Have you had a massage lately? The choices of where to go for one are growing.

The Avon Grove community has undergone a surge of new business development over the past decade. With this boost in the local economy, wellness centers have opened in Jennersville, West Grove, Avondale, Landenberg and New London.

Essential Day Spa opened where the New London Post Office used to be at the intersection of Route 896 and State Road. The old, historic building has been transformed into a tranquil, soothing and luxurious environment.

"We offer a unique atmosphere," Manager Rebecca Waryga said.

Essential Day Spa opened in June of 2004.

The staff is "driven to satisfy every customer. We try to accommodate them in every way possible," Waryga said. "People come from all over... A lot of people are beginning to believe the power of touch."

Waryga began to believe in the power of touch while working at a homeless shelter in Newark, Del. She is a manager at Essential Day Spa, and was trained in massage therapy at the National Institute of Massage Therapy of Philadelphia.

The owner of Essential Day Spa is Holly Fickes. Both Waryga and Fickes are graduates of Avon Grove High School.

According to Waryga, massage therapy is growing in the area because people are starting to believe in the power of touch.

Essentials Day Spa offers massage and specialty therapies, facials and professional skin care, therapeutic body treatments, hand and foot treatments and spa packages.

The Swedish massage, $40 for thirty minutes, $70 for one hour, and Essentials facial, $65, are the most popular individual treatments. The Day of Essentials, $175, an hour massage and palm and sole treatment with lunch included, is the business's most popular package.

Massage and therapeutic body treatments increase circulation to the joints, rid the body of toxins, alleviates stress, heal injuries and help a person become more limber," Waryga said.

"I believe in the relationship of trust, and the power of being touched is so important," she said. "You're being nourished by somebody's care ...We concentrate solely on areas that people enjoy being massaged the most. We enjoy being able to help people heal."

At Inner Beauty Message Therapy, wellness through massage therapy is also emphasized.

Owner Jennifer Waltman, a lifelong Penn resident, has remained an important member of the community with her growing business.

"It's just a nice place to be," she said. "Our area... is booming right now for everything... It's probably the area to be right now."

Waltman said she thinks the massage industry is growing because people are starting to realize that massages are beneficial and are for everyone, not just the wealthy.

Waltman felt it was important to bring massage to the general public. She does it by offering low prices and discount packages. $50 for an hour long, Swedish massage, and she offers special discounts when clients purchase bulk packages.

"I'm here to improve the quality of people's lives," she said.

Inner Beauty Massage Therapy has been in operation since Nov. 2004, and is located on Old Baltimore Pike across from the historic Red Rose Inn.

"I do get a few people from outside the area," Waltman said. "It's very diverse here. I see people that are 11 years old to 80 years old. Mostly I see middle aged people... men and women both."

Waltman offers Swedish and deep tissue massages, myofascial release and cranio-sacral therapy.

Cranio-sacral therapy is more deeply relaxing through regular massage, she said.

"Throughout daily life [we use] poor posture" she said. "This therapy is made to moderate the movement of the bones and to realign them."

Myofasical is the stretching of the soft tissue that surrounds our muscles, she said. If a muscle around a bone is not stretched it can cause tension in the body. For example, if you lie a sheet on the floor and pinch the center of the sheet, the entire sheet will gather toward that injury. The same occurs with our muscles. In myofasical release therapy, Waltman gently stretches the soft tissue, relieving stress, tension and pain.

"That can be what causes our chronic pain," Waltman said. The stretching of the tissue alleviates that pain.

"People don't realize how much stress they take on in their daily life," she said. They also don't realize how that stress can affect them emotionally and mentally as well as physically.

Massage relieves stress and "it makes you stop and realize what you're doing to yourself."

"Massage is... a way to let go."

It improves circulation and promotes the healing of injures, she said.

According to Waltman, massage therapy is just the start. Combined with exercise and good nutrition, massage helps a person find a balance.

"I think that people are starting to realize that it's not just for a select few," Waltman said.

There also are massage businesses in Landenberg and Avondale.

At the historic old Landenberg Hotel, The Body Business, Massage Therapy and Bodyworks, opened in Nov. of 2003.

"I think with the stress level that people have with the rat race," said owner Julie Hadfield, "there's a lot of work related injuries."

"I incorporate a lot into my massage." Hadfield offers Deep Tissue massages, $40 for one half hour, $75 for an hour, $110 for ninety minutes. She also offers a unique method of Traditional Thai massage. "You're fully clothed, it's assisted yoga." The Traditional Thai massage allows the body to be stretched and worked while reducing stress through relaxation and breathing. Hadfield offers an introducing $85, hour and a half Traditional Thai massage, a reduced rate she extends for a few months with new clients.

Originally from Del., she restarted up her business after relocating to the Landenberg Hotel, where running water from the local stream adds to the overall appeal of a peaceful business location.

"I've been doing this for ten years," Hadfield said. "It was just a perfect place."

Yoga is a complete system of care, according to Alison Donley, owner of The Light Within Yoga Studio in West Grove.

Open since November of 2004, and once the location of the Avon Grove Free Library, The Light Within Yoga Studio is a bright, sun-lit and healing space.

"The word yoga literally means to join up, or to yoke together," Donley said. "What we're trying to join together in yoga is the body, the mind and the spirit."

The Light Within Yoga Studio offers a safe, nurturing and comfortable atmosphere for people, Donely said.

Classes are $12 for one class, $9 per class if you buy 10 classes and $7.50 per class if you buy forty classes or more.

"I have people coming from as far as West Chester, and I would say probably 80 percent of my clients are from this area, southern Chester County rural," she said.

According to Donley, yoga plays an integral part of wellness, healing and relaxation.

In "gentle classes we learn deep breathing, we learn how to recognize when stress is creating stress in the body, we do gentle stretches, we do relaxation and mediation," she said.

These classes are available for people ages 12 and older, and there are specific workshops for children, she said.

"You can really practice to your 80's, 90's," Donley said. "It's powerful."

Donley also offers a more vigorous class called ashtanga. The ashtanga class is very physical, but Donely teaches the method at different levels so that everyone can work at his or her own potential during a class.

Yoga, like massage, is a growing industry in our area.

"It's very exciting," she said. "I think its growing because people are overwhelmed... they have too much they're trying to get done."

But yoga helps people pause, she said.

"It gives you an opportunity to... recognize when you are letting stress get the best of you," Donley said. "You can take yoga out of yoga studio... and live so much more peacefully and comfortably."

Savasana, a relaxation pose, is one of the studio's most popular positions, whereas one of the more popular classes is ashtanga, Donley said.

"You actually sweat," she said. "You work out and you work in. It's very transformative."

Donley added that a lot of her students love to learn how to stand on their heads to develop their upper shoulder strength.

"Yoga is actually between 4,000 and 6,000 years old," Donley said. It evolved from ancient medicine in India.

"People took responsibility for their health more; they didn't rely on a doctor or a pill," she said. "Yoga helps you... in terms of wellness. It's the constant and deliberate effort to stay healthy and achieve the highest potential for well being."

Wellness is a combination of physical, social, emotional and spiritual health, she said.

"A lot of people have pieces of the pie missing," she said. But "the reality is they have the key. They have everything they need. That is what yoga teaches you."

Donely also has a massage therapist at her studio.

In October 2005 the studio was featured in "Yoga Journal," a national magazine.

The studio was one of several emerging, small town yoga studios featured around the country. "[The article] was really all about overcoming adversity and pursuing your passion," Donley said.

Donley's inspiration for naming her business The Light Within Yoga Studio comes from this quote by Swami Rama: "When you truly love someone, we love the light within that person. The process of enlightenment is the path of learning to appreciate the light within both ourselves and those we love, and seeking the full expression of our self as well as the self of others."

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