What comes to mind when you think of Harrods; the floors of high fashion, the luxurious Knightsbridge location, the gold plated script on the emerald green bags? A relaxing massage is not top of the list, but in the famous store you will find the aptly named Urban Retreat Spa, hidden away on the top floor, a haven of relaxation from the hustle and bustle of the city below.
Known for being a big name in luxury goods, Harrods has similar ideas to the massages offered in its spa; an indulgent location of pampering. With a countless list of options available, from a lava shell to a deep tissue massage, we wanted to find out how important the luxurious environment was to the treatment. To find out more, we spoke to Harrods own massage therapists, Margarida Bandola and Sheena who were more than happy to share the tricks of the luxury trade and explain why falling asleep is a good thing.
Thank you for taking the time out to talk to us! How did you both get into massage?
Margarida: I studied beauty therapy and cosmetology in Portugal seven years ago – I always enjoyed working with my hands and used to practise massage on my friends and family, so it was a very natural choice for me.
Sheena: I started studying beauty and sport therapy - although the course was great I felt more connected to massage and the holistic approach, so after my degree I decided to follow my heart and start a CIDESCO massage program.
So have you both had formal training in massage?
M: Yes, I trained in massage during my NVQ and I also have had additional training in hot stone therapy and lymphatic drainage. It is very important to study as many different techniques as possible in order to give a personalised massage to suit your client’s needs.
S: I completely agree with Margarida, being trained in a number of techniques gives me more confidence to perform personalised massages. I have been trained in Swedish massage with a number of big name brands.
What brought you to Urban Retreat at Harrods?
M: I saw the job online and travelled all the way from Portugal for my interview. I fell in love with Urban Retreat as soon as I saw the website and knew I wanted to work there. As much as you are passionate about what you do, the work environment is important – you need to feel comfortable with the team and the image of the company you work with.
S: The brand Murad asked me to work at Urban Retreat for them and now I am an Urban Retreat Body Therapist.
What would you say is the most important thing to remember when learning the art of massage?
M: I would say the most important things are listening to your customers’ needs, whilst understanding the anatomy to help deliver the best massage.
S: Yeah I agree, I also think getting to know and understand your client is a must – make sure they feel comfortable and the environment invites them to relax.
What is the best part of your job?
M: I love giving massages, especially when the client gives me positive feedback – it makes it all worthwhile.
S: One of the best parts for me would have to be meeting new people. Also, working for a brand like Urban Retreat helps me to stay up to date with any new techniques and products when they come onto the market.
What is the hardest part?
Both: Giving a massage at the end of the day!
M: It takes a lot of energy and you need to be physically in shape to be able to give the best massages consistently throughout the day.
What is your favourite type of massage to practise?
M: Using aromatherapy in a massage, as this can enhance the overall experience and wellbeing, either to revitalize, balance or relax the client.
S: I really like practising personalised massages, which offer a mix of different techniques, so I can concentrate on my clients concerns.
Do you get a lot of freebie massages from your colleagues?
Both: Unfortunately, there is not much time in such a busy salon, however if we need a massage we can ask our colleagues if they can give a treatment before or after work or vice versa.
Is there a formula to massage or do you have to adjust your technique for different clients?
M: It takes time, but each therapist develops their own techniques after a few years. The secret is to practise your technique whenever you can on family or friends, so they can give you honest feedback. This way you can make adjustments and be more responsive to your clients’ needs afterwards. In addition, it is really important to feel the body and adjust your massage according to each individual client.
S: I completely agree, your experience and training will help you to adjust your technique. It is very important to feel the body, using your own intuition and technique to deliver the best massage to each client.
Have you ever had anyone fall asleep while giving them a massage?
Both: Yes! All the time – it is actually quite a good way of knowing they are really enjoying it and are completely relaxed!
We’ve had massages in treatment rooms, with whales singing in the background and incense burning and we’ve had ones in dated doctors’ surgeries, sat on a plastic chair; how important is atmosphere when giving a massage or is it just for show?
M: Definitely the environment will comfort and relax the client as soon as they walk in. It is really important to have the right music enabling the client to drift off; the lighting should be dim and the couch comfortable with a heated blanket!
S: The atmosphere of the room is really important – it has to be warm, calm and inviting to help our busy clients relax.
Finally, what would you say to someone who has never had a massage in their life?
M: Book one in! It is so important to have time to relax from the hustle and bustle of city life – remember our bodies and minds need to be switched off to be ready for the next challenge.
If you fancy learning how to pamper your friends with a luxury massage, why not follow in Margarida and Sheena’s footsteps and find a massage course for you? De-stress and enjoy with an Indian head massage or master the art of working with hot stones, with many part time and evening classes on offer, luxury is a course away!