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The Retreat: Fusion Massage

All rubdowns are not created equal. From the expedient, no-nonsense Swedish to more intuitive, improvisational Thai, there are as many modalities as there are moods.

What then, to expect with fusion massage? My worst experience featured a masseuse the size of a shantytown treating me to a "greatest hits" sampler.

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Fusion's finest hour can be found at Exhale Spa in the newly minted Gansevoort Park Avenue. Its approach focuses on results-oriented fusion, with therapeutic techniques customized to meet your specific needs. It begins with a more targeted, substantial intake - my therapist paying close attention to my tale of stress and sleepless nights. Tapping into my restlessness, he begins with long, languid Javanese strokes to ground both body and being. Then onto a more nurturing variation of Swedish to stimulate circulation. A very sparing shiatsu series releases my neck tension. He closes with a near-ceremonial Reiki, relaxing my breathing to sleeping spaniel stillness.

The benefits

At best, a fusion massage is multisensory in nature, emphasizing breathing, aromatherapy, restorative touch and a respectful, caring personal connection. It's not merely a massage with attention-deficit issues. Under the holistic mantra of Exhale Spa, practitioners encourage the release of pain, fear and dysfunctional patterns, facilitating inner healing and greater flexibility in facing external challenges.

The spa

Exhale Spa at Gansevoort Park Avenue opened early this month to the delight of urban bliss-seekers on the hunt for prestige spoiling. Leave hyperactive midtown Manhattan behind and enter a stylish urban resort of soaring atriums, deep violet chandeliers and cozy fireplaces.

Exhale Gansevoort Park Avenue at 420 Park Ave. S., New York; 646-380-5330; 60 minutes; $130 (U.S.).

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