“You’re not from the city, are you?” a woman asks me over the rhythm of Hindu chanting in a candlelit room. “I can tell you’ve been breathing a lot of fresh country air.” No, this was not a psychic reading, but rather a reflexology massage session, one of the many services offered at the new John Masters Organics Salon, Spa & Apothecary in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. Never mind that I have been breathing New York City air for 14 years, the benefits of this particular session—extreme relaxation, stress relief, and general euphoria—far exceed the minor diagnostic misfire.
Reflexology, a method influenced by ancient practices of foot massage, was brought to the Western world in 1913 by William Fitzgerald. Its premise is that the feet mirror the rest of the body, with key pressure points corresponding to various organs or body parts such as the lungs or solar plexus. “Your feet are in very good shape,” the reflexologist tells me as she gently rubs them with soothing lemongrass oil. “You must wear very good shoes.” I silently thank A. Testoni and Jil Sander before nodding off blissfully to the strains of Peter Gabriel’s soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ.
In 1994, stylist John Masters opened a small hair salon on Sullivan Street. Soon after, he launched a range of organic hair and skin-care products that have drawn raves from legions of fashion and beauty editors. Last fall, Masters expanded the space to house a larger salon with an apothecary full of his products in the front and a small spa in back offering tempting treatments such as a rose and calendula hydrating facial or a bamboo and lemongrass foot scrub.
The vibe is refined organic: water trickling down a rocky wall, Balinese wooden bowls filled with golden tangerines, and a large patch of cool moss growing in the bathroom. An eclectic array of large antique mirrors in the salon area breaks up the earthy effect while adding an air of refinement.
Having completed her regimen, the reflexologist wakes me and ushers me into another small chamber where a masseuse works my arms, hands, and shoulders, as well as my face, which is then steamed and covered with a French clay and green tea mask.
After the mask is removed, I am poured into a chair in front of one of the large mirrors in the salon area. My skin appears so rejuvenated, I can hardly recognize myself. My hair and scalp are then slathered with an aromatic potion of soy protein, avocado oil, and shea and mango butter. I receive yet another massage—not that I’m complaining—of the shiatsu variety, which is applied with great finesse to my scalp, neck, and shoulders. I am beginning to feel guilty for not having enough stress in my life to justify this cavalcade of kneading.
Eschewing the hectic energy and attitude of many urban salons, John Masters has succeeded in creating a truly relaxing and wholesome environment. “The spa is an extension of my salon,” says Masters. “It’s heavenly. It’s peaceful. It’s fragrant. The moment you enter, you leave the everyday world behind. When you emerge, you feel beautiful and renewed.”