ANYONE who has ever lay on a massage table wishing they had the nerve to ask for more, or worse less pressure, will know that massages can vary wildly between good, great, and almost unendurable.
Yes, we should all be confident enough to ask for what we want, but how many of us actually are? (And how many of us know what we actually want, anyway?)
The ideal therapist for us is one who just kind-of, somehow, understands how to make us feel better, without us having to speak beyond the initial consultation.
Zsu Szelle, head therapist at Bali Health Lounge, gets this. She qualified as a masseur eighteen years ago in her native Hungary, and practised massage in several different countries before moving first to London's Mayfair, and then to Manchester.
She's now responsible for ensuring the therapists at Bali Health Lounge operate to the high standards that recently won 'Luxury Spa of the Year' in the European Awards of Luxury Travel Guide.
The first touch is very important. The minute a therapist touches you, you know whether that person has done massage or not.
And she ensures that any massage you have at Bali Health Lounge will be grounded in intuition as well as technical skill. The masseurs there must have a level three qualification to be hired. But even with this, they aren't allowed to work on clients until they've spent hours training with Zsu, developing not just their techniques but also their instincts and their confidence.
To fully understand the difference this makes, you need to go there. We'll just say, it's the kind of massage that resets your mood as well as your body, like a holiday or a really good night's sleep.
In the meantime, read on to find out more about what to expect there – and what sets their masseurs apart from the rest.
What kind of massages do you offer at Bali Health Lounge?
We do Swedish relaxing massage, deep tissue massage, Indian head massage, pregnancy massage, oncology massage, reflexology, and hot stone massage.
How can you tell whether a therapist is an experienced masseur?
The first touch is very important. The minute a therapist touches you, you know whether that person has done massage or not. The pressure is different. Your hand has to be really firm and stable.
And if they're not an experienced masseur, they go through the same route they learned in school. It's not personalised.
When you do massage for a long time, you can do it with closed eyes because you just feel the body, and you follow your hands, and you know where to touch and where to press, and you know the pressure.
But that only comes with experience so you can't expect just anyone, who's just qualified, to know that. It takes years to build up.
Is this why in training sessions, your therapists sometimes wear blindfolds?
Yes. The therapy room is dark anyway, and I also find it very relaxing when I close my eyes and do the massage. I feel it's a better massage than with my eyes open.
I'm from Hungary and it's very popular there for blind people to do massages. They're considered the best because they only have the sensation.
What level of qualification do your therapists have?
All the therapists here need to be at least Level 3 for massage. And when they start here, we check their standard. They aren't given clients until their standard is at the same level as the others.
So they spend a lot of time with me, going through different massages and different techniques. I make sure their pressure and posture is right, until they feel confident and I feel confident that they're good enough to do clients.
We also have ongoing in-house training. Every month we do something called Give and Receive where they pair up and swap massages. So they all experience each of the massages and give feedback – like 'I wanted more pressure,' or, 'It was amazing. Will you show me how you do it?'
It lets them learn from each other. Our masseurs are from different parts of the world: we have Hungarian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese. They all come with different backgrounds and techniques.
As well as this, we're closed once a month for a full training day, which is mainly massage-based. We cover things like different techniques, dermatology, psychology and how to talk to clients, and the right posture for masseurs to prevent them from injuring themselves.
What products do you use for massage?
For the face we use Elemis. For massage we use a German product called Oshadhi which is the highest quality of essential oil. We also use an energising, sports-massage oil, and for pregnant women we use a plain grapeseed oil.
It depends on the client and the therapist – whichever oil suits them the most.
Some people worry that having a massage can make muscle pain worse. What would you say to them?
It depends on the issue. If you pulled your calf muscle because you went running without warming up, we can help. We can ease pain and muscle ache.
But if you have a trapped nerve, or a slipped disc, or a hernia in your back, we can't work on that area – we'll send you to see a doctor or a specialist.
We have to be very careful. We know our boundaries. We have a consultation beforehand so we always check how you are physically.
It's also important to find out how you feel – if you have your period, or if you lost your job. It's not just physical, it's psychological as well.
You might get someone who comes one day as a happy person, then he comes two weeks later, and he's a wreck. You just never know. You always have to treat people according to the state they are in at that moment.
We're always told that a course of massage brings the best results. Is there any benefit in having just a one-off massage?
Yes, of course. Even one massage can help you to relax. But it's only going to last for three or four days, depending on how you maintain it. If you do some yoga, some stretching, some walking exercises, the benefits lasts a little bit longer.
But to get the best results, it's best if you come once a week, or once every other week, or once a month.
It's just like going to the gym. If you go to the gym once, you feel good but you're going to have muscle ache. If you've never had a massage before and you have a massage, you feel like you've had a workout in the gym.
It's nice to build it up slowly.
What would you recommend for someone who's never had a massage before?
If you've never had massage, I wouldn't book a deep tissue massage because afterwards, you would feel a little beaten up. Start with a Relaxing Swedish massage.
And after your massage, we don't recommend you do anything physically hard. There's no point in going back to the office and getting stressed. We recommend you sit down, have a cup of tea, a glass of water, relax for a day and just take it easy.