Gina Conway currently owns three successful, multi-award-winning Aveda Lifestyle Salons in London, attracting a clientele that includes the likes of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller, Paloma Faith, Lulu Guinness, Julianne White and celebrity stylist Arianne Phillips.
I test-drove the Fusion Massage at heir Notting Hill salon – ‘a deeply relaxing massage customised with Aveda aromas and various therapeutic techniques’.
I have fairly regular massages – a combination of joint hypermobility and standard text/desk neck has resulted in such constant pain I was close to allowing a surgeon to inject a nerve-block into my spine.
I’ve probably had over 1000 massages since my early teens, some good, some great, many mediocre, and many more forgettable.
My massage therapist at Gina Conway also happens to be the salon manager – two roles I’d not imagine overlap. The organisation and efficiency needed to run a salon doesn’t often coincide with the intuitive and tactile skills of an amazing masseuse. But then you have outliers – I was blown away by how astutely Salima located tension lines, even without any guidance.
Expertly navigating muscle groups and accessing knots deep below my shoulder-blades, manipulating my arms to reach previously-inaccessible balls of tension, it was hands-down the best massage I’ve had in recent memory. Possibly, ever.
It’s hard to explain what distinguishes a good massage from an amazing massage. Words don’t really lend themselves to the nuances of neural pathways – the distinction between a highly-trained masseuse doing a good job, and one that intuitively locates the source of pain, the coinciding pressure points, and is able to work through the entire length of tension is profound. But impossible to describe, short-of an interactive demo accompanying your reading this.
In recent years I’ve only seen massage therapists on recommendation – from people who are also very discerning about who they let lay their hands on them. With so much, so frequent muscle pain and tension, I’ve become bloody hard to please.
I was also in a fairly bad mood the day I saw Salina (it was 39C in Notting Hill; I’d had to sprint to make the appointment as a previous meeting overran; I don’t have AC where I work; and to top it all I’d broken up with my long-term boyfriend the night before). In short, I was a tough crowd.
A really good massage therapist is like gold-dust. And, apologies to any massage therapist I’ve been seeing recently (please don’t read this!), but Salima is my new reigning champ.
Tiny, diminutive – I’d have written her off on sight, presuming her slight frame rendered her too delicate to touch the level of tension in my back – but, oh how wrong I was! Her incredible ability lay in more than just brute force.
Not only were she more than capable in terms of strength, but her intuitive ability to locate tension points, and work through them – accurately following the muscle line right down to its root – was unfathomable.
Despite the ambient temperature hitting 40C upon leaving the wonderfully air-conditioned salon, the fact I arrived an emotional wreck, and had to board the rush hour tube immediately after; I positively floated out, onwards and upwards into the evening, impervious to any and all obstacles in my path.
I was so relaxed that even the circle line, held at a junction for 20 minutes, in temperatures not legal to transport cattle (armpits in face, businessmen falling on my be-sandled feet, screaming infants) didn’t phase me.
Having raved about her to my friends, family and colleagues, from now on in, Salima is on speed-dial.
As a rule, I don’t usually feature my utmost, most-very-favourite, most secret places or people, as, selfishly, I want them all to myself. But, as much as it may come back to bite me, Salima’s contact details are below.
Fusion Massage £90 for one hour
Gina Conway Aveda Salon; 62 Westbourne Grove, W2 5SH ginaconwaysalons.co.uk; 020 7229 6644