This Body-Sculpting Massage Is Fashion’s Best-Kept Fitness Secret
I’m here today to receive Baratashvili’s lymphatic-drainage massage, an in-demand slimming technique that kept her occupied from 6:00 a.m. to midnight during New York Fashion Week, when editors and supers alike vied for a spot on her table.
Throughout her 35 years of bodywork, Baratashvili, who studied acupuncture and massage in China and was previously on call at the National Opera and Ballet Theater of Tbilisi (“I only worked with the prima ballerinas,” she recalls with a smile), has mastered “the secrets of muscular gravity” through strong manipulation that loosens fascia, increases blood flow, and wakes up muscles so that she can “move them back to where they should be.” A sculpted physique is only one of her treatment’s selling points, though; it also can calm the nervous system, reduce chronic pain, and speed the elimination of metabolic waste—that is, if you can handle the pressure.
“Did you drink water today?” she asks me, as she presses her elbows and forearms onto my thighs, my eyes welling up with tears (an indication that the tissue is not healthy, she says). Although I regularly refill the VitaJuwel that sits on my desk, she’s quick to tell me, “That’s not enough.” Dehydration can lead to muscle cramping, indigestion, and toxin buildup: “You must drink two liters of water before 2:00 p.m., another liter before 5:00 p.m., and, after that, just take sips.” (She also informs me that my low-rise Hanky Pankys cut off circulation and should be swapped out for high-hitting ones that fall where my waistline should be. Plus, she adds, “It’s more European, more elegant.”)
At the end of our 45-minute session, which she capped with a round of circulation-boosting cupping, I not only notice a contoured line in my leg that no yoga, barre, or cycling class has ever once revealed, but also that my skin is glowing and I feel lighter than when I first trudged up the steps to her third-floor walk-up in the Manhattan neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen.
If it’s hard to imagine the well heeled making the same trek, consider that Baratashvili’s address may in fact be a welcome relief from the Soho salons that beckon the social media set with their staged Instagrammable backdrops. It’s a feeling not unlike the satisfaction that comes with discovering a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that doles out the most mouth-watering, authentic cuisine. In other words, here you’ll find a treatment that doesn’t need to be buoyed by a populated geotag. Rather, the results speak for themselves. And how refreshing is that?