In a town oozing with Rolfers, shiatsu masters, neuromuscular therapists and Thai massage hotties, you’d think that finding the best, or at least a best bodyworker would be a snap.
There are variables to consider: schooling, skill, talent, energy, presence, quality of touch; plus extras: an intuitive sense of where tension is hiding or psychic reads on emotional issues tangled up in muscular knots; details like texture of palm, neatness of nail. What sort of products are being massaged into my pores; and, are they organic? Vegan? Do I really want mashed-up paraben-drenched pony guts rubbed into the largest organ of my body?
Some notes from the trenches on the quest for the Best Bodywork in L.A.:
Best Budget Thai Massage: Chiang Mai
When I’m achy and on a budget, inkling for the Thai touch, I go see Polly at Chiang Mai, a surprisingly peaceful oasis in the middle of Hollywood tourist madness. It’s a typical Thai spa with a touch of elegance, as in a shocking-pink orchid petal on every massage mat, and a hot, damp towel to the feet when Polly’s finished and my body’s a puddle of oatmeal. I could do without the traditional Thai music bleating its way throughout the spa, but Polly’s touch makes it more than bearable. Her English may be limited, but her hands speak fluent tension relief.
6541 Hollywood Blvd., No. 204, Hollywood, (323) 465-1255 or www.chiangmaihealthspa.com.
Best House Calls: Kelly Ronan Garey
Still in the realms of the affordable, Kelly Ronan Garey makes house calls. Trained in a slew of healing modalities, including polarity therapy and reflexology, Garey’s got that wide-eyed, innocent Midwest thing going, even though he’s from the Bay area. His deep tissue is rock solid, but it’s his cranial-sacral skills that make me ooh and ahh, awash in the ecstasy of cerebral-spinal fluid flooding my skull.
Best Pain Spotter: Amy Marquet
When the odd demon holes up in my shoulder, and my body goes into full-fledged revolt, I turn to Amy Marquet’s tenacious hands and aromatherapy arsenal. The tiny spitfire with a wild Aquarian imagination and 16 years of experience under her (neatly trimmed) fingernails has a talent for finding those deeply hidden sore spots, and going after them with a gentle ferocity. Plus, she’s delightful.
Best Magic Touch: Aradhana Silvermoon
When I’m in need of nurturing and a dose of sparkle, I call upon Aradhana Silvermoon. A Topanga girl with the relaxed disposition and vegan sandals to prove it, Silvermoon comes armed with her hemp satchel full of lotions and potions and essential oils — fairy dust too. Equal parts warrior, medicine woman and earth mother, Silvermoon — who runs Dancing Star Well Being Arts with TruthI Melchizedek — transforms her massage table into a ritual healing space. Our sessions are infused with bits of magic: the extended tingle of her palm on my heart chakra, the sweet melody of her soul song as she guides the tension out of my Radiohead-at-the-Bowl-two-nights-in-a-row!-dance-madness sore calves, and the surprise whiff of fresh rosemary under my nose just as she guides me back from Never-Never Land. Ahhhhhradhana . . .
(310) 923-0460 or www.dancingstararts.com.
Best for Clearing Blocks, Knots and Lingering Mommy Issues: Carolyn Jacques at Côte d’Azur
Carolyn Jacques takes an amalga-mated kitchen-sink approach to bodywork. A Native American, she taps into the tribal healing techniques coursing through her veins, along with Maori (ouch!) modalities, Qigong, cord cutting, traditional massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and quantum healing. I met Jacques while in the throes of total Mercurial meltdown, having stumbled into her hands stinky, late and frazzled. Two hours and one Indigo Series later, I was floating on air in a blissed-out haze.
She started by scanning the front of my body with an outstretched hand an inch from my skin. “It’s all in here,” she said, laying her palm gently over my heart. “You’re completely blocked.”
Face-down in a giant, dimly lit treatment room at Jacques’ swanky Old Town Pasadena spa Côte d’Azur, I listened to soft, New Age music while Jacques unearthed — and removed — emotional blocks, limiting beliefs and ancestral scarring (seven generations back), not to mention the rote kinks and cricks, using hot stones, warm rice, strong hands and clear intention. She dug her fingers into my feet. “You eat a lot of vegetables.”
She’s good. I yelped as she kneaded a family of knots in my right calf.
“If your mother was compassionate and supportive, you wouldn’t be as strong as you are now.”
Usually, to get deep healing bodywork of this caliber — infused with ancient mojo, divine light and empathic, motherly love — you have to travel to the far ends of the Earth and leap through flaming hoops along the way.
74 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Old Town Pasadena, (626) 396-3030 or www.cotedazurspa.com.
Best Overall: Julian Walker
My real, true, honest injun’ any day, everyday favorite is Julian Walker. His own body-mind integrative Big Sky Bodywork and compassionate fingers have the ability to move energy through my body like lightning bolts of sensation while guiding me to breathe the blocks out of my muscles myself. Of course, Walker is already in this issue for his yoga work (see “Best Compassionate Yogi”), which should disqualify him from the bodywork category because it simply isn’t right to give one South African healer two “Best Of” distinctions, regardless of how much he deserves them. And, no, I’m not sleeping with him.
(310) 398-2518 or www.julianwalkeryoga.com/bodywork.
Best of the Best: Tracy Feldstein
Tracy Feldstein is a bodywork goddess. Trained in a zillion modalities, from Swedish deep tissue to Hawaiian lomilomi, her motto is “it feels good . . . when I stop.” I could go on and on about her sensitive intuition, her Herculean strength, her dazzling personality and her cutting sense of humor, but what’s the point? She’s booked solid for the next decade and unless you have a referral, she ain’t touching you. The good news is Feldstein recently launched Hello Mellow, her own line of handcrafted, organic massage butters and oils, infused with essential oils and good vibes. You may not be able to experience the goddess’ hands on your aching traps, but her “revitalize” blend body butter just might be the next best thing.
4712 Admiralty Way, #800, Marina del Rey or www.hellomellow.com.