x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Escape to Espa in the new year

The Signature Yas Detox Treatment, which includes a two-hour spa treatment, overnight accommodation dinner and breakfast at the Yas Hotel costs from Dh1,475 per person or Dh2,350 per couple per night.

Nine o'clock in the morning on January 1 and I'm not feeling very new. Having rung in the New Year with a night of eating and making merry around a fire at Al Dibbeiya, instead of springing out of bed, running along the beach and jumping into the sea as I had imagined, I merely roll over in my tent and count the aches in my back and shoulders. I close my eyes to the strengthening sun and make a mental note to buy an inflatable mattress in future.

Cue an e-mail advertising the Yas Hotel's Espa "January Detox", offering an overnight "signature treatment" to "give you the lift you deserve". January 2 and I'm checking in. Luckily, my room is in the Marina wing of the hotel, just a few floors above the spa. A single lift ride will transport me from the comfort of my suite to the even more luxurious spa - and, importantly, back again. First, I fill out a quick questionnaire in the waiting area over a pot of Tchaba "Ginger Calm" tea, which actually contains ginger, mint, lemongrass and apple, orange and lemon peel.

Then it's into the all-female ground floor zone, past the double-height marble stairway with a coloured waterfall underneath to the gloriously dark and luxurious changing area. I spend five minutes in the steam room to relax before my two-hour treatment, but at 37'C it's a little cool for my liking. Next I make my way to the velvet upholstered chamber to put on my robe and slippers. In the continuing half-light of dark woods and soft furnishings, I take a seat in the designer living/waiting area and drink a few glasses of orange and lemon water before being met by my English massage therapist Kate. I'm feeling better already, but this is only the start of a full bout of body brushing, polishing, wrapping, massaging and, in my case, sleeping.

In one of the track-side treatment rooms (luckily, no races are taking place), I'm seated in a chair while Kate bathes my feet in a bowl of hot water filled with lilies, sea salts and "restorative bath oil". I'm beginning to drift off when Kate asks me how I'm hoping to feel after the treatment and what sort of pressure I like. She explains that the body brushing and exfoliation is, just as my mother used to say, to "get the circulation going" and to absorb the oil. Kate then asks me to choose my oils - first, for the massage, and second, for the face. I choose the "fitness" body oil which is a blend of essential oils made from clove buds, rosemary, peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender and Indian bay. For the face I go for the "regenerating" face treatment oil, a mix of neroli, rose, jasmine, frankincense, avocado, evening primrose and wheatgerm.

I lie on my back and shut my eyes, and what follows is, happily, something of a blur. First, the heated, padded massage bed cradling me like a baby, my arms and legs are lightly but firmly brushed with a dry brush. It's suprisingly relaxing and thorough. This is followed immediately by a light body scrub which gets deeper into the skin. Next my face is exfoliated and freshened with a rosewater and tangerine toner and the application of that lovely face oil. Everything is done slowly, deliberately and intuitively, so there's no irritating change in pressure or pointless manoeuvring.

A scalp massage sends me virtually to sleep before I'm asked to turn over and the body brushing process is repeated on the other side. Stroke by stroke, I can feel the fatigue being erased. Next comes the massage, in which Kate uses hot stones to melt away stubborn shoulder tension and provide a seamless ripple effect on the skin which again sends me to the brink of sleep. She uses her hands to get at the more sensitive under-arm region and ambush the stubborn elastic bands of tension underneath my shoulder blades. It feels like I'm lying under a warm waterfall.

Alas, when it's time to turn over again, I'm forced to visit the bathroom thanks to all that tea and orange water - and the bathroom means a trip to the ground floor of the spa in the lift. Still, I'm somnambulant enough not to care and soon fall asleep again on my back. Various body parts - arms, legs, head - are wrapped carefully in a cocoon of towelling after being done. Unlike with most massages, which are over too quickly and sometimes rushed, this one feels decadently adequate. At the end I don't even have to sit up but am gently raised into a sitting position with the help of the flexible massage chair. Kate tells me to drink lots of water as my skin is apparently dry from dehydration, so I don my robe and retreat to the padded "rotunda", a white cylindrical rest area on the ground floor. I lie back with a pot of ginger tea and watch as the hundreds of tiny "colour therapy" lights above my head turn from green to purple to white. Thankfully, it's the next day before I have to return to the real world.


Ÿ The Signature Yas Detox Treatment, which includes a two-hour spa treatment, overnight accommodation (check out by 6pm the following day), dinner and breakfast at the Yas Hotel (www.theyashotel.com; 02 656 0000), costs from Dh1,475 per person or Dh2,350 per couple per night. To book, call 02 656 0862. The two-hour Tension Soother treatment booked in addition to the package costs Dh725.