By Julie Tremaine
When I got to Harmony on Hope, I had had a headache for, oh, about a month. A really full month that included packing up a house for a cross-country move, a weekend trip to North Carolina to chase around my favorite toddler, a bout of (what I’m definitely sure was) typhoid, and a lot of first-one-in, last-one-out days at the office in between. I was more than tired: I was totally run down and exhausted to my bones.
You might be able to guess why I was particularly excited to have a Weight of the World Massage at Harmony on Hope. The studio’s philosophy is that massage isn’t just a luxury, it’s a part of whole body wellness. I had had a massage at their previous location, and as I trudged up the stairs to their new front door near Hope High School with an overfull purse on my shoulder, I had high hopes that I’d leave feeling a little bit less like roadkill and a little bit more like my usual self.
Kelly DeNicolo Huggins, who owns HOH with Shannon Sexton Potter, greeted me in a tranquil waiting room with walls the color of the ocean and an installation of art made from birch boughs. It was a major step up from their previous location.
The women designed the Weight of the World to ease chronic tension in the neck, shoulders and back. It’s for people who spend their days at a desk, typing away and squinting at a screen – like me and pretty much everyone else I know. Kelly started me out on my back and began with light compression on my face and scalp, especially near my eyes. When she first put her thumbs under my brow bone, in the hollow against my nose, I was a little surprised – but when I felt the tension in my forehead start to calm down, I knew I was going to be in for a really therapeutic 75 minutes. She moved on to gentle neck stretches, using slow, light strokes that were rhythmic and repetitious. “The movements follow your exhalation,” Kelly explained, “but they also encourage it to deepen.” Her hands moved in time with the chill music, which was mostly ladies with guitars and soothing voices. The music was a deliberate choice, she said. “I like to try to match the legato tempo of the music, with strokes varied in pressure the more you begin to relax.”
Once I turned over, Kelly devoted her attention to my shoulders, neck and arms. The time she spent working on the muscles in my poor, tired wrists felt like I was in heaven. I’d never had a massage before that so specifically addressed my life stresses, rather than just promising a vague idea of relaxation that, while nice, faded about a minute after I left the treatment room. Kelly worked quite a lot on the muscles in my back that felt “stuck,” she said, and finished the service with a warm towel to really relax them.
Those 75 minutes felt like a space out of time, and I had a bit of a struggle pulling myself back into real life after existing on that cloud. I apologized to Kelly as I was leaving. “I usually have better questions,” I said to her, “but my brain is a little foggy at the moment.” A good kind of foggy, though. The best kind. I took that relaxation home with me, gave myself the evening to relax, and woke up the next morning feeling better than I had in weeks.