Urban Bliss is tucked away at the far end of Portobello Road, where Golborne Road crosses, and civilised tourism is replaced by a more organic, anarchic bustle. Annexed to a small macrobiotic café Urban Bliss is a Mecca for all things natural and alternative. This treatment claims to release accumulated tension, remove toxins and improve blood flow, enhancing circulation to the tissues and evoking a sense of calm, balance and rejuvenation. Hot Basalt stones warm the muscles thoroughly, allowing the masseuse to penetrate deeper with less discomfort.
I’d come straight from the office and was as tense as a tightrope. Essential oils were massaged into my shoulders, back and neck in long strokes and kneading motions.
My therapist, Helen, insisted on loosening the painfully tight muscles in my thighs, an unpleasant but ultimately beneficial move. This involved squeezing deep into the muscle, a momentary agony followed by release.
After about half an hour the stones were brought out from their heating machine and strategically placed along meridian lines. At risk of sounding a little New Age, I really did feel an energy flowing between them. Mongolian harmonium music eased me into an ever more meditative state as I was left to benefit from the stones and their energies.
The stones were then swept up and down my back; this may sound a little touchy-feely but was actually amazingly calming. The treatment was concluded with more relaxing massage; kneading, squeezing and easing knots from the back, neck and shoulders.
While friendly and eager to help, my only grievance was that Helen didn’t seem very present, as though she urgently needed to be somewhere else. Then, when left to get dressed, it was somewhat disconcerting to find her watching my progress through the frosted glass window!
This treatment didn’t move mountains for me; the straightforward neck and shoulder massage was the highlight, but I left feeling more relaxed, the aching in my shoulders finally subsided, and I slept better that night.
Perhaps it’s a sign of a good massage, but the toxins released made me feel pretty groggy in the few hours to follow. However, compared with the many massages I’ve had in my time, this was one of the better ones, and Urban Bliss is a hothouse of alternative experts and therapists.