Rubbing (and Scrubbing) Away the Stress

A recipe for relief at the new Spa Thayer


After realizing that I was long overdue for a trim, I went to the salon and asked my hairdresser to work her usual magic on my frazzled tresses. It was at the sink, with my head tipped back and her fingers tangled in my wet hair, that I heard these words: “Relax your head.” My noggin was tipped back and securely nestled within the chair’s molded cradle. “It is relaxed,” I said. “No, it’s not,” came the reply. I sighed, knowing that her statement was true. It can be hard to let go of the physical and mental stress that builds up everyday. Clearly, another thing that I was miserably overdue for was a massage.

I was dying to check out Spa Thayer, which opened a few months back at the Narragansett Pier Marketplace. Owner Deborah Thayer greeted me in the serene waiting room, with a warm smile and a spa-requisite whisper. I immediately complimented her regarding the location (just footsteps from the beach) and the chosen color scheme (shades of blue and tan). It’s clear that Thayer has a love for the sea. In fact, the 90-minute treatment I was about to undergo is appropriately named Ocean Dreams. She informed me that I would receive not only a massage, but also a full body scrub and hot stone treatment, designed to relieve stress, smooth my skin and relax my body and mind.

She left me to disrobe (to my comfort level) and hop onto the bed, face up. The room was tiny, with a high ceiling and fan that blew a gentle breeze onto my face. Nestled between some sheets and towels, the temperature was just right. My knees and neck were supported by bolsters, transforming the massage table into an I’ve-died-and-gone-to-heaven berth of comfort. Soothing instrumental music filled the space. The door opened and in padded Thayer, quietly tip-toeing around as if walking on air. After ensuring that I was comfortable in both body positioning and climate staging, the treatment commenced.

First, she rubbed my head and neck – you remember, the parts of me that don’t know how to relax – and a funny thing happened; my muscles started to loosen up, and so did my mind. She kneaded my shoulders with firm pressure (as requested), and then introduced me to the hot stones. Aah. For those not familiar with this procedure, it’s a multi-sensory experience: One part tactile, one part olfactory, one part auditory. You’re met first by a charcoal-like smoky smell and then next by the sound of two stones clacking together. Finally, the rocks make contact with your skin and all your cares cease to exist. For a worry-wart such as myself, this is a well-received attribute.

The body scrub had a lavender hint, and it sloughed away my dead skin cells, making way for fresh skin to poke through. My arms, legs, feet and back all underwent the same regimen: Rub, rock, scrub, repeat. Finally, it was over. I cried. (Just kidding.) I got dressed and met Thayer back out in the sea-hued waiting room. She held out a glass of water for me and told me it was important to hydrate after massage. I asked about the popping I heard while she worked on my back and was told that was the adhesions – the build-up of lactic acid – working their way out. I was well aware that I also carried stress in my back (hours of being hunched over a computer keyboard) and was happy to send it on its merry way. Thanks to Deborah, I’ve been cured of my non-ability to relax – just ask my hairdresser.