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It’s an all too common situation for lawyers on the go: The weather is bad, the flight is delayed, and the seats are cramped. And that’s just before landing. Afterward, you can expect to spend hours hunched over a laptop and more hours flailing on a lumpy bed. The next day? Tough negotiations, nasty opposing counsel, and piles of contradictory documents. It’s no wonder lawyers and other road warriors are prone to stiff necks and bad backs. Here’s the good news: Almost all hotels now offer a range of massages that can transport even the crankiest lawyer to a more mellow place. Below, a guide for those of you who are less than enthusiastic about the idea of taking off your clothes in a tiny room with a complete stranger. What can you expect? And what type of massage should you request? First, some background. Most massage rooms adopt muted lights and candles to create a Zen-inspired atmosphere. A few use incense. And nearly all of them have feel-good New Age music playing in the background. A massage therapist usually asks if you want him to focus on any part of your body. If he doesn’t, feel free to tell him about that knot in your upper back. Although I requested specific types of massages at each of the spas I visited, I found that each therapist, as each lawyer, has her own style. My deep-tissue massage therapist applied a few Reiki techniques at the end of my massage to balance my “energy.” My hot-stones massage was accompanied by reflexology. My advice: If you are a frequent visitor to a particular hotel or city, find a therapist you like, and don’t worry about what the massage is called. Also feel free to tell your therapist if you like light or heavy pressure. Too much pressure on overly tight muscles can turn an hour of anticipated relaxation into an hour of pain. Now, the comparisons. SWEDISH Swedish massage is the most basic. The therapist kneads and lengthens the soft tissue of the body, with a goal of increasing circulation, reducing muscle tension, and reducing stress. He generally applies a light oil during the treatment. Therapists also frequently stretch muscles and rotate joints during this treatment. When I was in Stockholm last summer, I succumbed to the temptation of having a real Swedish massage. It was the perfect antidote to my jet lag, and very similar to the Swedish massages given back home. Since spa treatments have become quite elaborate in recent years, Swedish massages are frequently jazzed up with aromatherapy. The idea is that certain scents can change your mood and sense of well-being. At Carapan in New York, you can choose between scents that are relaxing (lavender) or invigorating (citrus). Unable to decide, I chose the “balancing” option, which incorporated elements of both. Instead of plain massage oil, my therapist used scented oil, which did add to the allure of the experience. SHIATSU Don’t want to take off your clothes? Shiatsu is for you. You generally wear loose-fitting clothes and lie on the floor, rather than on a massage table. Warning: Shiatsu is not a muscle rub. There is a deeper manipulation going on that may or may not be to your liking. The goal is to balance your meridians, a Chinese concept of invisible energy within your body corresponding to various organs. (I have been told on occasion that my kidney meridian needed stimulation.) However, most spa therapists take a less serious approach. They use their fingers, elbows, and, sometimes, feet to apply pressure to points on the body that correspond to specific meridians. Shiatsu also usually includes several stretching moves. Don’t be surprised if the therapist moves your leg around your body. The goal is an all-over tune-up. If it works, your energy will be realigned — hopefully not so drastically that you suddenly lose interest in defeating your foe in court the next day. HOT-STONE THERAPY During a hot-stone massage, large rocks are heated and strategically placed along the sides of your spine, between your toes, or in other locations. The heat is meant to enhance the therapeutic effect of the massage. My therapist told me that the hot-stone massage is also a spiritual experience. She invited me to pray during the session. Not surprisingly, hot-stone massages are most popular in alternative nooks, such as Santa Fe. My therapist actually used the warm stones to massage my body directly. As it turns out, having your body kneaded with warm rocks is a pretty good idea. (I tried the hot-stone therapy at Equinox in New York and at Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe.) One warning: The stones should be warm, not hot. If it is too hot for your therapist to touch without gloves, it’s probably too hot to be placed on your skin. In Santa Fe, I felt more stressed than relaxed when I saw yet another burning-hot rock approaching my body. THAI MASSAGE Thai massage is one of those massages that mean different things to different people. But both of the Thai massages that I had were among my favorites. At the Paul LeBreque spa in New York, Thai massage is sort of similar to shiatsu. The massage takes place on a futon on the floor with the client wearing loose clothing. My therapist described his version of Thai massage as “lazy man’s yoga.” I was pummeled, had various pressure points manipulated, and was stretched and moved into numerous yoga-like positions. At the spa in the Barclay Hotel in London, the Thai massage was closer to a traditional massage (meaning no clothes). My therapist was trained by a Thai native. She used the distinctive Thai approach of massaging the whole body instead of focusing on one area at a time. The best Thai massages are, of course, in Thailand, where massage is a traditional, medicinal practice. MUSCLE MELT Another option for the bored massage addict is the “muscle melt.” It is aimed at relieving stress and easing muscle pain, hopefully caused by hours at the gym and not hours at your desk. In addition to a basic Swedish massage, my therapist at the Sports Club/LA in New York applied hot packs to various tense parts of my body and then wrapped me up in a fluffy blanket. It’s a great antidote to a tough day at the office. Those who want even more relaxation can try the spa’s “Softpak,” which is frequently used as a complement to the Muscle Melt. The Softpak is a high-tech flotation bed that has one major advantage over other flotation devices: You don’t get wet. Instead you are wrapped up and then lowered about a foot into something that feels like a deep waterbed. It’s one of the most relaxing experiences, especially for those who like to float in the ocean. I actually drifted off several times.

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