VALEO at JW Marriott: Spa review
I have to admit, I'm a little confused when I first try to pick a service at VALEO, the lux new spa at (151 W Adams St, (312) 660-8200). Unlike the typical spa menu, VALEO’s asks you to choose one of four "pathways" to follow (liberate, optimize, vitalize, enrich) and offers up services with names like Wellskin, Body Map, Gemassage and the one-of-a-kind Clarity Chamber, a fireplace-fueled marble treatment area inspired by Greek, Roman and Turkish baths. Brief descriptions give a general idea of whether you’ll be getting a body scrub vs. a massage, but I'm totally baffled. I'm told up front that the descriptions are meant to be vague because each treatment is “defined by you.” Huh? Where's the menu filled with painfully named treatments like Berry Good Back Rub and Hot Rock Your Chakras? What the heck does defined by me mean?
Turns out, it's pretty simple, and pretty satisfying. The spa works with you to figure out what you want and then customizes every service based on your needs. If you’ve got a kink you need worked out, they might literally tell you that’ll take 15 minutes and charge you…get this…a by-the-minute rate. Of course, you’ll likely want to stay much longer than 15 minutes, but that will be entirely up to you.
I start my night with a SheaNetics class in the fitness center’s yoga studio. The brainchild of Shea Vaughn, SheaNetics is a combination of yoga, pilates, martial arts and dance, mixed with an Eastern philosophy revolving around five living principles: commitment, perseverance, integrity, self-control and love. On this night, class included a group of yoga instructors and a handful of less-experienced types. Vaughn (actor Vince Vaughn’s mom) seamlessly balanced the two ends of the spectrum–leaving the instructors groaning and feeling challenged, while offering hands-on assistance and alternate poses to anyone who struggled. Vaughn, who previously offered her SheaNetics class in the north suburbs and has a series of DVDs, will offer her class exclusively at VALEO. The class schedule is still being determined. Check valeochicago.com for details.
An hour later, I’m ready for a retreat to the infrared sauna, and then it’s on to my “defined by me” treatment. I’ve just had an incredibly intense workout and I’ve been pretty stressed at work, so I share this information right up front. I’ve been feeling stress in my face, neck and shoulders, so we are definitely going to work on that, but I’m also a tennis player, so my right forearm is always tight, as are my calves. My “personal care consultant” takes note of all this information and then asks me my favorite area to have massaged. “My feet,” I tell her. And we’re off.
For the next hour, she zeroes in on all the areas we’ve discussed. And discovers trouble spots I hadn’t even thought of. She does things to my calves I’ve never experienced before and delivers the best foot massage ever. Afterwards, she spends a few minutes telling me what she found and offering some suggestions for ways to keep this feeling going. It’s more feedback than I’ve ever received at a spa, and I’m finally understanding the concept.
Pricing at VALEO is a bit unorthodox as well. As I mentioned before, they charge by the minute. Buy an “invite only” membership for $150 per month and you’ll get one free service a month and $1.80 per minute ($108/hr). Come in off the street and you’ll pay $2.50 per minute ($150/hr). Members also receive access to the fitness center and pool, which is expected to open later this spring.