Denver Bar Association
February 2007
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Spoil Yourself at the Spa: Parallel Bars — Not Just for Gymnasts

by Norman Beecher

Editor’s Note: With Valentine’s Day approaching, The Docket thought it would be fun to go beyond the standard "what to get your sweetie" article and explore the world of self-indulgence and pampering through the eyes of unlikely suspects. With some arm-twisting, four of our male Docket writers agreed to step up to the challenge and visited a local spa for a treatment assigned to them. Learn about their experiences, which explore spa treatments both men and women can enjoy. Thanks to Bella Fiore Day Spa, Revive Spa, Indulgences Day Spa and Spa Universaire for donating their services for the sake of a good story.

For some, spa treatments and massages smack of self-indulgence and worse.

Relaxation is by nature antithetical to the intrinsic asceticism of the lawyer’s trade, and anything related to pores, paraffin dips or lifestyle journeys is simply intimidating to people like me. Frequent a place that sells male vanity products during daylight hours? One might as well get a pedicure.

The entry to Spa Universaire on Speer Boulevard doesn’t exactly alleviate such fears, as it occupies much of the second floor of the Belvedere, a 16-story alabaster-colored condominium high-rise. Situated just a jog off west-bound Speer by the corner of 12th, access is achieved by means of a heavily marbled secure lobby, where a doorman calls upstairs to verify the appointment. (See page 7.)

The facility boasts 3,000 feet of space with 10 treatment areas, a changing room, a relaxation area, and "two personal steam rooms with Swiss shower jets." It is fairly modest and compact. The treatment areas "celebrate 10 different geographic regions" ranging from Egypt (for, inter alia, Egyptian Aromatherapy Body Wrap and River Nile Lymphatic Drainage) to the Pacific Rim (Reflexology, Acupressure, and Reiki).

The common areas are pleasant and comfortably appointed with nice attention to detail, and Spa Universaire appears to invest heavily in hiring, educating and retaining the best therapists. They come and go quietly, dressed uniformly in black. When I had changed into a spa robe, one such staff member presented me with a steaming towel while I awaited my therapist.

On first impression, Keda Neagle (master massage therapist, licensed esthetician and Ashiatsu therapist) fulfilled the classic stereotype of the oriental massage practitioner. The Ashiatsu massage that had been chosen for me employs traditional Buddhist foot-pressure techniques ("ashi" meaning ‘foot;’ "atsu" meaning ‘pressure’), and Keda is petite, trim and chic. She was dressed in what might have been a black gi. In keeping with the cosmopolitan flavor of Spa Universaire, however, I learned she is Navajo, raised in Arizona.

I was lead to a room decorated with Japanese and Chinese objets d’artes. It smelled nice, water tinkled somewhere in a corner and music played softly from no apparent source. Hanging from the ceiling were parallel bars that, turned over onto the floor, might well have graced a school gymnasium. Following a brief foot massage with soothing oils, Keda went to work on my back with a mixture of familiar hand-palpations and unusual, firm-but-not-painful foot pressures.

Over the course of the ensuing hour (the total treatment period is listed as 75 minutes), Keda worked up a modest sweat lifting and lowering herself from the bars. Often, it was not apparent to me when she was using her hands as opposed to when she was using her feet. In any case, the Ashiatsu massage at Spa Universaire was worth substantially more than the $95 price tag.

I confess to having had the occasional massage before, with a sister who sometimes practices the dark arts and a visit or two to the government-trained-and licensed therapists who operate out of the Buddhist temples in Thailand. Yet, in terms of the level of skill employed and overall benefit, Keda’s massage was the best I have experienced. (A friend who went with me gave her therapist high marks, as well.) The Ashiatsu massage at the Spa Universaire is no run-of-the-mill, post-workout rubdown and Keda is remarkable — unusually skilled, trained and talented at a rare art.

Indeed, a week later I found myself getting a pedicure. But that’s only because it was a Christmas gift.

Find Spa Universaire at 475 W. 12th Ave., (303) 629-9070, or

Spa Tips

Provided by Karen Griffin, owner of Spa Universaire
(Note: Of all occupations, lawyers are the most frequent guests at Spa Universaire.)

1. Be comfortable. "Because you are spending a lot of money and time, allow yourself to relax and enjoy the experience." Dress comfortably, wear minimal makeup and don’t worry about fixing your hair. Most spas ask that you come at least 15 minutes early. To help you relax, try not to cram in your visit between appointments or deadlines.

2. Drink water. "It is important to drink lots of water before and after massage to flush out toxins."

3. Take advantage of the complimentary amenities. Most spas offer waters and teas to help detoxify you, and some offer "hydrotherapy" (steam or whirlpools) to enhance relaxation and health benefits.

4. No cell phones. "This is really for your own relaxation. Let yourself wind down. You want to be as relaxed as you can be before you get on the table."

5. Watch what you eat. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, and eat lightly, before and after a massage, because it will increase the circulation of blood throughout your body.

6. Be clear about your expectations. Spas allow for time before and after for you to relax, but if you just want to be in-and-out, let them know.

7. Enjoyed the service? Show it. Gratuity is a normal part of the experience. Be aware that some few places build it into the bill, but that is rare. Similar to restaurants, 10–20 percent gratuity is the norm, based on quality of service. "But no place should make you feel uncomfortable for not tipping."

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