Ganbanyoku

What is it:

Traditional Japanese hot-stone therapy that uses special magma stones to heat the body from the inside out. The stones are said to release infrared rays and negative ions to speed the release of toxins from the body through perspiration. The stones are kept between 42C and 44C and the ambient humidity at between 62 and 65 per cent.

Where: Bliss in the City, 4F Atrium on Elliot. 09 3684698

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Ever since I was introduced to a massage at one of those in the wall massage stores at the local Westfield shopping centre they have become a regular part of my pamper repertoire.

Over the years my taste has evolved beyond the mall masseuse to the more luxurious hot-stone, oil or aromatherapy-based treatments.

I tend to stop short of spending in the hundreds of dollars, preferring to grab a bargain of $60 - $90 for a one- or two-hour treatment at the local Thai place around the corner.

Given my relatively regular pamper treats, offering myself up to test a slightly different type of spa-massage experience at the Crowne Plaza's Bliss Spa was no great hardship.

The massage part of the Japanese Stone Spa package was not too different to what you'd expect, the real point of difference was the stone spa that precedes the massage.

The spa describes it as "rock-bathing" on a special stone that is said to heat your body from the inside out.

Feeling suitably refreshed post Japanese stone spa at the Crowne Plaza. Photo / Corazon Miller
Feeling suitably refreshed post Japanese stone spa at the Crowne Plaza. Photo / Corazon Miller

The touted benefits included a full-body detox, the burning of calories, anti-ageing properties and relief from pain.

In a case of pure chance my spa date coincided with the day after I had just danced and kicked my way up Queen St as a character in the annual Santa Parade.

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As I nursed my sore hamstrings I held out hope the spa would indeed help ease the pain.

The friendly staff at the Bliss Spa offered me an unattractive "uniform", reminiscent of blue soccer shorts with a matching top, to wear in the spa.

I obliged before wandering into the stone section of the spa, which contained about eight stone beds to give the rock-bathing a chance.

In reality there is little contact between skin and stone as a layer of towel, plus the uniform provides a thick barrier between the two.

Lying straight on the stone is not recommended, even dressed it's pretty warm. Any skin contact, while not scalding, was slightly too hot to be comfortable.

It did seem as if the prescribed 45 minutes in here could be a good detox from reality and from the technology that has us so often chained to our daily tasks and obligations.

Unfortunately for me a couple of men who appeared not to be able to read the "no talking" signs kept disrupting the otherwise steamy calm of the space.

Typically I'm not a fan of the sauna environment and was a little apprehensive when I first found out the stone spa had a similar environment.

I couldn't imagine lasting 10, let alone 45, minutes inside a room filled with hot, humid air. But with temperatures about 30C to 40C cooler than your typical sauna, and about 40 per cent less humidity, this was tolerable.

I only ducked out of the room once to get a breath of fresh air - though I was admittedly ready for my massage after the prescribed time.

The subsequent 55-minute massage that followed my spa session was pleasant, if not out of the ordinary, and left me feeling suitably relaxed.

It didn't completely fix the sore muscles - I was still hobbling around the following day. Though I'd wager this was more due to my usual office-bound body getting a rather hefty shock to the system from an hour of straight dancing on concrete.

Spas are, after all, pleasant, not miraculous.

My only complaint is the massage wasn't long enough - but let's be honest, they very rarely are when they are as nice as this.