Spa Junkie at… Ushvani Spa, London

Our reporter subjects her “second brain” to an ancient Malaysian tradition

Zoned out post-facial, Spa Junkie rolls onto her front for an intimate all-over rub down…

My next treatment is a 90-minute Malaysian-style Hot Oil Massage, said to be great for lymphatic drainage and detoxifying (as opposed to Balinese, which is better for unlocking deep tension in the muscles).

First, heated coconut and hibiscus oil is delicately trickled over the lower half of my body to open up the pores. It nourishes my skin and heats the muscles to make them more pliable for the massage.

My therapist begins with my legs, kneading with gentle pressure at different points, working from the tops of my thighs to my calves and ankles, stimulating the nerves. Using more hot oil, her movements then become longer and more fluid. When she reaches my ankles, she cups my Achilles tendon with her hand and applies three pulses of pressure, which she says will reduce the build-up of tension from cavorting around in heels all day.

She bends my knee and kneads my calf muscles using her knuckles in long, slow strokes, and with varying amounts of pressure – it would be good for runners looking for post-workout relaxation. She repeats the movements several times, working round my leg. I feel satisfying surges of warmth shoot up the back of my legs – a sign of a boost in circulation.

I turn over onto my back for a 10-minute detoxifying stomach massage to kickstart my metabolism. My therapist says her long kneading strokes are an ancient abdominal technique that will improve my body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate waste.

Abdominal massage is a core practice in the east, where the gut is commonly referred to as the “second brain”. I had an excellent hour-long one at Chiva-Som that released gas from my colon, but today’s is rather more brief – more of a stimulating tummy rub. Nevertheless, it does the trick and I hightail it to the bathroom the moment she finishes.  


My therapist advises me to keep the oil on my skin and hair for as long as possible following the treatment. It’s a good idea in theory, but the stickiness makes me want to speed-dial hair guru Rossano Ferretti.

I weave my way back via the changing room and up the staircase for a cup of hibiscus tea (a natural diuretic with vitamin C), accompanied by a slice of melon to replenish my energy levels.  

I feel as though I have spent a day on the pristine beaches of Pangkor Laut, without leaving the confines of SW3.  

The bottom line:

Ushvani is a tranquil escape that every harried Londoner should know about. It has a powerful sense of calm that relaxed me the moment I arrived. The Hot Oil Massage has justifiably become a cult classic on the spa’s menu – especially for those who favour an aromatherapy approach as opposed to a jerking and cracking one.

The star for me was the Penyepit facial, however, which I would recommend over ordering a plate of mee goreng any day of the week. It was a wonderfully relaxing treatment to have, and was also effective when it came to reducing puffiness, leaving my skin glowing, and toning my jowls. The following day, its decongesting effect on my lymph nodes seemed to be working; my blemishes were slightly less visible and less bumpy to the touch.

I loved the few hours I spent in this quiet environment – it would be a great trip to do with your mother, daughter or a friend. What makes it extra special is the exclusive nature of its location; it feels like you’ve unearthed a little secret that you don’t want to share.


Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, therapies and accommodation.

See also