The pro: Martha Soffer, Herbalist, ayurvedic specialist, and owner of Surya Spa in Pacific Palisades, Calif., where Gwyneth Paltrow famously underwent the week-long Panchakarma detox. Our tester: Joanna Bober, lifestyle director who longs for something packing more punch than a spa day.
"If you’re anything like me, and you have a baby at home and are working full-time, you leap—and maybe even weep a bit—when offered the chance to be doused with warm oils. Soffer was coming to New York, and I scored an appointment to sample her ancient Indian healing treatments. Perhaps, it was a bit of Panchakarma light, but here was my Gwyneth moment!"
"Soffer had emailed ahead of time asking if I’d be OK with having aromatherapy liquids poured in my hair—yes, please—and if I could outline my health concerns so she could prep a blend of herbs to address those woes. Tired, stressed from multitasking, trying to get my body back: the new-mom trinity."
"When I arrived at Soffer’s Lower East Side space, waiters served tea and lentil soup. A white muslin poultice labeled with my name sat on the counter. Aha, my herb blend. Soffer took my pulse and asked about worries she was sensing, such as my thyroid, emotional blocks, and wonky hormones. When she said the 'girls' would perform the treatment, my ears perked up. That was the most memorable part of the experience: lots of people rubbing me with healing herbs and kneading every inch of each limb. Nirvana! Just because one part of my body had been worked on didn’t mean that same area wouldn’t be kneaded 10 more times. I couldn’t help thinking this might have been what Cleopatra had at her beck and call."
The results: “Three hours later I floated home, as restored as ever, wondering if I shouldn’t invest in a mega vat of scented oils for the occasional full-body dip. Instead I opted for this stress-relieving home remedy: Add a pound of Epsom salt to a tub filled with warm water and soak for 20 minutes. The salt slows down the nervous system, draws toxins from the skin, and soothes sore joints. Relaxation complete.”