I’m one of those people who are forever promising to pamper themselves more often, but never quite find the time to get around to it. It seems that many of us regularly come in a tragic second or third when deciding on our priorities in life. So it was with some appreciation that I was invited to experience the spa at the Saxon; one of the country’s finest boutique hotels. (It’s the perks that really make this job worthwhile.)
Situated in Sandhurst, Joburg, the Saxon is a hidden treasure in a surprisingly residential suburb. From the outside it could be just another mansion on Saxon Road but once you’re inside the large imposing gates you’ll find a haven from the bustle of nearby Sandton and Rosebank.
The Saxon’s five-star status – it’s where Oprah prefers to stay when in Joburg – and imposing walls may intimidate, but the staff ensures that you don’t feel like you don’t belong. And while some may barely be aware that the Saxon even exists in their own backyard, even fewer probably know that the hotel’s impressive spa is open to us mere mortals and not just hotel guests.
The spa is all contemporary design – stylish, soothingly lit and often quite beautiful. Its signature treatment is the ‘sound therapy’; and that’s what I was there to experience. According to Cheryl, my therapist for the session, sound therapy is particularly popular with people who want a truly relaxing experience without a traditional massage. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was prepared for the treatment with a brief upfront explanation.
I was led into an almost completely sound-proof room, just past the impressive reception. Large gongs – the kind you see in Asian kung fu movies – sit at the head and foot of a small bed in the center. The treatment is based on Nepalese and Tibetan rituals in which sound created by gongs and ‘singing bowls’ is used for meditative and religious purposes.
Cheryl described it as “a cellular massage” – pointing out that the body is made up largely of water which is an excellent conductor of sound. The vibrations and frequencies aim to “balance and restore the body’s natural energy centres.” It all sounded a little too “new-age” for me, but I was open to the experience (I’m up for pretty much anything that gets me out of the office and on my back).
I was asked to lie on the bed – clothed, minus shoes – and to close my eyes. To my surprise, the centre of the bed, which is covered by thick plastic, sinks down, leaving the plastic and me floating over water below. The sensation is at first a little disorientating, but really helps in the relaxation process – and the water is said to assist the sound in penetrating the body.
Then in otherwise complete silence, Cheryl spends an hour making beautiful and soothing noise with the gongs and a series of different size metal bowls – the famed singing bowls that, I was told, are brought in from the Himalayas . I found myself zoning out; moving into a meditative state of sorts in which I was awake but without any thoughts; a completely empty mind (no comments required, thank you).
The hour passes quickly, yet time also appears to stop. Bizarrely, it often seemed as if Cheryl was in two places at the same time in the room. I was just a little too ‘out of it’ to bother to open my eyes to check. At the end of the treatment, I was brought out of my relaxed state through soft music and a glass of water. And while I’m not sure if my “natural energy centres” were “balanced”, I was certainly refreshed and completely relaxed. Cheryl chatted briefly and informed me that Oprah had recently undergone the sound therapy, and loved the experience. That makes two of us.
But my pampering was not yet at an end (lucky me). I was given a ‘men’s express face, hand and foot treatment’. This hour-long treatment consists of a facial, and while not including a full manicure and pedicure, it does also see your hands and feet coming in for some real pampering. Each guest is given a locker complete with a bathrobe and slippers to change into before the treatment.
The Saxon spa offers a full menu of treatments – from massages to facials – and includes a cafÃ© offering light meals, healthy drinks and cocktails. You can also experience the gorgeous colour-enhanced steam room, the indoor heated jet pool and outdoor hydro pool (with underwater music nogal), among a host of other mysterious sounding beauty treatments. Yes, it’s not cheap but also not absolutely outrageous; the sound therapy treatment will set you back R590 while the men’s face, hand and foot treatment will cost you R410.
The Saxon spa is probably the most indulgent and decadent spa I’ve experienced. Whether it’s an occasional treat or regular pampering you’re unlikely to find another more memorable option. After all, if it’s good enough for Miss Winfrey, it’s quite probably good enough for you…
You can contact the Saxon Spa on 011 292 6000 or visit the Saxon website on www.saxon.co.za.