Simply the test

This week: Esalen massage

I'm lying on a table, naked but for a couple of strategically placed towels, and being massaged by a man I met only a few minutes ago. No, it's not another Saturday night in Soho, but a Monday afternoon at Champneys, in Tring, and I'm experiencing one of the newest forms of massage to travel from America (Esalen originated in California in 1962). Given the delicacy of my position, it's something of an understatement to say that I'm feeling wary.

The massage uses wonderfully long strokes (often all the way from your neck down to your toes in one movement), gentle rocking and deep stretching to such an extent that you feel taller and more supple afterwards.

In fact, it's so good that not only do I stop fretting about my state of undress, but when the whole thing's over I can barely remember what I was worried about to begin with. Worth the embarrassment. Esalen massage, £90 for 85 minutes, at Champneys, 08703 300 300; (or visit for a local practitioner).

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