Get a rubdown, not a shakedown at these wallet-friendly spas.



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Graceful Spa: 30-minute massage
205 W 14th St at Seventh Ave, second floor (212-675-5145, 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, 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, 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, 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




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