I left a little piece of myself behind at the spa yesterday.
It wasn’t my semi-perm pink (though it covered everything), it wasn’t my bobby pins (two missing); no, it was a little piece of ME that melted away somewhere between the tea soak and the salt room.
My friend Claire, who at one point lived with me in the laundry room of my step-dad’s house (this sounds way creepier than it was), treated me to a birthday spa service at Olympic Spa in Koreatown. I chose Shiatsu--something I’d never tried--and told myself it was fine to enjoy myself and a gift from a friend. (Accepting nice things might be the hardest thing for me to do.)
We started our spa visit the way we started life: naked! Leaving our shoes in one set of lockers, we disrobed, gathered our towels and spa-issued robes, and I tried to be cool with being naked.
Turns out, it wasn’t that hard. In fact, it was downright enjoyable. Nothing makes you feel more at ease with your body than being surrounded by other naked women; every one of them different. Pretty soon, the judgment I feared I would feel was a nonissue, and I was heating in the steam room like a pro.
I dipped in the sauna, but it wasn’t until I sat in a tub of Mugworts tea that I truly started to feel the effects of Olympic. When I wasn’t imagining myself as a wizardry student at Mugworts University, I was deeply breathing in the tea’s healing vapors.
While it didn’t smell like tea, per se, it did have a delightfully perky effect on my tatas--they floated like bagels!
Before hitting the sauna, I took a dip in the cold pool to cool off. (Side note: I drank a lot of water with electrolytes before hitting the spa. Hydration is important, and I was told the tea water was not for consumption!) The sauna had that delightful wood smell and, had I not wanted to pass out and die, I could have stayed in there all day.
Then, Claire mentioned the salt room--the Hymalayan Salt Sauna--and the positively charged ions within; but to be honest, I didn’t think much of it. A salt room sounds delicious--give me some popcorn and throw in a slab of butter to boot (I was told not to lick the walls).
I didn’t take the time to read this sign until after I’d left the room, which is why I was so excited by what happened. It wasn’t a mind trick!
It happened about 15 minutes in as I laid my head on a wooden block so as not to further pink the white mat covering a floor of salt rocks. The room was peaceful and glowed in a gorgeous orange hue. Light shone through salt bricks illuminating their rippled patterns like transparent marble. The room was warm and inviting and I tried to clear my mind as I rested. And then it hit me.
I felt what I could only describe as nauseous, but in a way I’d never felt it before. It was as if something was leaving my diaphragm through my abdomen. I blamed it on dehydration and went out to get water, but by the time I’d reached the dining area, the feeling was gone and it was time for Shiatsu.
I believe Shiatsu is Japanese for, “Try to press my body through this table.” It was intense. And here, again, the naked shame was nowhere to be found. I walked in with my masseuse, disrobed in front of her with the door still open (I’m not sure it was closed at all during my massage) and we got down to business.
The strength in the fingers of this five-foot-tall woman was impressive by any standards. She went to work digging deep into unexplored muscular territory, poking and prodding and pushing and kneading. I was thankful my grimacing expressions were hidden in the face cradle so I could express my agony without her seeing it. And while it hurt like hell, I didn’t want it to stop. I’d equate the pain to an intense workout, and I would have stopped her had it gotten too bad.
After working my back, she hopped up on the table, using two parallel bars attached to the ceiling for support. She started by massaging my foot with her foot. She worked my calves, and then she walked on my butt. We were like a Cirque du Soleil act. I half expected her to do a flip off the table in sequins and Lycra.
I’m also proud to say she only had to ask me to relax once. I focused on breathing and got through the massage without shedding one tear.
But that still, my dears, was not where the magic happened.
We went back to the salt room, then showered and checked out. I briefly noted that our skin had a dewiness to it as we left the locker room, and after dropping Claire off at home, I noticed it in my visor mirror in the car, and again at home: I was beaming!
My eyes were clear, and my face was awash in a pink glow (not from my hair), and when I felt as giddy as a goddamn schoolgirl, I realized: it was the positive ions!
What really happened doesn’t really matter, does it? The important thing is that I felt it, and it felt great. Incredible. The best I’ve felt in years. Positive ions are real!
This is the point in the musical when I’d start singing; I’d rhyme “positive ions” with “bygones be bygones” and “Shiatsu” with “me and you.”
But the best part about all of this is that I almost didn’t go. Just like I almost didn’t move to L.A. and how I almost didn’t start contributing to xoVain. It was all too uncertain and intimidating.
But I’m learning to trust my gut, because this positive ion experience has taken things to a whole new level. You better believe I’ll be back!
Have you tried a salt room? Ever have a life-altering experience in a spa? Tell me about it!