I Found Zen 57 Stories Above the City With the Seasons of Chakras Massage

This treatment at Philly's luxe Four Seasons Hotel will take you to your happy place, no matter where your happy place is.

Illustration by Bailey Watro

A mallet strikes crystal, producing a sound somewhere between a gong and a chime that envelops the room. The singing bowl’s hymns transport me to a lemon-tree-laden garden in Sorrento — an idyllic, almost mystical place I’ve mentally retreated to whenever I’ve craved brightness, comfort and respite from stress.

Really, I’m in Philly, getting the Seasons of Chakras massage in the 57th-floor spa at Four Seasons. There are 700 pounds of crystals within its walls, herbaceous scents, pink orchids that are calming yet fixating, and the plushest massage robe I’ve ever worn.

Each massage room is named after a crystal, and I’m in Citrine — a honey-colored quartz said to enhance the flow of feng shui in your life, boost self-confidence, and keep your ego in check. While I didn’t get to choose my room in advance, something about it feels meant to be, even though I don’t really believe in fate or buy into practices still considered “woo-woo” in the U.S. But alternative wellness is more popular than ever (thanks, millennials!), making things like crystals, sound baths and astrology not just more mainstream, but all the rage.

The 60-minute full-body massage focuses on the chakras, or energy centers, of the body for maximum rejuvenation. Because the seven main chakras run upward along the spine, the massage therapist works from my feet and legs to my low and mid-back, then up to my shoulders, neck, forehead and scalp. Unlike a Swedish or deep-tissue massage, this one employs light pressure and circular kneading; my muscles are manipulated the way a baker would work dough. I have no idea what the treatment is doing to my chakras (assuming I even have chakras), but the massage itself is great at relieving tension and melting away the stress I carry with me.

Sometimes, my massage therapist tells me, our chakras can get out of balance, leaving us feeling off — angry, sad or totally stressed-out for no apparent reason. That’s why the massage is supplemented with skin-nourishing essential oils, soothing­ crystal bowls, and enlivening tuning forks.

I’m told the tones resonating from the bowls are meant to promote relaxation and ease overall tension, while tuning forks — vibrated against chakra-housing areas like the forehead, chest, and base of the spine — help stimulate internal “energy pathways” that maintain emotional balance, mental clarity, and overall mind-body harmony. (Sound-healing pioneer John Beaulieu says the nervous system has a pitch that can change under stress; the forks can restore healthy frequency, much the way a musician tunes an instrument.) I can’t speak to what pathways are or aren’t being cleared during the session, but it’s still soothing to succumb to the sirenlike song and the buzzing vibrations — my mind open to possibilities, at least for today.

After an hour passes much too quickly, I’m led to the spa’s relaxation room and treated to a warm cup of chai infused with cardamom, cloves and cinnamon — all seasonal scents in my massage’s essential oils. As I gaze out the floor-to-ceiling windows with a bird’s-eye view of the city, I’m relaxed and recharged. If I do have an aura, it’s feeling a lot lighter.

I sit back, sip, and feel grounded, even at 57 stories in the sky.

Published as “I Tried It: The Height Of Relaxation” in the January 2022 issue of Philadelphia magazine.