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If you’ve never treated yourself to a day at the spa, it is definitely time to start. Depending upon what you choose to have done, you will leave relaxed, well groomed and blissfully unaware that there is any difficulty in the world.

This Valentine’s Day, I got the treat of a lifetime when I went to Lifestyles for Body and Soul Beautifying Spa on Atlantic Avenue at Court Street. By the time I left, after four hours of being lathered in oils, chocolate and creams, massaged, exfoliated and painted, I was so peacefully dazed that I would have departed without my coat had the manager not reminded me.

Chronically late, I wasn’t too worried when I arrived 10 minutes behind schedule for my massage. But unlike in most circumstances, my massage therapist, Tracey, was understanding.

Everybody’s running late this morning, she said reassuringly. "Mercury’s in retrograde."

Right, I thought. Of course. If only all aspects of my life could be summed up this neatly.

So, I stripped off my clothes, still tired after having forgone the morning cup of coffee, laid down on the heated table and waited for Tracey to loosen up my muscles and help me achieve that sense of inner calm that comes with the best massages.

The room was small and illuminated by a few candles, while Peruvian music played in the background - an addition, Tracey explained, intended to help her customers forget their hectic days.

During the hour-long Swedish massage ($65), the spa’s most popular massage, Tracey used a combination of five strokes to relax my muscles and assuage my stress. During the end of the massage she rubbed "Yin" oil on me, to calm my strong energy, she said. The "Yin" is a blend of geranium, rose, ylang ylang and chamomile oils.

After the massage, I was ushered over to Linh for a chocolate pedicure ($35). I assumed that meant that I would be eating Godiva while she painted my toes. But no, this was a no-calorie chocolate indulgence for my calves and feet.

After the standard cleaning, filing, cuticle cutting, lotion and salt-rub exfoliation, Linh went into the back room and mixed together an elixir of Hershey’s cocoa, milk and peppermint essential oil. The antioxidants from the chocolate combined with milk’s lactic acid and vitamins A and D were supposed to be good for my skin. All I knew for certain, once Linh began to paint the delicious mixture over my feet and legs, was that I would soon be smelling like a box of "Thin Mint" Girl Scout cookies.

After the mask was applied, I was Saran-Wrapped to allow the mixture to dry, and with a pair of heated plastic booties on my feet, left to my own devices for 15 minutes - during which time I read a fashion magazine and felt very girly.

Soon Linh returned, un-Saran-Wrapped me and with a warm washcloth de-chocolatified me. Wow, did I smell good! She assured me it would last for a few days, making my sheets smell like chocolate mint. To be honest, I wanted to eat my own leg. But I didn’t. Instead I allowed Linh to French pedicure my toes.

Then, still weak and tingly from the chocolate concoction and the vast amounts of attention bestowed on my normally shy toes, I walked to the back room for the final part of my spa morning.

The saying ’save the best for last’ can certainly be applied to my facial. Rose, the Caribbean-native aesthetician who has been performing them for nearly two decades, said giving facials was her passion.

Although I had originally been scheduled for a stone relaxation facial, after Rose examined my face under a bright light and magnifying glass, she decided that I needed a deep pore-cleansing facial ($70). Fortunately, Rose decided to incorporate aromatherapy and a hot stone massage with the deep extraction facial (which increases the price to $130).

Since it was my first facial, ever, Rose did a fair amount of chastising that I had let it go this long without having one done.

Your skin needs to breathe, Rose said simply.

In addition, my skin was dehydrated and clogged, she informed me.

To balance and relax my energy before beginning the facial, Rose placed lava stones on three of my chakras: navel, solar plexus and heart, which remained there for the remainder of the nearly two-hour facial.

After cleansing, exfoliating, and steaming my face, Rose again turned on the bright lights, and with her huge magnifying glass proceeded to de-clog me.

Mysteriously, Rose unearthed entire colonies of impurities hiding beneath the skin - ones I had no idea were lurking about. It was like popping a never-ending strip of bubble wrap.

Rose then applied a soothing serum by Bioelements, the only brand the spa uses on skin, to calm my skin. Following that, she massaged my face, first with her hands to find the pressure points, and then using hot and cold lava stones to wake up the skin. The effects of the stones were startling: it was exhilarating, confusing and relaxing - essentially a succession of contradictions.

Afterwards, she custom-blended a serum intended to nourish and balance my skin and massaged the mask into my face.

Then she placed two citron stones on my eyes, an amethyst on my forehead, an agate on my neck, a labradorite on my chin, and a crystal over my heart and left me to meditate, feeling like an Egyptian princess, for 15 minutes.

When she returned, I didn’t want to go. I was so relaxed. But there was work - and it was Valentine’s Day.

By the time I stepped back onto Atlantic Avenue, my body was completely relaxed, my face could breathe again, and my toes were beautiful. Plus I smelled like chocolate.

How much better could it get?

See Lifestyles in the Spa Directory.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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