When was the last time you set aside time for self-care? Think about it. I’m not speaking of buying yourself a new trinket or item for your wardrobe. I’m speaking of the kind of self-care that requires you to put yourself in someone else’s hands. A facial, a massage, even a luxurious mani-pedi. I’m talking about a planned hands-on experience that allows you to let all your stresses melt away. When was the last time you did THAT for yourself?
Anyone who knows me well knows how much I LOVE a good spa day. In my life spas are not an option, but a necessity. Unfortunately, many see this kind of self-care as a luxury item, but it’s important that we all learn to recognize the importance of self-care, specifically care through physical touch. So many of us spend our time caring for other individuals while neglecting to allow someone else to care for us. This is where a visit to a lovely day spa may come in handy.
A little while ago I was in great need of a massage. I’d been walking by a quaint little spa in my very own Harlem neighborhood for quite some time so I decided to stop in and make an appointment. The massage I received in that space, The SpAaaht, was truly one of the best I’ve ever had. From the geranium scented massage oil by SpaRitual (one of my favorite lines of body care products; all their products are vegan and cruelty free), to the strong and sure touch of the therapist, the ever-present knots in my shoulders never stood a chance. The hands on experience was truly what I needed but it was the overall ambiance of the space as well as the welcoming demeanor of the owner, La Juana Smith-Huebner, that won me over. I truly enjoy large spas that sit on palatial estates, providing everything from towels and toiletries to water circuits and watercress sandwiches. But this experience, just a short walk from my Hamilton Heights apartment, proved that a quaint and quiet space is all you really need to unwind.
When I had an opportunity to sit and chat with La Juana, I could see why that space was so peaceful and why that massage was so effective. Our chat revealed that she’s had a bit of a healing touch since she was a child. She tells the story of how her 1st grade teacher had the students sit in a circle and rub her feet as she read to them. These days, that kind of request from a teacher would certainly cause a bit of an uproar…but La Juana found that she enjoyed it! Later, she spent time massaging her grandfather while he was ill and his remark that her massages were the best part of his day was another hint that she might be a natural. After studying x-ray technology and working in a trauma center for several years, she started to seek out another way to care for people. While studying to be a nail tech, a teacher noticed her natural ability for massage and told her she needed to go to massage school. Ever since, she has been on this path of caring for others through massage and aesthetics, studying Ayurvedic techniques with Deepak Chopra and working with well-known spas such as Bliss and the Mandarin Oriental. The space that is home to her spa, just under a year old, offers a cozy seating area where she is able to chat with her clients and assess their needs. There are two chairs that she designed where she provides manicures and pedicures. Guests who are receiving massages, facials, and body treatments are led down a winding staircase to the lower level, dimly lit and lightly scented with aromatic and therapeutic oils.
Along with her tension melting Aah massages, La Juana offers chair massages, facials, and back treatments. And for the ladies with natural hair she offers a scalp treatment that’s almost like a pre-poo hair treatment. As a naturalista she understands not wanting to have a massage therapist touch her hair and scalp. But with over 40,000 nerve endings in the scalp, La Juana stresses the importance of massaging the head. She has also taken the traditional mani-pedi to a new level by offering hand and foot treatments while reclining on a massage table. She takes the care and treatment that one would normally expect in a facial and offers it for the feet and hands. These treatments, which she calls handcials and footcials, include exfoliation, hydration, masque, massage and application of color. She has recently added a new treatment table which simulates Watsu therapy (massage in water). After a small dose of that treatment I can definitely say that a full hour is sure to be healing for the mind, body, and spirit. As an additional treat, there are jewelry pieces featured around the spa from local artisans and organizations that seek to make a better life for women of the diaspora.
The SpAaaht, located on the corner of St Nicholas and 149th, seeks to cater to clients who are truly invested in their overall health. La Juana prefers to go beyond simple efforts of basic beauty and seeks to use her training and senses to help the client make self-care a priority and part of a lifestyle of overall health and wellness.
We plan to go to work everyday. We know that’s happening. We should plan for our relaxation the same way we plan for our work.
To connect with La Juana and experience this local haven away from the hustle and bustle of NYC, visit the website or connect on social media. And take a look at the offer for new clients below. Remember self-care is a necessity!