Aaron greets me with a smile and I’m led down a corridor to the Neal’s Yard Therapy rooms ready for my sports massage. The space is cosy and softly lit in a warm peachy light; a white fluffy towel is stretched across the bed. As Aaron is newly qualified, enthusiastic and eager about getting everything right, all the bottles are lined up and a small diffuser emits a rich fragrance; I take in the smell of a concoction of relaxing oils.

I am invited by Aaron to lie flat on the bed facing down and to put a sheet over my waist before he leaves the room. The massage begins and I ask him how he initially became interested in this line of work. It all started when he used to watch wrestling on television with his dad and younger brothers which then led to an interest in martial arts. His mother was also, (and still is) a hugely positive influence and as a naturopath has been crucial along the way, which in turn led him to sports massage.

We chat about my interest in well-being and I explain that his skills are much needed in a world where we are all hunched over our laptops consuming caffeine by the bucketload to meet our work commitments. We agree on how city-dwellers have to cope with over population, pollution, commuting, long working hours and junk food so readily available; we’re all in need of a little sanctuary, a pause, a breather.

Reflexology is the usual treatment I go for and have had it several times over the years. I find it gently triggers a release of toxins both physical and emotional. To the sceptics I say try it! See how you feel for a couple of days afterwards. It is a purely physical experience and an intellectual evaluation won’t really shed light on it; unless you go through the actual experience you won’t really know how it feels.

There are a host of other treatments available, many of which I’d like to try like Hopi ear candling. I tried acupuncture (which claims to rebalance the body’s energy flow) for the first time last summer and it was amazing! I arrived with a headache that the therapist, much to my delight, 'unblocked' immediately by placing a needle in my forehead between my eyes. The needles were ultra-fine and although I felt sleepy after my treatment, the next day I awoke with a balanced sense of well-being and flowed through the day.

Nowadays many complementary and alternative treatments are used by the NHS, although these treatments “are not recognised by the majority of independent scientists”. But does that really matter? They’ve been used for thousands of years to tap into the body’s vital energy so why not give them a go? At the very least they may help to alleviate aches and pains and promote a sense of wellbeing. I imagine what kind of results would be obtained with ‘regular sessions” and integrating them into your lifestyle.

Aaron’s healing hands are slowly removing any muscle tension from being hunched over my computer and my posture feels more naturally upright and supple. Aaron alternates between long sweeping movements and deeper circular motion; he presses subtle parts of my back releasing knots and tightness, and any aches and pains that I was feeling melt away.

Towards the end of the sports massage he adds pressure and I suddenly realise as we’re chatting that I have blocked sinuses and even feel a little breathlessness as he continues to apply a deeper pressure. Aaron says that “it is because your body is detoxing”. I lie there ready for a snooze, feeling earthy and soothed.

Sadly, my massage has come to an end and the therapist leaves the room. I feel mellow and lie still for a few moments. Any stress that I may have been under has vanished and I think about what the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates said all those years ago: “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day.” Wise words. I then sit up and feel a bit disorientated yet peaceful. My mascara is smudged but I don’t really mind. I feel content, but, above all, I feel grounded. I am not ‘in my head,’ I am ‘in my body.’ I could just curl up right here, right now, for a very long Winter’s nap. Zzzzzz.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.