FineLiving New York Ayurveda
Village Wellness Project
Asia Tui Na Wholeness: Tui na massage
37 E 28th St between Madison and Park Aves, suite 800 (212-686-8082, asiatuinawholeness.com). 45mins, $45.This may be my new favorite cheap massage. The space is quiet and clean, and you're asked to fill out a form with your personal health history before anyone touches you. The proof, though, is on the table. My therapist in tui na (literally "push pull"), who seemed absolutely determined to release my tension, dug, pressed and slid her well-oiled hands, forearms and elbows over my crunching, snapping muscles, at one point straddling me for better leverage.
Best part: "Hot Chinese medicine!" she declared as she placed a soothing, warm sack between my shoulder blades, to loosen the area while she worked on my legs.—Daniel Gritzer
Body Central: NECK-onomic Recovery
39 W 14th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, suite 505 (212-677-5633, bodycentralnyc.com). 30mins, $40. For this neck-and-shoulder massage, chiropractor (and Body Central director) Jo Ann Weinrib rubbed me down with a homeopathic ointment made from plants and minerals, to soothe away muscle pain, and worked her fingers along my spine to loosen my muscles before focusing on each shoulder and upper arm. Then I flipped over, and as she held my head in her hands, she gently pressed away the tension I'd been carrying in my neck and scalp.
Take note: The artwork here was all made by Dr. Weinrib's husband, David Weinrib, the curator at Pratt Institute's Sculpture Park.—Dorkys Ramos
Broome Sky Health Center: Acupressure massage
120 Elizabeth St between Broome and Grand Sts (212-226-6898). 60mins, $42. There are only two small things that differentiate this hushed spot from its tonier uptown competitors: cramped quarters (easily forgotten once you're facedown on a bed with powerful fingers, palms and elbows prodding you into relaxed rapture) and a slightly uncomfortable headrest (BYO padding—a small towel should do the trick). Okay, three: An hour of expert kneading doesn't come this cheap north of Houston Street.
Best part: The tasteful decor and warm lighting here defy the stereotype of churn-'em-out Chinatown joints.—Kate Lowenstein
Element Natural Healing Arts: 30-minute massage
518 Henry St at Union St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-855-4850, elementhealing.com). 30mins, $50. After discussing my (lack of) back problems with the therapist (the type of massage depends on your needs), I sunk onto a heated bed for the basic Swedish. She kneaded my oiled back with constant pressure, silently working each quadrant, then moved on to a brief foot, neck and head rub.
Best part: Though I'd carried groceries for only three blocks the day before, she could tell my neck was sore—and she worked it till it was in better shape.—Rebecca Dalzell
Ettia Holistic Day Spa: Ettia Signature Dual Decadence massage
239 W 72nd St between Broadway and West End Ave (800-795-7109, ettia.com). 30mins, $65. My first impression of Ettia was its size: tiny. But my second impression is the one that stuck: I got personal attention and a darn good rubdown. Since we had only a half hour, the massage therapist asked what body part I wanted her to work on. I chose my back, since I sit at a desk for 12 hours a day. Once the massage started—a combo of Swedish and shiatsu—she kept checking to make sure the pressure was okay and if I was comfortable. I was.
Best part: Thankfully, the masseuse didn't chitchat, allowing me to get lost in the treatment.—Lucy Quintanilla
Face to Face NYC: 30-minute targeted Swedish massage
20 W 20th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, suite 603 (212-633-0404, facetofacenyc.com). 30mins, $65. The free glass of wine that precedes this treatment provided relaxation for what turned out to be a high-intensity experience. The therapist called my middle back's propensity for pain "New York City--itis." Catchy. He was obviously skilled, hitting the right pressure points with oiled-up hands, but his handiwork left some slight bruising.
Take note: This massage is not for the squeamish. My butt got kneaded for a solid ten minutes.—Nina Topiel
FineLiving New York Ayurveda: Lower-leg and foot massage
154 W 14th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, fourth floor (212-616-4127, newyorkayurveda.com). 30mins, $60. Back and head, face and neck massages also 30mins, $50 (through Mar 31). After determining my dosha (the ayurvedic classification of body and mind), a therapist smoothed my skin with almond and sesame oil, grinding her knuckles into the knot-ridged arches of my feet and using her fingertips to loosen my calves. I emerged softer of skin and muscle than I've been all winter.
Best part: No product contains preservatives or chemicals. You could eat everything they put on you (but we wouldn't recommend it).—KL
Fishion Herb Center: Acupressure massage
107 Mott St between Canal and Hester Sts (212-966-8771, fishionherbcenter.com). 60mins, $41. Clients are treated to a private room (with a door!) and a rubdown from an experienced acupressurist. Mine attacked tender trigger points from head to toe; by hour's end, each of my tense muscles had raised a white flag. "Is my power too much?" she asked while jamming a firm elbow between two ribs. "No, it's good," I just barely grunted in response.
Best part: The table was so soft, I never felt the need to shift so much as an inch.—DG
Graceful Services: Lower-back massage
1095 Second Ave between 57th and 58th Sts (212-593-9904, gracefulservices.com). 45mins, $50. Once I was bare and blanketed, a woman of few words tirelessly kneaded the gnarled muscles of my scoliotic lower back and butt. Chronic back pain and sciatica, be damned: I left a new woman. Immediately afterward, I felt as if my back had been opened up, and I could bend over without it sounding like creaky floorboards. The goodness—and the black-and-blue marks—lasted almost a week.
Best part: The surprise spinal adjustment at the end was a welcome bonus.—Sharyn Jackson
Graceful Spa: 30-minute massage
205 W 14th St at Seventh Ave, second floor (212-675-5145, gracefulspa.com). 30mins, $40. My therapist set a timer and went to work de-kinking my neck, shoulders and back, using the heel of her hand—and all her weight—to rock my spine out of its stiffness. The bad news: The massage didn't seem well paced enough to ensure that all muscles and joints were given equal time. The good news: I felt loosened up and reenergized.
Best part: Almost immediately after I'd folded my clothes, my therapist was ready to begin: no long wait time here.—Amanda Meffert
Hey Man Day Spa: Tui na massage
226 W 4th St at Seventh Ave (212-929-0838, heymandayspa.com). 30mins, $40. My massage therapist introduced himself with an apology ("Sorry, my hands are cold"), but otherwise let his knuckles, palm heels and elbows do the talking. His hands warmed up quickly, and so did my muscles.
Best part: He zeroed in on a knot in my lower back that I hadn't previously been aware of, relentlessly maneuvering it till it gave way.—Matt Schneiderman
Lilly & Raul: Tui na massage
11 E 43rd St between Second and Third Aves (646-675-0604, lillyandraul.com). 60mins, $39. Women and couples only. Expect the trademarks of a Western massage with this tui na treatment. But like most Asian bodywork, it aims at a higher objective than relaxation: to rebalance blood flow by holding and pressing the body. Therapist Mika alternated between tracing figure eights around my pressure points and hopping on the bed to play bongos on my spine. After she squeezed the life out of my tense body, I got a steaming hot towel and a gentle rubdown.
Best part: Mika pulled my arms and legs for what seemed like miles; I left feeling loose and strong.—Ashley Hoffman
Serenity Day Spa: Back massage
211 North 4th St at Roebling St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-388-4446). 30mins, $45. The therapist's movements were soothing rather than intense; there was no deep-down digging, but she did untangle a few knots in my back, as well as in my arms and lower legs. The half hour was relaxing, and definitely worth the money, but not exactly life changing. Then again, at this price, can you expect it to be?
Best part: The therapist used her fingernails to pinch my back repeatedly; at first I didn't like it, but then started to love it.—Rachel Kramer Bussel
Sunrise Body Work: Traditional Chinese qigong--tui na
140 Fulton St between Broadway and Nassau St, second floor (212-374-6388). 45mins, $40. Practitioner Gena made the best of our cramped, curtained quarters by kneading me from resourceful angles—like when she climbed on the table to arch my chest into locust pose.
Best part: Convinced 45 minutes couldn't have yet elapsed, I didn't bother to open my eyes while nodding "Def!" in response to "Massage face?," piling on 15 additional minutes of bliss—and a guiltless $15.—Eleanor Goldberg
Vada Spa: Deep-tissue massage
387 Sixth Ave between Greenwich Ave and Waverly Pl (212-206-1572, vadaspa.com). 30mins, $45. Smiling massage therapist Samantha led me through the small but uncluttered spa to a tiny upstairs room. She turned on Celtic-sounding music and rubbed an unscented oil onto my back and legs. She worked efficiently, with deep yet not painful pressure, but didn't speak a word to me during the half hour. Some may prefer this silence, but I would have liked some interaction.
Best part: Hey, fellas, Vada Spa offers a Brazilian wax for men for $40, with "inner buttock" area included. Feeling brave?—Kiley Oram
Wu Lim Services: Qigong massage
145 Grand St between Crosby and Lafayette Sts (212-925-1276). 46 mins, $32. After leading me to a bed in the dark communal room, my practitioner applied the blades of his forearms and iron-strong thumbs, loosening stiff muscle fibers and instinctively homing in on my particular areas of tightness: lower back, hips, hamstrings and quads.
Take note: Entranced at the end of my massage, I opted for an extra 40 minutes of foot-specific work ($28), but areas of my feet were so sensitive, I almost leapt off the table in pain when he rubbed them.—DG