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Pamper yourself: Hot stone massage

By Dean Irvine for CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- What is it: A hot stone massage that uses heated basalt stones to relax and re-energize the body. Being more involved, and even spiritual, than the usual massage, it's intended to leave you with a greater sense of well-being than just a good rub down. The heat of the stones is supposed to relieve tension and nervous fatigue, while the placing of different sized stones on the body's chakra points is meant to create a more balanced flow of energy.

Verdict: I hadn't expected anything other than to lie down in a darkened room, listening to some vaguely eastern music while hot stones were occasionally placed on my body. It was a lot more involved than that -- it's quite a long treatment that includes a pretty vigorous rub down with the hot stones.

Perhaps because of that I found it very difficult to relax and "clear my mind, letting the tension flow out of my body," as the masseur instructed in calming tones while holding my hand before it all began. In fact I had to stifle a laugh as my powers of imagination failed and instead of transporting my thoughts to a misty mountain top, I could only be reminded of being slightly uncomfortable lying on Brighton's pebbly beach as I lay on a towel covering a bed of hot stones.

As more hot stones were placed first on my forehead, chest and stomach, I couldn't help but wonder just where else they would be placed, while the masseur alternated between grinding away at the knots in my muscles and fishing out heated stones from the mini cauldron behind my head.

Best thing: The hot pebbles placed between my toes and then the soles of my feet massaged with a hot basalt stone. My feet had never been so relaxed.

Worst thing: Located in the center of London the Nickel spa offered treatments for men, but looks like a decidedly un-manly cosmetics concession at a department store. With a few low-lit treatment rooms downstairs it doesn't really have a calm or relaxing atmosphere.

The after effects: I felt tired and clumsy, but sadly not particularly relaxed. Having done his best to balance my energy flows, the masseur looked more exhausted than I did by the end of it. I didn't notice any discernable sense of spiritual equilibrium the following day, but at least the bumbling clumsiness had gone, but then that was caused by the massage in the first place.

Cost: The hot stone massage at Nickel Spa costs £90 and lasts for 90 minutes.

Contact details: 21 Short Gardens, London, WC2H 9AP (+44 (0)20 7240 4048


Lying on the beach in Brighton, England, won't improve your chi like a real hot stone massage.

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