Angie Aspinall: Can you relax at a spa when you’re deaf? You can at the Explore Spa by Méridien, Mauritius

Posted on December 5, 2012



On a recent trip to Mauritius, I had the opportunity to indulge in a few days of spa experiences whilst my husband was scuba diving. It can sometimes be tempting for us new deafies to become a bit withdrawn without our ‘translator’ but I was determined to make the most of being a ‘dive widow’ and enjoy some yoga lessons and massages rather than spending my days avoiding people by lounging in the sun reading my Kindle. It’s always good to learn something new on a trip and I was looking forward to learning yoga on this one.

Le Méridien Ile Maurice, in the North West of Mauritius, is an ideal place for couples to stay if one loves to dive and the other loves to ‘spa’. (Whilst the main hotel is family-friendly, we enjoyed the exclusive ‘adults only’ Nirvana wing.) Whilst my husband Richard (who is a professional underwater photographer) was off discovering wrecks and photographing rare Mauritian Clown fish with Jonathan from Easy Dive, I was getting to grips with my ‘Sun Salutation’ and some breathing exercises on the peaceful veranda of the Explore Spa with Dr Shaji.

As I knew that even with my hearing aids in I would struggle to hear instructions in a group setting, I had booked some individual yoga lessons. I was hoping one-to-one sessions would make it easier for me to lip read the instructions but, when it came to the day of my first lesson, I was a little nervous and started to wonder if I might have been better hiding at the back of a class after all. However, I needn’t have worried – I loved it!

The whole point of yoga (apparently) is focusing on the moment: your posture, breathing, feeling to warmth of the sun on your skin so, there is no time to worry if you’re not doing it as well as someone else or if you look a bit hot and bothered as you go through your moves. The individual attention also means you immediately get any corrections you need to the posture to ensure that you are doing it correctly. (It also meant I could ask for instructions to be repeated without feeling like I was holding up the rest of a class.) I found the one-to-one lessons an excellent way to learn techniques to do at home. I swear my posture improved greatly and I felt fantastic just after one session.

As well as learning how to warm up properly and how to do the Sun Salutation, I also learned some breathing techniques. The rapid breathing was really challenging: I never knew you could feel out of breath from breathing but by the end of it, I felt like I’d been on a run. It was an excellent work out and one I have also been able to practise regularly since coming home.

After all that exertion, what better way to reward myself than with a massage at the spa? During our stay at the hotel, I had four different types of massage – three of which I had not seen offered at UK spas so, I was looking forward to some new experiences inside the spa as well as the yoga lessons outside in the sunshine.

A great feature of the spa is the offer of double treatment rooms for couples. We booked one for our first spa experience (so I would have my ‘translator’ on hand) and we both had an Ayurvedic massage, which uses Indian herb oil to enhance circulation. I felt secure in the knowledge that I had completed a full health assessment form prior to my arrival and I immediately noticed that my therapist, Nasseem had taken notice of my individual needs.

As a deaf person who wears hearing aids, spa experiences are not always relaxing for me: they can be sometimes embarrassing or even bewildering (when you’ve taken your hearing aids out) but, Nasseem me feel comfortable enough to explain I preferred to take my hearing aids out for the treatment and she used hand gestures to ask if the pressure was OK and to let me know when to turn over. So, thanks to her professionalism and her kind manner I was able to truly relax and enjoy the experience. If only all therapists were this highly skilled in deaf awareness! (Although, to be honest, I think Naseem was just using good old-fashioned common sense and sensitivity – but that is sometimes in short supply, is it not?)

The Ayurvedic massage is all about long, fluid strokes – no knuckles or digging with the thumbs. I really enjoyed the gentle rhythm: it was so relaxing that my husband said he almost fell asleep during his treatment. And, the accompanying head massage was so good, I immediately booked an Indian head massage (also known as Champissage) for another day. I get a lot of headaches, sinus pain and tinnitus and find Indian head massages provide some welcome relief.

Unlike the Indian head massages I’ve had elsewhere, the one at the Explore Spa started with a back massage. Bonus! My neck and shoulders were also thoroughly worked on before Nasseem started working on my head. As well as using pressure points, she also used a traditional technique of ‘flicking/scratching’ with her fingertips (which I assure you, is far more pleasant than it sounds). The rapid on/off action was incredibly powerful in making me feel re-energised after the massage.

My third massage was the most unusual but it was incredible. It was called Kizhi Kizhi, which also known as Pinda Swedam. It uses boluses (cloth bags with a single handle forming a ‘lollipop’ shape) filled with Indian herbs and dipped into warm medicated oil to massage all over the body. Dr Shaji and a female therapist delivered this deep massage which aims to help with long standing injuries (like the whiplash injuries that left me with ongoing back problems). The boluses allow the therapist to add heat and pressure throughout the massage.

After some minor manipulations of the spine, the female therapist massaged the back of my left leg with oil and, as she progressed to the right leg, Dr Saji started to use the boluses on the left leg. The heat and gentle pressure was particularly soothing on the back of my troubled knee and, after all the trekking we’d done at Mauritius’ amazing wildlife reserves earlier in the holiday, it was sorely needed. (No pun intended!)

After my legs, back and arms had been thoroughly massaged, Dr Saji retired from the room leaving me to have a gentle head massage. This massage followed a particularly strenuous yoga session and, afterwards, I was almost an inch taller and measurably happier.

My final massage was with Nasseem (who had switched the rota for me so she could do my last treatment). I followed her recommendation and had a Balinese massage. This featured some of the long strokes of the Ayuvedic massage but it also involved some thumb and palm work and skin rolling. Like the other full body massages at the Explore Spa, this one also finished with an amazing head massage. I wish all full body massages included head massages. I worry that I may have been spoilt for all other spa experiences!

I did ask Nasseem if I could take her home with me as I’m sure that one of these massages once a week (or ideally every day, which is the Ayuvedic way) would ensure my improved health and well-being – but she had a better idea: “Perhaps you could move to Mauritius.” Now there’s a thought…

Thank you to Dr Saji, Naseem and the rest of the team at the Explore Spa by Méridien, where not only can you learn yoga and have world class massages, but you can also enjoy a hydrotherapy centre and a fully equipped gym. Thanks also to Jonathan at Easy Dive for distracting my husband while I enjoyed the spa.

For more information about the hotel Le Méridien Ile Maurice, please visit: http://www.lemeridien-mauritius.com/

Explore Spa: http://www.lemeridien-mauritius.com/en/spa

Information on diving at Le Méridien Ile Maurice: http://www.lemeridien-mauritius.com/en/diving

We flew to Mauritius direct from Heathrow with Air Mauritius: http://www.airmauritius.com/

Angie is a part-time journalist, food and travel writer, photographer and co-founder of Twitter’s top weekly business networking event, #Yorkshirehour. She is also the new External Relationships Manager at Hearing Link. She is a chicken-keeper, gardener and ‘foodie’ living in glorious Yorkshire with her husband, Richard and their precious Westie, Tilly. Angie started going progressivley deaf in one ear at the age of 30 and then suffered total sudden onset hearing loss in her ‘good’ ear in 2011. You can check out her website, blog, twitter account, Facebook and Linked In.

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