Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve been exploring new ways to practice self-care in an effort to amplify my self-love and self-esteem. Yoga, good skincare and wine have all been on my list but my most recent method has got me hooked and I’ve seen nothing but positive results since I’ve incorporated it into my daily routine. From BROWN GIRL Jane‘s Rest Wellness Drops to Just Beauty CBD‘s Vegan Eye Divine Serum, CBD has become a major part of my day-to-day life as I’ve adjusted to working from home, managing stress from outside sources including friends, family, and relationships and talking myself off the ledge of the anxiety that shows up in my mind unexpectedly.

As the nights become darker earlier in the day and seasonal depression begins to creep, I decided that it was time to take my self-care routine to the next level. I’ve been to spas before but I have only experienced infinity pools and steam rooms. All other amenities including facials and massages were off the table – no pun intended – due to strict COVID regulations in New York and New Jersey. Thankfully, as vaccinations increase, pill treatments are being introduced and more states are heading into the green zone, restrictions are being lifted and I’m free to take my self-care routine to new heights. While I’m not new to facials, I’d never gotten a massage before and seem to always skip that part of the routine. Now that I’ve uncovered a Black-owned spa that has CBD-infused massages right in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York, I knew this was a sign from God to kick things up a notch.

I was first introduced to Body By Brooklyn during their AMBI Sweet Escape immersive experience for the launch of the skincare brand’s sweet potato extract Even & Clear® collection. From the moment I stepped foot into the establishment, I felt this overwhelming sense of peace and serenity that I wouldn’t expect to experience only a few blocks north of my childhood home on Park Avenue in Bed-Stuy. This was certainly a hidden gem buried beneath the highways and buildings of Brooklyn, but a gem nonetheless that I’m glad I discovered. “I’ve heard it several times in the past years,” co-owner Terrance Spriggs told ESSENCE about the “hidden gem” notion about Body By Brooklyn. Alongside his co-owner Tukkie Armenio, Spriggs’ passion translates into his business as they assure the utmost authentic, relaxing, spirit-calming experience for all spagoers.

“It’s a place that really focuses on the mental, physical, and for some people spiritual all around. Many days people come in down and out, stressing out and body aching and they’re leaving just refreshed and renewed, partially because of the therapists that we hire,” Spriggs explained about the BBB experience. He described the licensed massage therapists as “extremely special” because they all care about the services they provide. “We’re the only largest Black-owned, women-minority owned European day spa in the state of New York total. That in itself I think makes us special and unique.”

Spriggs and Armenio came together while Spriggs was an off-and-on manager for Body By Brooklyn for seven years before they stepped into a position of ownership. Spriggs had brought Armenio on as a co-manager at the time and from her first steps into the doorway, she knew she wanted to buy it. A few months later, she sought out Spriggs as a potential partner due to his knowledge of the business inside and out, to which he agreed as his passion outweighed the reality of the situation at hand. “We stepped out on faith. We cleared out our bank accounts. The scariest part was we purchased this during COVID so we really didn’t know what was going to happen. We purchased it when we were still in the thick of things, but we both knew that we were extremely passionate about making this work and we knew that we could create jobs in the community if we were able to pull it off,” he exclaimed. Now, with Body By Brooklyn being what he deems as “an actual sanctuary,” the establishment now has nearly 40 employees and serves as a safe space in Brooklyn, New York for people to mentally detox the world around them.

“Self-care is a form of self-love, and self-love is one of the most important things to lead you to a healing journey,” Armenio explained to ESSENCE about self-love as a healing tool for Black folks and throughout marginalized communities. “You have to love yourself first and in order for you to love yourself, you have to take care of yourself, you have to reconnect with yourself, your inner self. When you do the healing, you treat yourself in the spa [and] it relaxes your mind so much that sometimes I get into the moment of thinking of everything that is going on and I can understand myself a lot better. When you really meditate, you find out that the home that you will find is within you and that the self-care, the treatment, and everything. That’s the beginning of everything to bring you back to your self-love.”

Keeping Armenio’s words at the forefront of my mind, I was ready for a full day of unapologetic self-love. Up first was my CBD Swedish Massage, which goes for $189 for 90 minutes on a weekday. Described on their site as its “most popular treatment because it is highly therapeutic,” Body By Brooklyn offers this massage for those looking to alleviate stress and chronic pain with a hint of immediate, intensified relaxation – and that’s right up my alley. When I first met the lead massage therapist Sha, whose name is similar to that of my best friend, I was automatically met with tranquility and gratitude. She and I had spoken on the phone two days prior about all things CBD infused massages and I was excited, but once the aura of Body By Brooklyn’s spa hit my body, I couldn’t help but be as calm and serene as possible. The room was dimly lit with jazz and house renditions of alternative and ’90s R&B – my kind of vibe. Like most people, when my mind is idle, it begins to wander. Once my naked chest was met with the massage table and my head with the pillow, I began to let my mind roam. Did I leave my electric fireplace on? How many deadlines do I have today? I should probably book my Thanksgiving travel ticket now, I thought. But once Sha introduced my palette to the scents of peppermint and orange essential oils, everything came to a pause and I let my body carry itself into a stress-free, stable mental place of peace.

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When we connected on the phone earlier this week, Sha, whose full name is Shamica Jones, explained to me that CBD massages work the way in which they do because the CBD interacting with a system in our body called the endocannabinoid system, which has only been studied since the 1990s. “They actually found that system within our body when they were trying to study the physiological effects that cannabis had on our system. This is a new system that we really don’t know too much about, but they do know that the CBD molecule is very similar in chemical structure to the endocannabinoids that our body naturally produces. It’s able to bind to the receptors that are found right under the skin and they’re signaling molecules,” Jones told me.

As she continued, Jones broke down the workings of our body, explaining how they signal the cells responsible for reducing pain and inflammation to better do their jobs. “When we’re massaging you, it’s able to send messages to what we call the nose receptors or the pain cells to help reduce the pain that the person may be feeling. It also helps to improve your mood because the nervous system can send that nervous stimulation to all organs in our body responsible for helping to improve our mood, reducing any anxiety or depression that we may be feeling,” she said. While this may all be happening on a cellular level and results may not be immediate, there is a noticeable difference in the body that I experienced after that hour and a half interval on the table. At first, I found myself extremely tense and nervous because my body had been touched in such a delicate, wise way in which it hadn’t before but thankfully Shamica gave me tips to prepare beforehand as a first-timer.

“For first-time people, I definitely recommend being as relaxed as you can be. I notice that especially for first-time people it’s harder to move their limbs passively because there’s just so tight. Just let your body relax so I can passively move your body through the positions that I need to,” she said. “No jewelry, unless it’s spiritual jewelry because it just gets in the way. Wrap your hair up and be on time for your session so you can enjoy the full amount of time.”

My CBD Swedish Massage concluded with the sweet sounds of a saxophone’s rendition of Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work.” Following the 90-minute session, I headed to the Wet Lounge, complete with a jacuzzi, steam room, two dry saunas, and a smaller pool reminiscent of an ice bath. Per Sha’s recommendation because of my toned calf muscles and tense shoulders, I headed to the jacuzzi first and allowed my body to float. Typically, I would care that my hair was getting wet but at this moment, the slightest worries of soaked faux locs were at the bottom of my list. After a visit to the steam room and a cold shower, I went to the Dry Lounge while I waited for my Thai lunch which was an extra bonus for me considering that is my favorite type of food.

Soon after, I was called in by an esthetician for my CBD Calming Facial – something I knew that my face desperately needed considering all of the travel I’d been doing over the past month. The room was dimly lit, the esthetician was friendly and familiar (as she was the one who gave me a complimentary AMBI facial the week prior), and I was welcomed by a jazz rendition of Alicia Keys’ “Falling” hit. After the CBD oil and steam had been all up and through my pores, I was saddened to know that my experience was coming to an end at this hidden Brooklyn treasure for the day. I sat back into the Dry Lounge as I rewarded myself with a glass of white wine, listened to the piano-embedded instrumental music, and thought how amazing of an experience I had on a Friday afternoon. Needless to say, I’d absolutely come back without any hesitation and I’m looking forward to seeing their plans for expansion come into fruition as we enter the new year.

“We’re hoping by next year to have our second location. We are trying to find the best location and a location where our current clients will be willing to travel. Our goal is to make our second location more high-end and [Park Avenue] will be always at the home location,” Spriggs said confidently. “We should be able to customize it to what we think will improve this particular location and bring it there but make it better. Having more spa parties, having more bridal parties, and I would say just 2.0 of Body by Brooklyn by next year.” As I write this review from the beautiful ambiance of their Dry Lounge and Spriggs checking on my experience periodically as he gives customers the tour of his wonderful establishment, it’s a no-brainer that Body By Brooklyn will go far beyond the imagination of spas as we know it.