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Ballantyne Spa - Charlotte, NC

Sometimes a girl just needs pampering. Well, ladies, you can get plenty of that at Charlotte's Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, especially in their welcoming spa. The Spa is located on two floors, the hotel lobby level and one level below, with stairs and elevator access. The layout is such that you go through spa reception to the outdoor pool or down one floor to the Fitness Center and indoor pool area.

It does seem odd, though, that everyone who wants to reach the pool from the lobby level has to walk through the spa (i.e., children in their swimwear passing guests checking in for spa appointments).

Spa reception is attractive. There's a small gift shop off to one side, nail and hair salon called the Image Center on the other, plus separate spa dining room, which is great for girl groups like wedding parties.

Ballantyne's outdoor and indoor pool areas are terrific. There are two separate swim-against-the-current pools, a stand-alone whirlpool, a large grotto pool where classes can be held, plus, down the hall, a good fitness room with special instructors. During my visit, there was a Saturday morning abs class. Personal training is also available.

There are also two tennis courts by the outdoor pool and Ballantyne's 18-hole, par 71 golf course that earned a 4 1/2-star rating by Golf Digest. It features a full-service outdoor pavilion, clubhouse, golf shop and custom club fitting plus a Dana Rader Golf School. The Golf Club at Ballantyne underwent a major greens renovation project last summer.

After my friend and I had a gourmet, seven-course chef's tasting menu at Ballantyne's Gallery Restaurant, we were in dire need of some exercise.

We each tried Ballantyne's fitness room plus the indoor and outdoor pools, with my friend Linda going for the treadmill and me going for the water aerobics class (shown below). I also had two wonderful sessions in The Spa's steam room, which is infused with eucalyptus. It was perfect to help me get over my summer cold.

The Spa has its own steam room and sauna by the four showers in the ladies' locker area, but there's also a separate steam room in the Fitness Center (though it was temporarily out of order on my visit). The Fitness Center changing rooms are great, with their own lockers and showers, too.

The Spa at Ballantyne has launched a new treatment menu based on extensive guest feedback - hundreds of guests’ submissions, actually, from conversations and e-mails to comment cards and focus groups. I'm always impressed when a site listens to its clients. In this case, the entire spa menu was redeveloped. Spa Director Bill Toth says the outcome is an approach that combines natural ingredients with creative refinements for treatments that instill an inner sense of balance and beauty.

I was instilled with some much-needed balance on my visit, thanks to therapist and massage trainer Sarah Clark (left), who not only delivered my 50-minute Rhythm-of-Life massage, but she also created it. I was impressed.

Rhythm of Life, she explained "is really a unique, one-of-a-kind massage. I've never seen it anywhere. We appreciate the exclusivity of it."

This treatment is much more than a relaxing rub; instead, a four-pronged approach to getting you back in balance using Lymphatic, Neuromuscular, Craniosacral and Trager massage.

Says Clark: "I saw a need for a complete body/mind/spirit experience. Many spas usually offer a simple Swedish or stone massage, which are beneficial, but this Rhythm-of-Life treatment actually epitomizes the body's internal healing response."

Neuromuscular is the body portion; the mind portion comes from the body's natural release of endorphines; the spirit portion from the Craniosacral with balancing the flow of cervical spinal fluid. "Lymphatic massage," she adds, "is rarely addressed (elsewhere). It's a niche of its own that needs to be accessible to the general public (though people may not understand it or have heard of it).

"Rhythm of Life is a great introduction of how beneficial lymphatic massage is and how healing it is. It can actually strengthen your immune system."

Because I've had a lot of massage and have trouble in my shoulder/neck area, Sarah actually customized this masssage to my need; so for me, it was intense, but it was work I needed. I was very grateful for her skill, in fact. My rotator-cuff issue had me in a lot of pain just raising my arm; after her hour with me, I could lift that arm quicker and higher with only the smallest amount of pain. Her delivery of this treatment was just that good. (That’s me above relatxing in the ladies’ lounge).

For most people getting this massage, they'll notice a light touch.

Developing the treatment really was a personal endeavor, says Clark, who's been at Ballantyne's Spa seven years (it's been open eight) and in the industry 12 years. "I wanted to see something that connected all facts of the human being. An energetic response of the body." She said she's come to understand the nervous system "prefers a lighter approach." This treament can "treat the common needs of stress while also enhancing the body's natural ability to be in balance, in homeostatis."

About The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, a member of Starwood’s The Luxury Collection, is a Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond award-wining hotel located in Charlotte. Featuring 214 elegant guest rooms, The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge also offers a four-bedroom Cottage and a Lodge group retreat with 36 spacious guest rooms.

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