Wellness Wednesdays: I Tried A Relaxing Body Treatment And It Was… Very Unsettling

“Relaxed” isn’t exactly a state I’d usually describe myself. Born and bred in Singapore, I’m wired to detest the very idea of being relaxed. After all, merely uttering the word is akin to admitting to laziness and bad time management.

I prefer to use the word “busy”, so does my employer. It’s a tendency that has found its way into my personal life as well: planning my wellness programme for the week — yoga, face or eyebrow threading, and deep tissue massages — it’s a hectic schedule planned down to the minute.

In hindsight, it’s an ironically stressful timetable for, well, wellness.

When I set out for a lunchtime body treatment at THREE, the Japanese skincare brand‘s outpost in Tangs Orchard, I was on a mission — 20 minutes to get there by bus, 5 minutes on foot, 60 minutes treatment, 3 minutes to get to another meeting next door.

So, when I darted into THREE’s Rhythm Spa located on the fourth floor at Tangs, I went through the grind rapidly — registration, confidential questionnaire, change out, lie down, and wait for the therapist to knock on the door.

Soon, a therapist walked in. “I will now begin the body treatment,” she whispered as she placed a warm towel over my feet. As she worked a body oil blend, an emulsion, and another foot and leg treatment oil up my limbs and torso, she gently pushed and pulled, pushed and pulled.

At THREE, the treatment begins from your feet, upwards to your legs, then torso, shoulders and head. Image source: Shutterstock.
At THREE, the treatment begins from your feet, upwards to your legs, then torso, shoulders and head. Image source: Shutterstock.

I waited, but there was no kneading nor deep tissue massage. “Is this not a massage?” I broke the silence.

“We don’t do massages, this is just a relaxing body treatment using our aromatic natural body and leg oils,” she replies in a whisper. “It’s good for removing water retention from your body.”

“Relaxing? What do you mean?” I asked.

“People come here to relax,” she replies, perturbed by my confusion. “Our regulars like to come here because the natural oils smells nice and they find it relaxing. You can relax here.”

The foot and leg treatment oil (S$78 for 80ml) was designed to reduce water retention. In the treatment, these potent oils are sealed off with a layer of body emulsion (pictured left, S$88 for 150ml). Image source: THREE
The foot and leg treatment oil (S$78 for 80ml) was designed to reduce water retention. In the treatment, these potent oils are sealed off with a layer of body emulsion (pictured left, S$88 for 150ml). Image source: THREE

Relax? Am I not in the process of relaxing already? I’m on a massage bed with a therapist rubbing incredibly high-quality natural oils down my back. Yet, I wondered if the therapist was trying to tell me something else. I decided to try and relax.

Dealing with that unsettling silence and stillness was challenging. Thoughts echoed around my mind — I was analysing the therapist’s every touch and step. I was picking up scents from the ingredients in the oils, and every distant sound that came from the mall outside. The minutes felt like hours. I wanted to escape the stillness.

Eventually, the 60-minute session came to an end, I got dressed and bolted out of the room in a jiffy. Out in the concierge, the therapist, Evonne Siew, had a conversation with me.

She explained that when the THREE Rhythm Spa opened over a year ago at Tangs, she was sent to the brand’s headquarters by Shinjuku, Tokyo for a thorough training. The Japanese trainers advised against hard and forceful massage techniques, for fear of damaging muscle tissues. Instead, what they wanted was to stimulate the body’s already-active lymphatic system and blood flow in the day with natural oil blends and gentle strokes — encouraging excess water and toxins to leave the body. That aside, the aromas from the frankincense, eucalyptus, and lemon oils were to soothe the mind.

Locals make up the majority of their patrons and they tend to swing by on weekday evenings, after working hours. “To relax,” she reiterates. “They leave feeling relaxed.”

When I left, I couldn’t say that I felt any better than I was when I first stepped in. Yet, the issue was clear — if everyone else finds this their relaxing haven, why not me?

Simply because I’m trapped in the culture of busyness.

I never realised. And it took this body treatment to call me out on this.

For my entire life, I’ve glorified busyness and workaholism. Looking at an organised and colour-coded Google calendar felt satisfying. Being busy was an achievement. A jam-packed wellness regime was a triumph too — which meant that, despite having written numerous wellness articles, I never actually understood what the word ‘relax’ meant.

So, guess what happened. I ditched my wellness regime — no plans for a week. No appointments, no yoga mats, no Vaniday bookings. When Monday came around, I followed colleagues as they asked me out for impromptu yoga classes at Hom Yoga. I walked in to COMO Shambhala and got a massage — and for the first time, I dozed off in the midst of a massage.

Ironically, too much wellness was making me unwell. And maybe it’s true after all, less is always more.

The Activating Body Treatment (60 minutes) is available at THREE Rhythm Spa, Tangs Orchard at S$180.

The ‘Wellness Wednesdays’ column promotes mental wellness, encouraging females to take an hour out of their hectic schedules every week to invest in self-care and wellbeing. This comes in lieu of ELLE’s investigative piece which highlighted the fact that beauty treatments may be plugging the gaps when mental health services fail.

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