When my Chi, or qi, one’s vital force, is out of whack I just want to take an indefinite leave of absence from the world. My thoughts run to the beach, but getting to the nearest beach in Bekasi is quite an impossibility. The traffic alone can dissuade you from actually going on making the trip. If you do brave the jams and the snail-pace of the vehicles on the expressway, by the time you get to Ancol (pronounced An-chol), it is already seething with people that you feel hemmed in, which is the exact opposite of what you want to really feel. This is when the idea of going on a city-break to balance the Chi becomes really alluring, which, in my book, is a trip to a spa in one of the hotels in Jakarta. My horoscope on that Saturday did urge me to make a spa appointment to iron out the kinks and fine-tune my lopsided Chi, and a few seconds after reading my horoscope, my FB newsfeed advertised the Chi Spa at Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta. Can we say serendipitous?

My first Chi Spa experience was ages ago at the Shangri-La Hotel, Cebu. I met up with Sharon Samarista, the hotel’s Director of Communications then, who toured me around the well-manicured hotel grounds that eventually ended at the Chi Spa, which was a world on its own. A Chi Spa experience begins with a short “interview” – you fill in a data sheet that will let the therapist know what ails you, what areas need to be avoided, allergies and recent surgical procedures, if any, to ascertain a truly Chi-balancing and invigorating experience. Naturally, this is all done within the comforts of a well-furnished lobby while sipping a mini cup of tea and dabbing oneself with a cold towel.

Take a break from the world at the Chi Spa at Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta.

Take a break from the world at the Chi Spa at Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta.

Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta, is without the vast space of Shangri-La Hotel, Cebu, as it’s ensconced within the fourth floor of the building, sharing space with the Health Club, but there was no lack in gracious staff and skilled therapists. There was no uncertainty – that kind you get every now and then when you announce your presence at an establishment and the receptionist is at a complete loss – when I said I had an appointment. Before I could finish saying my name, he had found my name in the computer and politely directed to take a seat while waiting for my therapist.

Erni pored over my filled-up sheet, confirming that I wanted concentration of the Chi Balance, a full body massage using acupressure techniques, on my back, arms and legs while avoiding the neck area. Chi Balance is one of Chi Spa’s signature massages, which promises to calm the senses while improving circulation. Teaching gets you all worked up especially with recalcitrant students, not to forget the forgetful and lazy ones, who don’t see the error of their way of thinking: the words and sentences of a reading material will never permeate their minds if they do not actually flip and read through the pages. An hour and 15 minutes of Chi Balance should knead out the knots to get the blood flowing unhampered and, little by little, banish the frustration of having such students.

Ice cold ginger tea and a cold towel - it's the start of your Chi Spa experience.

Ice cold ginger tea and a cold towel – it’s the start of your Chi Spa experience.

I could have chosen the traditional Balinese massage but a part of me was quite drawn to the phrase “acupressure techniques” and having my sense calmed. Erni’s dextrous fingers worked her magic on my back – putting the right pressure on the sore spots and gliding her fingers with even pressure up and down the spine, releasing the “stale air” and coaxing the blood to meander through the body smoothly. With each stroke and pressure she exerted, I exhaled every dissatisfaction, annoyance, and anxiety bit by bit.

Strike it once to signal you're ready for your massage.

Strike it once to signal you’re ready for your massage.

Leaving the sanctuary soon was not an option just yet. De-stressing was the order of the day so I was up for another round of massage. After Chi Balance, I was escorted out of the room and lead to a sitting room meant for an hour-long Chinese Reflexology, Chinese foot massage to relieve stress and stimulate circulation. Through years of going for this massage intermittently, I have learnt to discern between a badly executed reflexology and not: the masseuse must be able to unblock the kinks in my foot area without me wincing in pain. The fingers must glide up and down my foot and lower leg with fluidity and consistent pressure while I breathe normally and read my book. Not asking the masseuse to increase the pressure is also a good sign that the masseuse knows what he/she is doing. He/she can read your foot, breathing and expression quite well.

Finding balance has become more challenging these days. Living in a place that is teeming with a multitude of people of varying socio-cultural backgrounds is bound to always lead to tension and disagreements. Dealing with people, after all, day in day out can be frustrating, and there lies the rub. One can’t take an indefinite leave of absence unless one has grown tired of the world completely. I haven’t; I just need a break every now and then to balance my Chi, which I know won’t always be in tip-top shape.


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