifully to the actual treatment making an overall effect truly powerful and long-lasting.
Price: 60min | £80
3. Chi Yu
Another hidden gem in Central London is Chi Yu, a true oasis of Japanese-inspired wellness wisdom. This medium-sized Spa has a simple, light oriental design, which in itself has a calming effect, taking you to a different world from busy streets of the capital. I guess that’s what I’d expect a good spa in Japan to look like.
I opted for an in-house signature treatment – “Chi Yu Integrated Therapy”. This tailored complementary therapy is designed to suit the needs of each particular individual and is customised following the initial health assessment. The eventual blend might contain aromatherapy, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, acupressure and meridian massage or reflexology.
Mami, the owner (Japanese by origin) started my treatment by noting down the key details about my general state of health, checked my pulse and my tongue, and in a moment came up with a brief summary of how I currently feel, which also dictated her choice of holistic techniques for my treatment.esigned to suit the needs of each particular individual and is customised following the initial health assessment. The eventual blend might contain aromatherapy, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, acupressure and meridian massage or reflexology.
Following her suggestion and in a bid to overcome my slight fear of this treatment, I decided to try acupuncture for the first time – somehow I felt like I could trust her and have my primary experience of the oriental needle treatment right there. Mami has also selected a few essential oils, each caring its own benefit; she went for mandarin, neroli and sandalwood oils, which in combination were meant to work on my digestion, stress relief and grounding.
After briefly scanning my body on the massage couch, Mami picked a range of points for acupuncture. It was less invasive and less painful than I thought. Yet I could definitely feel something was happening underneath – energy moving and getting back into free flow, blockages freeing up… One point on the upper belly felt stronger than others, which, as Mami later explained to me, is the area of stored worry, anger and similar unnecessary emotions. I guess I have some of those…
In between the needles Mami was applying the customised blend of essential oils to various points on my body, searching for specific points and energy meridians. It wasn’t a classic deep tissue or a full body massage as you know it, more of a localised acupressure, yet it felt like exactly what I needed at that moment, and it worked perfectly well in combination with the accupressure. Soothing Japanese music and a pleasant ambience definitely helped me relax even deeper.
I left feeling lighter, the energy flowing freely through my body on a subtle level. I also made a strong commitment not to let myself store any more anger or worry in that upper belly area – easier said than done but the recognition of a problem is the problem half-solved.
Price: 60min | £75
4. Ayurveda Pura
Ayurveda Pura might be tucked away from the buzz of Central London, being located not far from the O2 centre in North Greenwich, yet it’s well known among the fans of Ayurveda, a traditional holistic system of health originating from India and dating back over 5000 years.
This true and real Ayurvedic Spa also incorporates an Ayurveda Academy and is headed up by an award-winning expert Dr Deepa Apte, one of the top Ayurveda practitioners and lecturers in the UK. Hence, many come here not just to experience an authentic Ayurveda treatment at its best, but also to gain some knowledge and practical skills in the field of Ayurveda. Apart from being a truly knowledgeable practitioner and an excellent lecturer, Dr Deepa Apte, is in my opinion the very embodiment of a truly balanced person, one of those people that make you feel calm and happy just by being around you. “Practice what you preach” is definitely Dr Apte’s case.
My appointment at Ayurveda Pura Spa started with an ayurvedic health consultation during which Dr Apte identified where imbalances lie. A typical Ayurvedic consultation involves various lifestyle-related questions being asked, as well as tongue and pulse check.
As a seasoned Spa goer I had Ayurvedic consultations done before, but Dr Apte’s way always seems deeper and more profound. She spent a lot more time measuring the pulse than I was expecting, and at the end she was not only able to pin point my specific physical imbalances but also identify some of my unique personal characteristics.
A number of eye opening conclusions came out of that consultation which made me look at myself and my lifestyle in a new way. Few days after the consultation I received a comprehensive Therapy Plan from Deepa including recommendations on food, herbs and exercise for me to incorporate into my daily life in order to bring the body back into balance. Triphala, Turmeric, Chyawanprash and lots of ginger&lemon tea are now on my daily menu.
Following the consultation came my favourite part – an Ayrveda body treatment. I was recommended a warm and nourishing Pinda Sveda Herbal Bolus De-Stress massage, which was exactly what I needed having just come back from the hot climate into freezing London.
During this rejuvenating treatment Dr Apte was using cotton poultice bags filled with specially selected herbs which were pressed gently over my body. The treatment helps alleviate muscle and joint pain, release tensions and stress. It sent me into a deep mind & body relaxation state, and all I wanted was for it to continue for another few hours.
I walked out of the Spa feeling a lot more grounded and nourished than before, armed with new knowledge about myself and lifestyle tips to bring into my daily routine. And once again have I realised the power of Ayurveda and what this ancient science of life can do to you. A must for all of us to experience for themselves.
Price: 60min | £75
5. Jivita Ayurveda
Jivita Spa is another authentic Ayurvedic Spa in London. Yet what I love it most for is the fact that it’s one of the very few places in London where you can experience signature treatments by my favourite British holistic natural skincare brand Ila Spa.
What makes Ila treatments different is that they are not just treatments – they are rituals, complete experiences where each step of the process has a purpose and meaning, contributing to the overall healing result. It also uses exquisite Ila Spa products, which you fall in love with simply by smelling them.
I’ve opted for one of the most popular rituals – Ila Kundalini Back Treatment. This treatment is deeply soothing, relaxing and balancing to the whole nervous system thanks to the synergistic use of a powerful essential oil blend used in combination with ancient massage techniques and chakra healing. Ideal for emotionally exhausted souls.
During this experience, chakra and sound healing activate and channel Kundalini – the dormant energy at the base of the spine. Tension is lifted; negativity is released; and the body is brought back to a state of awareness and balance.
Price: 60min | £88
Zen Spa: located in Notting Hill, this Spa’s Menu has a perfect combination of holistic therapies with beauty treatments
Como Shambhala: a successful city version of the renowned Como Shambhala wellness resort in Bali.
The Spa at Dolphin Square: a beautiful Moroccan Spa offering a full range of traditional treatments including Hammam.