Purple orchid, Corinthia London, spa

Brain power boost: ESPA Life at Corinthia (SW1)

Our brain is our powerhouse: it controls how we think, feel and act. Our brain determines how healthy, happy and prosperous we are. To kick-start my brain, I visited ESPA Life at Corinthia London to experience their Brain Power Spa Day.

ESPA Life at Corinthia offers several day packages, and the Brain Power Spa Day is just one. It is devised by Dr Tara Swart, who is also, to boot, a Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan.

[Update January 2020: Corinthia London no longer offers the Brain Power Spa Day. Instead try one of the six special facials by Dr Barbara Sturm. You can also track down Dr Tara Swart in her new role as Chief Scientific Officer at Heights, where she is the Chief Scientific Officer – an exciting new brand all about “smart supplements and clever content” for the brain.]

We can change ourselves

Our brains are ‘plastic’; we can change how they are wired and how they work. Put mindfulness together with body work and you have the Brain Power Spa Day at ESPA Life at Corinthia.

Dr Swart, working Corinthia London’s Executive Chef, Adriano Cavagnini, has also devised a special Brain Power Menu (see my second blog post) on offer at the Espa Life at Corinthia restaurant.

As Dorothy Day, the American social activist, put it: “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.”

5 stars & river views

Corinthia London is one of my favourite hotels in the city.  I like to drink in the energising buzz, admire the floral decorations, and marvel at the Crystal Moon light with its 999 lights and one red light, a design by Paris-based Chafik Gasmi and produced by Baccarat.

ESPA Life at Corinthia is located on four floors: with a Spa Lounge, men’s and women’s areas, a gym, and the Thermal Floor on the lowest floor, rooted firmly towards the centre of the Earth.

I worked my way through almost all the facilities on the Thermal Floor: vitality pool, swimming pool, sauna (with glass sides) and the ice fountain.. Then I had a quick shower with ESPA products, and I was ready for my treatment.

The power of the circle

The treatment rooms at ESPA Life at Corinthia are circular… like the sun, the Earth and the Crystal Moon light in the lounge.

The rooms at the Sen Wellness Sanctuarywhere I had stayed in Sri Lanka, were also circular. The ancient belief is that the circle helps with the flow of energy, and rules out stagnant, forgotten corners. Urban planners are now talking about creating circular cities.

Treatment Room, ESPA Life at Corinthia
The round treatment rooms. Photo courtesy of Corinthia London

Bamboo massage

The Brain Power Spa Day treatment started with the therapist dabbing different oils on the back of my hand, one by one, for me to choose my favourite smell. This in turn is meant to be the one that you need the most. I chose the oil to soothe tired muscles (all that standing at Photo London) with Indian bay and clove bud oils, and lavender and sweet almond oil. The other oils detoxified, energised, revived, restored, soothed or nourished.

For the massage, the therapist rolled warmed bamboo sticks over my body. The sticks were of different lengths and thicknesses, as the unpredictability of the movements relaxes the mind. The Chinese, Japanese and Indonesian cultures believe in the benefits of bamboo, most importantly to bring prosperity, energy and sexuality.

On the body level, the massage is designed to rid the body of heat generated by toxins, and to promote circulation, lymphatic drainage and sensory nerve perception. The final touch is an energising scalp massage.


At the end of the two-hour treatment came the breathing: 3 in through the nose3 out through the mouth, followed by 4 in 4 out  and 5 in  5 out – designed to balance the brain.

The next step was to choose a colour. I chose indigo, incidentally the colour of the third eye chakra, found at the centre of the forehead– the chakra that works on soothing the brain and linking it to the body. On each in breath, the therapist guided me through spreading the colour to a different part of my body.

I came out of the treatment feeling grounded, yet with a lightness in my upper chest and arms. That’s how I’d like to feel every day.

Brain Power mocktails

Afterwards I went for a Brain Power mocktail in the Spa Lounge: Mox-ytocin –a cocktail of green tea, date syrup, mint leaf, lemon juice and blackberries, designed to boost levels of oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone.  The Serotonin Sling cocktail, by contrast, is designed to boost levels of the ‘happy hormone’.

Laurent-Perrier Champagne was also on offer. That’s what I love about this spa. It’s about wellness in style.

Mocktail, Corinthia Spa, London

5 things about our brain

  • Our brain is the physical organ; our mind allows us to be aware of the world and of our experiences; and our soul is our essence.
  • Contains 85 billion nerve cells, or neurons, and absorbs 25-35% of the nutrients that we eat and drink.
  • Houses the same amount of information as in a quadrillion digital photographs (Source: Sebastian Seung in ‘Connect0me: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are’).
  • Makes one million new connections every second… this is how we store new memories, shape our personalities and learn new habits, as some patterns are reinforced and others lost (Source: New Scientist – ‘Introduction: The Human Brain’, September 4, 2006 by Helen Philips).
  • Needs 6-8 hours of good-quality sleep each night to clear our lymphatic system – the body’s waste clearance system. This will boost your IQ by 5-7% the next day (Source: Corinthia London).


  • Drink 2 litres of water a day.
  • Do my breathing: 3 in 3 out, then 4, then 5.
  • Take a teaspoon of coconut oil each day.
  • Eat salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring at least once a week.
  • Switch to full-fat dairy products for hormone regulation.

I was the guest of Corinthia London, a destination and an experience chosen by me.  A big thank-you to Mrs O Around the World for introducing me to Corinthia London.

sign, ESPA Life, Corinthia
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