Good vibes

Pub date February 3, 2010

Many people consider massage a luxury, a kind of pampering or relaxation that is lovely but unnecessary. But done right, massage — or any kind of bodywork — is actually an integral part of overall well-being. A powerful tool to balance the body physically, mentally, and spiritually, bodywork is an act of self-love. And what better time to express love of any kind than Valentine’s Day? Whether you want to honor yourself, your partner, or your coupledom, now is the perfect moment to tend to your somatic needs. Below are three of our favorite spots for personal treatments, gift certificates, and couples’ sessions. Each place is focused on holistic health and all are refreshingly between the extremes of new age woo-woo hippie-dom and pretentious L.A. spa culture.


This intimate Hayes Valley spot is more healing center than mere day spa. Therapists are trained in several modalities and develop custom sessions for every client, including consultations before and after treatment. It’s also worth noting that Earthbody is uniquely committed to sustainability, using only organic materials (including fair-trade cotton sheets), plant-derived ingredients in balms and oils that are made in-house, and eco-safe cleaning products.

Individuals: No matter what you choose for yourself or for a loved one, you can’t go wrong. Those with chronic pain might try a body centering treatment ($95–<\d>$155), while those looking for a bit more pampering might like a classic facial ($75–<\d>$165). Not sure what you want? Let the therapist figure it out in a basic bodywork session, starting at $65 for 30 minutes, then find out what your bodyworker learned about you while you snack on almonds, fruits, tea, and specially filtered Kangen water.

Couples: Many couples’ massages are merely two individual massages happening in the same room. Not so at Earthbody. Meant to honor the special union between two people — whether they are lovers, friends, or family — these treatments feature two therapists performing a special synchronized choreography. “When people have a commitment to each other, they have an energy that radiates with another field,” says founder Denmo Ibrahim. “Each body is being addressed, but the field also is being addressed.” Treatments start at $225 per couple for 60 minutes and go up to $490 for the two-and-a-half-hour Lotus treatment.

534 Laguna, SF. (415) 552-7000,


Fans of contemporary design will drool over this gorgeous, 10,000-square-foot oasis, where walls are bedecked with art and mirrors and lounges look like sets for a photo shoot in Dwell. The nine-year-old center specializes in personalized, customized service, keeping charts on every client that include therapist notes after every session. An added bonus for Valentine’s Day: mention this article and get 14 percent (Get it?) off any service, along with a free soy-based candle.

Individual: Give yourself or your loved one the center’s specialty treatment, a 90-minute hot stone massage ($165). Unlike similar treatments at other places, bodyworkers at Therapeia actually use the heated stones as tools for massage, rather than simply placing them on the body. “The stones have such a smooth, even, wide surface area, it’s like two massages in one,” says studio coordinator Jacquelyn Moore. For something even more special, add the gift of ongoing self-care with a membership. For $49 a year, members get access to featured specials, including 20 percent off every treatment, 10 percent off products, and 40 percent off treatments during their birthday week. Anyone planning to visit more than three times a year will save money.

Couples: Special, larger rooms are reserved for couples’ treatments ($295–<\d>$385), which feature two therapists working on each person individually. “People enjoy relaxing in same room as a partner,” Moore says. Or if you’d like to share your space with four or more people, you can all enjoy your massage in a special lounge outfitted with a fireplace, fountains, and luxurious leather couches.

1801 Bush (lower level), SF. (415) 885-4450,


Exotic, elegant, and decadent, this locally-owned business specializes in traditional Thai massage. Not only are the treatments fantastic, but the new Embarcadero location is beautiful, accented with imported Thai furniture and fabrics, recycled wood, and floating flowers in a tinkling fountain. Bonus? If you book a treatment at the King Street location, you can get 10 percent off a meal at nearby Grand Pu Bah.

Individuals: A first-timer’s best bet is a one-hour traditional Thai massage ($60). You’ll slip on light, pajama-like garments and lie on a cushioned mat in a curtained room while your therapist — trained in Thailand as well as certified here — uses hands, elbows, and knees to knead, stretch, and press out your kinks. Both relaxing and active, many people call this modality a cross between a massage and a workout.

Couples: Book two massages together and you can receive tandem treatments, or spoil yourselves with the three-hour Royal Lanna or Royal Siam massage, both centuries-old combinations of traditional Thai bodywork, reflexology, and herbal massage. Finish with delicious homemade lemongrass tea and, a special for Valentine’s Day, chocolate.

38 Bryant, SF. (415) 644-0808; 690 King, SF. (415) 252-5020,