As I navigated my way through the pre-9 a.m. hustle and bustle of a Chicago weekday, my imminent relaxation was far from my mind. It seemed impossible after waltzing through the morning rush hour of the city, but I relaxed almost immediately upon crossing Chuan Spa’s signature Moon Gate entrance on The Langham, Chicago’s fourth floor.
Settling in a cozy chair in the quiet lobby — watching the maze of people rushing through the streets from the floor-to-ceiling windows was much more peaceful than participating — I completed a questionnaire about my current mood before the receptionist escorted me to the locker room.
This was not my first time visiting the spa at The Langham, Chicago, although it was quite different from my prior experience. A year earlier, my colleague and I received a behind-the-scenes hardhat tour of the hotel when it was still mid-construction. Some of the spa features were familiar to me as I made my way through, but this time a fluffy robe and slippers enveloped me rather than a utility vest and hardhat. I preferred this visit.
In Chinese, chuan means “flowing water,” and the spa embraces the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine. To begin, the spa recommends partaking in the Chuan Bathing Ritual, a series of rooms designed to reinvigorate your body’s reaction to hot and cold. First is the herbal sauna, to loosen and soothe tight muscles. The sauna uses sage, rosemary and mint to open the respiratory system. Blocks of pure Himalayan salt line the walls of the Salt Stone Sauna, releasing negative ions to create a fresh, clean environment and reduce stress and respiratory/skin ailments. The Experience Shower is a wake-up call for the senses before the Oriental Steam Room, where chamomile permeates the air and ergonomically designed relaxation recliners warm the body.
TCM is based on the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each spa treatment centers on them; and five-element oils, incense, candles, teas and juices were created exclusively for the spa.
My therapist found me flipping through a huge double issue of Vogue in a relaxation room with couches, teas, waters and various reading material. She directed me to an ample treatment room, decorated in dark purple and burgundy with Chinese-inspired design elements. Heavy drapes covered the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the busy city below, furthering my sense of peace and calm.
Based on the five-element questionnaire I completed upon arrival, it was determined my element was earth. According to the card my therapist gave me: “The Earth element is related to your spleen, stomach and muscles and affects your mouth and lips relating to your sense of taste. The emotions tend to be that you worry and often think too much. You may tend to prefer the color yellow, morning time, the season of late summer, damp and sweet flavors.” Basically, spot-on.
My therapist used oils and lotions and focused on particular pressure points based on my element. Before we began, she guided me through The Chuan Breathing Ritual, designed to restore harmony to mind, body and soul.
As an earth element, I sat with my right hand on my chest, against the spleen, creating a mental image incorporating the color yellow. After inhaling to the maximum capacity and holding my breath for as long as I could, I exhaled, chanting the sound, “gong.”
My 60-minute signature Chuan Balancing massage followed. The treatment is characterized by acupressure techniques that release muscle tension and improve circulation of the body’s life force (qi). My therapist applied mild pressure to those points affecting my spleen, stomach, muscles, mouth and lips, kick-starting my body’s natural self-curative abilities. It was blissful as I slipped in and out of a state of semi-consciousness throughout the hour.
TCM treatments at the spa include acupuncture, inserting fine needles into the body’s channels of energy; moxibustion, burning a small, spongy Chinese herb and holding it close to an acupressure point for several minutes; and ho guan, or cupping, where heated cups are applied to the skin. The spa also offers facials, scrubs, wraps, men’s treatments, Thalgo treatments and signature hand and foot therapies in addition to massages.
The Langham, Chicago is devoted to health and wellness, offering a health club, personal training and a pool/Jacuzzi. The fitness center includes state-of-the-art cardiovascular equipment, strength machines and free weights; the gym is open to hotel guests, but memberships for individuals, couples and corporations are also available. The 67-foot-long swimming pool looked vastly different when I stole a glimpse of it on this visit versus on my first; then just a concrete hole, it now offers excellent city views, loungers and a heated Hydro-Vitality Jacuzzi.
I ended my experience in the darkened Dream Room, savoring the last few moments of serenity on a Four-Sense Lounger. Found only at Chuan Spa in The Langham, Chicago, the recliners light from within and offer vibrations and other interactive elements that lull you back into a state of meditation. Soft music played, and I was the only one in the room, totally relaxed. An ideal setting for a cat nap and another hour of indulgent relaxation, but, alas, I knew the clock was ticking and I needed to make my way to a late-morning meeting.
I pulled myself from the lounger and resisted the urge to sink back onto the heated relaxation recliner in the locker room. I changed, crossing through Moon Gate once again, readying to face the commuters of Chicago but this time floating along on my own personal cloud.
The Langham, Chicago
330 N. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
tel 312 923 9988
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