Lower State Street on a Saturday night: jazz and a glass of Guinness? Thai dishes or Himalayan delicacies? The latest scores on blaring televisions? Instead, duck into one of the many Chinese reflexology salons springing up around town, which are open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., with no appointment necessary. You’ll re-emerge rested, refreshed, and ready to enjoy the weekend.

Although touted as “foot spas,” these reflexology salons offer much more than a simple massage. Based in ancient Chinese medicine, the practice applies pressure to specific points of the feet and hands that correspond with different organs in order to improve circulation, minimize pain, increase energy, remove toxins, elevate a mood … the list goes on. All I know is that after 40 minutes of someone working on my feet, all of me feels better than when I walked in.

My research began at Evan’s Relaxing Station, where the $26 treatment consists of a brief foot soak and a half-hour pressure-point/rubdown session. In a cavernous room full of hushed voices, the large chairs are comfy, so I sit back, close my eyes, and succumb to the pain/pleasure of the massage, wondering which corresponding organ is being manipulated. But I don’t ask, for none of the technicians seem to speak much English.

Next I’m moving up State Street to the Little Rainbow Foot Spa. The ambience is different — red embroidery everywhere and no chairs — so I lie on a half-bed with my feet immersed in water. It’s redolent of an opium den, but one likely to lead to a different kind of addiction. Someone covers my body with a towel and eyes with a facecloth. Then, surprise, the $26, 40-minute foot massage begins with strong hands on my head, neck, and shoulders, and then they travel down the arms, stretching and manipulating my fingers before moving onto my legs. What delicious bliss, lying there while someone dries my feet, places them up on the other half of the bed, and devotes the next 30 minutes to working out every buried bit of tension. As I sink deeper into relaxation, a smile on my face, a thought occurs to me: “Think I need to come back for more research.”

Evan’s Relaxing Stations are located at 521 State Street and 3009 State Street. Little Rainbow Foot Spas are located at 401 State Street, 3560 State Street, 290 Storke Road in Goleta, and 977 Linden Avenue in Carpinteria.


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