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In the midst of the holidays, it’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in the stress of entertaining, shopping and decorating.

Have you been surprised by your husband’s outbursts as he tries in vain to find the reason why half of the Christmas tree lights have gone out, while you massage your aching upper arms after toting sacks full of presents up the stairs to your apartment? Do your eyes ache from searching Web sites for the perfect gift, while your partner accidentally hammers his finger while hanging the garland of gilded poinsettias you envisioned elegantly draped over the windows?

There’s no time like the present for you and your mate to take a time out to relax and remember what the holidays are really about - reveling in and celebrating the love we have for our family and friends.

Do it now, before someone gets hurt.

Don’t squawk about not having time or money. This is about saving your sanity (and your marriage) as well as maintaining your health in the midst of this hectic - yet special - time of year.

And look no farther than Daniella Stromberg and Mark Abbonizio’s D’mai Urban Spa in Park Slope for the ultimate retreat experience for two: a massage in the spa’s new couple’s cabana.

"Our spa is Indonesian inspired," explained Stromberg. "It’s common there to have outdoor massages. It’s a great way for couples to share a non-verbal level of intimacy."

Modeled after luxurious resorts, D’mai offers a serene, mercifully quiet ambiance with all of the amenities. Waiting areas with wicker furniture are accessorized with pitchers of water flavored with refreshing cucumber.

The cabana itself, which opened in September, is an elegant tent with two parallel massage tables. An opaque ceiling lets in sunshine during the day, while candles keep the heated enclosure lit at night. (Warning: book your appointment accordingly. If you’re not ready to waggle your new pumpkin pie-filled love handles at your partner, a nocturnal appointment promises to be more flattering upon disrobing. If you have no shortage of self-confidence, the cabana filled with daylight is a rare, lovely experience.)

"There are alternative ways to relax and recreate than going into a bar," said Stromberg. "The spa is open on Thursdays and Fridays until 9 pm. If you make an appointment for 8 o’clock on a Friday evening, that’s a date."

The cabana’s wood floor is edged with stones and plants, and after clients nestle their faces into the massage table donuts, they are greeted by a glorious lily floating in a bowl of water on the floor.

My husband and I gratefully threw ourselves down on our respective tables with much anticipation - grateful for 60 minutes when we didn’t have to talk about our over-scheduled lives.

Massage therapists Micah Kotch and Nicole Serrano applied massage oil with chamomile, frankincense and rosemary to rub out the "contractures in the fascia," or knots, harbored in our muscles. (After Kotch applied deep tissue, shiatsu and myofascial release massage techniques to my aching muscles, he was able to offer several therapies - from chair pads to stretches - that I could practice at home and the office to minimize future aches and pains.)

A common complaint among couples who book their spa appointments in the hopes of spending time together is that they become separated during treatments.

With D’mai’s couple’s cabana booking, you’re in the waiting room together, are massaged together and can spend time luxuriating in the sauna after the massage - together.

"If you’re going to a spa together, you might as well do it together," said Stromberg.

And D’mai’s sauna is the real deal. We felt like we had parked our relaxed, massaged bodies in an authentic Scandinavian sauna when we sat down in the wood-paneled room. It’s replete with a large wood scoop to spoon water over heated rocks that release nasal-clearing menthol into the air.

The spa also offers lockers in the exquisite changing rooms, so worries about personal belongings won’t plague clients during treatment. The changing rooms are equipped with everything a client needs to return to life as glamorously as they arrived; look here for everything from hairdryers to Q-Tips.

Although a visit to the couple’s cabana was just what the doctor ordered for this stressed out guy and gal, Stromberg describes D’mai as "an inclusive spa. We welcome all kinds of couples. We’ve even had mothers and daughters and sisters."

Whether a gift for another couple, or a gift you give yourself and your partner, a couple’s cabana massage is remarkably relaxing - yet invigorating - time well-spent.

"We want this place to be a vacation getaway, be an experience," said Stromberg. "When you return to your life, we want you to feel like you had a vacation, feel the rejuvenation."

Now, about those gifts.


D’mai Urban Spa is located at 157 Fifth Ave. at Lincoln Place in Park Slope. Massages in the Couple’s Cabana are $60 per person for a 30-minute massage, $110 per person for a 60-minute massage and $150 per person for a 90-minute massage. Hot stone massages are an additional $10 per person. For appointments and more information, call (718) 398-2100 or visit the Web site at Gift certificates are available.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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