Eco rooftop garden hammock massage

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I had the privilege recently to be invited to try a very new and exciting massage treatment currently offered by Suzanne Holbrook’s team at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes Resort, in Orlando. The hammock massage was first introduced at their Amelia Island resort, and due to its success and popularity, they’ve decided to provide the experience further south. Hopefully, they’ll begin offering it to us here soon at either of their Naples properties, the beach resort or the golf resort, as there’ll be plenty of people eager to enjoy it. I thought it was simply fabulous.

Celeste Hogan, of the Ritz Orlando spa team, was instrumental in incorporating many of the elements into the Eco Garden Treatment Room. She approached its design, construction and maintenance with great thought and respect for the environment. Magnificently perched above the spa’s pool, the garden has majestic views over the tastefully planted grounds in the foreground, with commanding vistas of the golf course and lakes beyond.

The garden space is totally private and secluded, yet easily accessible from the upper level of the spa. They chose to use many recycled building products, including rubber matting manufactured from used tires that affords comfort to the massage therapist and guest. There is a raised wooden platform that was salvaged from New Orleans after hurricane Katrina’s destruction, along with a beautiful, sturdy hammock support frame, also made from wood salvaged in New Orleans. During a community effort to rebuild the city, both these wood products were reclaimed from a structure that was damaged and being restored.

There is a large, terra cotta urn, fitted with a simple garden hose that collects rainwater and subsequently distributes the water, as needed, to the plants growing there. A variety of organic herbs, happily thriving in the roof garden, are used for various treatments and by their culinary staff in appetizingly healthy salads and dishes in their “Vitale” spa restaurant below. I enjoyed a mint-infused footbath soak and foot massage, made using freshly picked mint from the garden, as I drank my herbal tea in subdued excitement, contemplating the hammock massage.

Their imagination didn’t stop there. In keeping with their environmental responsibilities, there is an array of solar lighting and even a solar powered water fountain. Water represents prosperity and abundance, and has a most calming effect, especially in close quarters such as this.

Rick Vantry, 39, a massage therapist, greeted me as I checked in and escorted me to the rooftop garden. Vantry, an ultimate professional and the picture of health and vitality, boasted a smooth, polished voice and vocabulary. Sporting arms of steel, he explained all about the hammock massage concept as I sipped my tea, sitting on a handmade wood bench. Vantry has an extensive background in various massage modalities and incorporates cranio-sacral, reflexology, shiatsu and Thai massage into the hammock massage treatment.

More recently, he and his team received thorough training and certification in the hammock massage treatment and spent many hours practicing and perfecting the treatment on each other, even introducing some of their own personal customizations to ensure the signature Ritz Carlton experience of opulence. “I’m able to incorporate different modalities into this particular massage and pass along my many years of experience as a massage therapist to our valued guests. We really go above and beyond to make sure they have the most amazing experience possible. Obviously, it’s a good approach, because people just love it, and haven’t really experienced anything quite like it,” Rick proudly added.

Nothing can prepare you for this hammock massage. It’s not possible to convey in words what it actually feels like until one has the opportunity of actually trying it out. First, there is the feeling of weightlessness and zero gravity as the thin, mesh hammock envelopes the body from head to toe. I lay in the hammock, not in the conventional manner of being parallel with the hammock frame, but rather in a position horizontal to the frame, which apparently elongates the spine for a better range of motion and flexibility.

I’ll not doubt it. It was fantastic. From the time the massage session began until the moment of landing back onto solid ground, I swayed gently back and forth in the hammock. With ambidextrous stealth and some kind of unseen agility, Rick was able to massage me from above and below, somehow crawling beneath me with the flexibility of a cat, selecting the best position from which to massage my head, neck, back, gluteal muscles, hamstrings, calves, ankles, feet and toes; all this, amidst the serenity of the eco garden, the elements of which evoked my senses of sight, sound, touch and smell.

Brendan Moran, the garden artist of Gardens By Brendan, designs gardens, writes and lectures in Southwest Florida, the U.S. and internationally, and lives in Naples. Visit, e-mail brendan@gardensby or call 687-9337.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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