Relaxation Treat: Cocoon Urban Spa

Whether you’re in Athens for a day or forever, it’s great to know there’s a place such as Cocoon Urban Spa where you can receive top-quality therapies for face and body, either as a one-off treat or as a course of treatments that bring results. 

As someone who has been passionately interested in holistic wellness for decades, I was among the very first to visit Cocoon Urban Spa when it opened 20 years ago. In my post-lockdown slump, I headed over there to try some renewing and reviving therapies that could facilitate the process of returning to the land of the living. 

My Own Experience: Tried & Tested!

I tried the CBD Oil Massage and the vitamin C Facial, in that order. I arrived stressed out from work, life, and a year+ of lockdown inertia and was ready to surrender to the hands of the spa’s skilled therapists. I was not disappointed. The CBD Oil Massage is a head-to-toe therapy using an ingredient that has become widely lauded for its effects in reducing anxiety and muscular pain. The therapist used strong yet caring strokes to ease away my blocks and gracefully accepted my invitation to converse about the therapy itself and various other personal questions regarding my body’s health. I was impressed not only by the fantastically relaxing experience but also by her depth of knowledge and charm. 

Next, was the Vitamin C Facial, which involves a face cleansing (with Murad products, not hands or a machine) and a reviving massage that help a strong dose of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is considered to leave the skin glowing because it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, accelerating healing and removing fine lines to reveal skin freshness, brightness, plumpness, and shine. Again, the aesthetician kindly explained the entire process to me and offered me extra tips for my skin type and beauty routine. 

I certainly left Cocoon Urban Spa feeling as dreamy and relaxed as I’d hoped, with skin that glowed for days and has improved in texture ever since. 

NOTE: Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my swimsuit along, so I missed out on the chance to enjoy the sauna, steam room, and jacuzzi, but there’s always the next time!


While at the Spa, I stopped for a chat with Maria Poulada, the co-owner of Cocoon who together with her sister has led it to develop and evolve into a truly fantastic place of holistic wellness for Athenians and visitors alike.

Getting to Know Cocoon Urban Spa: Q & A with Maria Poulada

How has the wellness scene in Greece changed since you first opened 20 years ago?
It has broadened and multiplied, which is great. However, more and more schools and Yoga Teacher Training programs are churning out “therapists” and unfortunately, during my recruiting efforts, I’ve seen that the quality has dropped significantly, and inexperienced teachers and masseuses are being absorbed by the market and lowering the standard. 

Where do your therapists train?
Most of our therapists are very skilled and have studied Natural Health Science. It’s one of the oldest and most respected schools in Attica. I usually ask the teachers from that school to recommend grads for me and it’s worked out great.

Who are your customers?
Cocoon Urban Spa has a wide range of customers, from people who come for a profound life-change (to decrease chronic stress or pain, improve sleep, etc.) and visit us on a regular basis and then there are people who come once a year to treat themselves on their birthdays or to give a gift. I think we are the only place in the city that offers a truly holistic wellness approach, passive and dynamic therapy, encompassing treatments, yoga, acupuncture, and homeopathy.

What would you recommend as The Ultimate treatment for post-lockdown stress?
It’s a bit subjective. Some would say it’s the Shirodhara or any classic massage. For me, personally, it’s Yoga. The Hatsumomo is a terrific overall detox treatment and if you couple it with a deep cleansing facial or a Renewing Facial, you’ll look and feel brand new! The CBD oil massage is deeply relaxing and works well for anxiety-related stress.

What kind of products do you use for treatments?
We’ve remained very old-school, sticking to our philosophy of hands-on therapy and natural products. It’s vital to use the highest-quality products for massages and facials. We’ve been using Decleor and Jurlique for ages because they’re natural, organic, and biodynamic. Also, the quality is terrific. You relax just by smelling them and the results are fantastic.

As published in In+sights Greece (www.insightsgreece.com)

Home - Cocoon Urban Day Spa
Cocoon Urban Spa is on Souliou 9 & Erifilis Str, Halandri, Athens. Email : info@cocoonurbanspa.gr &
phone : 210 6561975

fourfold massage bliss

The treatment room at the Electra Palace Hotel's Aegeo Spas
The treatment room at the Electra Palace Hotel’s Aegeo Spas

My latest Tried & Tested experience was a four-hands Lucky Treatment at the swanky Electra Palace Hotel, at the Aegeo Spas. Although I have tried and tested massage therapies at some of the world’s best spas – such as the Pimalay Resort in Thailand, Amansara in Cambodia, Ryokan in Japan, Grande Bretagne in Athens – as well as a colourful and impressive variety of smaller wellness centres and quirky, off-road therapy retreats both near and far, I had never experienced a four hands massage. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to do so, but for some surreal reason it never appealed enough. What really piqued my interest in the Lucky Treatment, also known as the Wish Massage was its enchanting concept. Not just a massage carried out by two therapists but an entire ritual in which the client is asked to make a wish at the beginning of the therapy, this had a spiritual element that I could not resist. I feel sorry for those who cynically scorn “magical thinking” – in fact, I think being able to practice it, (with measure of course because we always need to remain grounded to a basic degree) is a superpower that offers strength, resilience, the ongoing capability to dream your world into being, and an important connection to creativity, to the magic that lies within us.

Upon entering Aegeo Spas in the Electra Palace Hotel

The Electra Palace Spa is not fancy or huge, but it’s luxurious, with a relaxing  ambience of dim lights and dreamy aromas. The staff are all extremely warm, professional and comfortingly familial, so as soon as I arrived, very excited about my massage booking no doubt, I felt right at home. After 15 minutes in and out of a hot sauna, I wrapped myself in a fluffy white robe and was greeted by smiling massage therapists Kalliopi and Bora, both beaming and presenting me with a lit candle. In the therapy room, I was asked to make a wish and then blow out the candle. I had thought about my wish while in the sauna and the objective now was to focus on it gently during the therapy too.

Aegeo Spas Electra Palace Hotel Athens
Skilled therapists Kalliopi and Bora who gave me the Lucky Treatment greet me with a lit candle so I can make my wish.

At first I was in mind-mode and got myself into a little spiral of paranoid thinking: “What if they are looking at each other and making faces?” Then I decided to tell my mind to shut the hell up and try and focus on what I actually felt. Starting from my legs, the therapists kneaded and pressed all the tension out of my limbs in perfect synchronisation. “It is like a dance,” Bora told me, that we choreograph spontaneously as we work!” Their movements came in flow with the music that was playing, which made the experience even more immersive as I lay feeling aware of their synchronised massage, the emotive but not overwhelming music, and how I felt.

So how did I actually feel? Like I’d never felt before during a massage. It was as though I had been taken into the hands of some mythological creature that was floating and flying me around while I happily surrendered (if it had been a mythological creature I don’t think I would have been as relaxed!). At various points one therapist began where the other had ended, so there was an ongoing flow of movement, like deep, calming waves of relaxing tranquility. When one therapist massaged my head and the other my feet, I could do nothing but feel that even if the wish I’d made at the start of the treatment was not realised, I was nonetheless experiencing a wish come true, one I’d made a few hundred times on nights when my son wouldn’t sleep, or when I crouched over my laptop trying to finish off an article. I could sense that they were not going through the motions, but instead were working with giving and dedication to help me feel good, and at the end of the session I felt so blissed – and blessed – that my only wish was that these two wonderful individuals have all of their wishes come true!

One and a half hours of the session are focused on the body, while the last half hour is centred on the head (where you think of your wish) and face, with special attention to the lips (from which you speak your wish) and the eyes (from which you see your wish manifest). A cleansing and glow-inducing mask is slathered indulgently onto the skin, and if the client accepts, the head and hair is massaged with hot olive oil. Unsurprisingly, I was pretty spaced out after the therapy, but putting on the clothes that define who I am I soon regained my urban instincts and got back to ordinary life. Not that after that experience I felt ordinary in any way, shape or form.

In the Lucky Treatment, 1+1 = 4!

ancient greek massage

“Therapy”: From Greek therapeia ‘healing’, from therapeuein ‘minister to, treat medically’.

Ancient Greek Massage is a therapeutic approach developed by physiotherapist and alternative therapist Elly Tsouknaki, who says “I suddenly realized, after years of practicing massage therapies such as Thai, Balinese, Swedish and other techniques from around the world, that there was no massage style based on Greek therapy principles! So I spent years extensively researching ancient theories and practices and created the Ancient Greek Massage.” She has now trademarked the massage, which is by now practiced at many of the best health centers and spas around the country, and is also gradually gaining momentum abroad.

The massage is based chiefly on methods created by Hippocrates, “the father of medicine” and which were used at wrestling schools and gymnasiums in ancient Greece as well as at the numerous Asclepion healing centers.

The method
The treatment begins with ‘dry kneading” of the body, that is, without the use of any oil, after which the therapist covers the skin with powder, and with a brush made from horse hair, brushes it in circular movements into the skin, activating the circulatory movement of the blood while ‘drying’ any humid areas. “Hippocrates believed that humidity was detrimental to the healthy functioning of the body,’ Tsoukani says, adding that athletes would rub a magnesium chalk powder into their skin before exercise.

Using hot extra virgin olive oil mixed with pure essential oils made from Greek herbs and flowers, the therapist then proceeds to massage the entire body, pressing points to relax and ‘open’ knotted muscles and energy meridians. This is followed by another method employed by the ancient Greeks, that of using suction cups – interestingly, the ancient Greeks used animal horns that were heated at their base with fire and then stamped onto the skin to create the suction action.

The cups are moved along the skin, further activating circulation (Tsouknaki explains that in order to achieve this effect otherwise one would need to use a very strong, massage technique, which can be painful and uncomfortable and which she deems unnecessary). Activating the circulation and deeply relaxing the muscles, this procedure helps the body not only release tension but also toxins, and creates an effect of relaxation and invigoration at once.

The massage concludes with a focus on the neck, head and face, which Hippocrates called ‘rubbing out sadness’ believed trapped a great deal of tension (especially the jaw, which tightens even when one has negative thoughts, or Tsouknaki says, “every time we want to express something but decide to keep it in”).

Where?
etBy now, Tsouknaki has taught her method to numerous spas and therapists around the country as well as a few abroad, but to receive a treatment from her personally visit her at her Athens (Aigaleo) studio.

Elly Tsouknaki is reachable at: (+30) 210-5310336 & (+30) 6973085104.