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Blue Lagoon In-Water Massage: A brief history
This is the story of how a simple request became an experience enjoyed by thousands.
Like many of the best discoveries in life, Blue Lagoon's in-water massage didn't begin by intent or design. It began with a humble request that inspired an avalanche of ingenuity animated by the will to create a unique, unforgettable experience.
Ólafía Jensdóttir was born and raised in Grindavík, the fishing town just five kilometers from Blue Lagoon. She remembers going to the lagoon at night as a teenager, back in the days when the enchanting body of blue water at the Svartsengi Resource Park was still considered an unusable byproduct of geothermal energy production. That was in 1978, and the reservoir was completely unsupervised and quite dangerous—with pockets of scalding water and areas of jagged lava.
Jensdóttir began working at Blue Lagoon in 1996. By then, the water's healing powers had been researched and formally recognized, and had given rise to a line of skin care. A clinic had also been built on the shores of the lagoon. Psoriasis patients came there for treatments that were based on the curative properties of geothermal seawater and the medicinal radiance of ultraviolet light therapy. And one day a week—every Wednesday—Jensdóttir, who had been trained as a massage therapist, would administer bench massage inside the makeshift clinic facility.
In July of 1999, the old lagoon was closed, all of its facilities dismantled, and the modern-day lagoon—with its stunning organic architecture—was opened. It was here that in-water massage was born.
Jensdóttir remembers the first spark quite clearly. It was in January of 2000. She was at home in Grindavík. She received a call from Magnus Jakobsson—a Blue Lagoon employee whose primary responsibility was first aid training.
"He called me one day," says Jensdóttir, "and asked me, 'Can you come and massage a lady who wants to have a massage in the water?' And so I came over and sat on the steps of the lagoon and did just a little massage. Maybe ten or twenty minutes. And then I went home."
Though the woman had been sitting upright as she received her massage, Jensdóttir instantly recognized the possibilities enabled by transposing the techniques of indoor bench massage to the outdoor arena of the lagoon's rejuvenating warmth and the mesmerizing beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Several weeks later, Jakobsson called her again:
"It was for a show called Djúpalaugin," says Jensdóttir. "It was a show on the TV. People that were meeting, they came, and they were offered some package. And it was two people. And I sat on the steps and did what I had done for the woman and we made it a little cozy with candles. And that was another step."
Likewise, the original spark had now become a flame and the wheels of Jensdóttir's imagination would not stop turning. The fundamental challenge was figuring out how to give a full body massage in the water—a way to merge the pleasures of the human touch with the wonders of the Blue Lagoon. Administering massage while sitting on the steps just wouldn't do justice to the vision that had taken shape in her mind.
"I remember that when the first lady came and I sat on the steps and massaged her shoulders, I remember thinking, 'This is so incredible.' Because I was so fascinated with all the nature, all the elements. And this had it all: earth, water, fire, air, and space."
Several weeks later, Jakobsson called her again. Magnea Guðmundsdóttir, Blue Lagoon's Director of PR, wanted to offer this emerging form of massage every Sunday.
"I would sit on the steps," says Jensdóttir. "It was Sundays for one or two months. But it grew and grew and then it was all days. And all of this made me very excited. I wondered how I could make it better. I wanted to do more. I wanted to be able to do a full body massage in the water. But I was unsure how. I was trying different ideas, experiments with floating, but none of it worked."
Then one day, after she had finished a yoga session at home, she looked at her yoga mat and a question entered into her mind: Could this be used as a floatation device for in-water massage?
"And I took it with me to the Blue Lagoon and I put it in the water and went to take a shower. And I decided that if it was floating when I came back from the shower, I would try to use it for making people float. And that was the real beginning of in-water massage."
But there were more problems to solve. The weather is notoriously unpredictable and Jensdóttir was not content to limit these experiences to times when the weather was compliant. In order to overcome this dilemma, she used a blanket. Thus, the person being massaged could float and also remain comfortable—no matter if there was rain, snow, or wind.
"With the introduction of the blanket, I felt I was getting closer to my goal," says Jensdóttir. "But I still needed something for people to lay their heads on. So I took an inflatable armband—a baby floaty—and cut it in half and tried that and I felt that this was another piece of the puzzle. I was improvising the whole way."
This new form of massage, which was undergoing incremental enhancements catalyzed by Jensdóttir's creativity, became so popular so quickly that additional therapists were hired specifically for in-water massage. And Jensdóttir gladly shared her discoveries with her colleagues. She was an evangelist for this new type of treatment.
"It was like a film in my head," she says. "I was so taken. I remember coming home and telling my husband, 'Wow, I want to do so much with this.' There was so much opportunity. I had only been trained in bench massage. So all of this was new territory."
With the extraordinary rise of in-water massage at Blue Lagoon, the concept soon outgrew its location. The area by the steps would no longer suffice for these treatments. It was neither large enough nor quiet enough. Thus, a new location in the lagoon—dedicated solely to in-water massage—was created.
"I was so fascinated and inspired. I wanted people to experience this. I didn't want to go home, because it was so fun. And at night, in the moonlight, the Northern Lights, the snow, the crazy weather, and the warm water, and doing the massage—it was amazing."
In the following years, the coordinates of in-water massage were refined, perfected, and codified. Similarly, the rejuvenating elements of the lagoon's geothermal seawater were incorporated into the therapy, opening a wealth of possibilities for wellness, wellbeing, pleasure, and relaxation. In-water massage thus enabled the revitalizing interplay of the therapist's physical touch and the water's metaphysical possibilities in a weightless environment under the arctic sky. And all of it was born of a simple request: to be massaged in the water.
Today, Jensdóttir still lives in Grindavík. She is a practitioner of Polarity Therapy. Though she's no longer a massage therapist at Blue Lagoon, she is proud of the legacy she left and marvels at Blue Lagoon's meteoric ascent as an epicenter of Icelandic travel destinations.
Asked if she gives private in-water massage at her place in Grindavík, she says:
"I don't do anything with water in my practice. The water is for the Blue Lagoon. It's a very special place. Nor do I own the idea of in-water massage. It is universal. It is in the space. I just came along and grabbed it from the air."