The 4-Hour Spa Treatment That Made Me Cry

This article was published in Shoppist, the digital style and beauty vertical for Philadelphia Magazine.

You don’t have to ask me twice to try out a spa treatment — especially when said spa treatment is a four-hour, spiritually-focused, astronomical journey into next-level relaxation. I had the fortune of being one of the first to try out The Planets treatment at Lush Spa, set to roll out to the public later this month. Inspired by stargazing and Gustav Holst’s classical piece ‘The Planets’, the treatment took years to develop.

The premise of the treatment is a little fluffy — time is a continuum, there are untapped galaxies within all of us, and that we need to address the past, present and future to take control of our universe — but I totally bought in, delved deep, and walked away from Lush a new woman. Here’s how the four-hour, $495 treatment went down:

#1. 20-minute consultation: First of all, Lush Philadelphia is one of just two locations in North America with a spa attached. When you walk to the back of the bath-bomb-filled storefront, you’re transported to a a kitchen-type room that looks like it was plucked from the English countryside. Here you consult with your esthetician at a long wood table. My esthetician, Tina Casella, began by laying out a deck of tarot-looking cards marked with the planets, each corresponding to qualities like ‘empathy’ and ‘love’ — I chose Mercury/change to set the tone for my treatment.

#2. The treatment room: Tina brought me upstairs to the treatment room, which is like a hippie’s version of outer space, with moving constellations projected on the ceiling, mystical purple lighting, and moving mirror reflections circling on the ceiling above. It was magical.

#3. The past: Right off the bat, your life’s baggage is addressed in a 90-minute full-body massage — and it’s not as weird as you’d think. As Tina explained, humans store specific stresses in certain areas of our bodies; if you talk about the root of those stresses during a massage, your tension will dissipate much quicker than if you lay there in silence. Pretty cool, right? Tina used a planet-looking sphere of melty body butter to work through my tension from head (scalp massage!) to toe (foot cleanse!).

How much you open up during this portion is completely subjective. But when your massage therapist digs her finger into on a knot in your lower back and tells you “This is the area that corresponds with the stories we tell ourselves about our finances, how we exaggerate our situations and feel held back by money … Does that mean anything to you?” and it’s eerily dead-on, you tend to open up. I think I divulged more personal info to Tina in that hour and a half than I have to longtime friends. And the method worked: As soon as I started talking about the root of that tension, I felt it release from my body. When each knot relaxed, she closed that emotional junk drawer of negativity by passing either a hot or cold stone over the healed area to seal it shut. “Therapeutic” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

#4. The present: After I rolled off the table and into the most amazing robe ever (seriously, it was fit for a Russian czar), Tina and I sat down for a proper English tea. She washed my hands over a basin with a galactic bath bomb that fizzed and released bursts of calming essential oils in a mesmerizing fog. This was to “wash away the past.” After a hand massage, Tina read my palm — and that’s when shit got real.

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Tina pointed out things like the fact that my heart line is long and swooping (which means I extend myself and my heart freely to others), and that my fingertips curl inwards, which signals that I’m generally open to experiences and people only to a certain point. Tina touched upon things that felt scary-true. At one point, Tina looked at my fate line, and explained that my life was/is heading in one direction, but it reversed (or will reverse) course, which means it’s heading in the opposite direction of what I thought my life would be. “Lauren,” she said. “I think you have the courage to make that change.” And that’s when I burst into tears. I looked down into my teacup, embarrassed at how much her words affected me, and I saw my planet, Mercury, printed at the bottom of the cup, and the word I chose at the beginning: change.

#5. The future: After wrapping up my tearful tea party, I slipped out of the robe and back on the table to begin phase three, the facial. The focus of this portion is to prepare you to step into the future uplifted, so every movement pulls the facial muscles upwards. There was a cleanse, a steam with warm towels, a face mask. This was the only silent portion of the treatment, where I zoned out and let my thoughts drift to the future. I had a some big ideas come to me about changes I want to make, directions I want to explore in my life. Before I knew it, everything was over. When I opened my eyes, I saw my Mercury projected onto the ceiling above.

#6. The lowdown: You’ve got to be someone who’s willing to buy into the whole experience — the planets, the palm reading, opening up about, ya know, your deep-seeded baggage you don’t even realize is dragging you down. But if you do, I guarantee you will walk away from the Planets treatment at Lush Spa, back into the blinding reality of a storefront on Walnut, and into the future refreshed from the inside out — I know I did. And about that change? I’ll keep you posted.