Thursday, August 7, 2014

My First Korean Spa

Greetings from sunny Los Angeles, California! I am here on vacation for a WHOLE WEEK! The main reason for my visit is that my brother and his lovely wife had a beautiful baby girl 13 days ago. Making me an aunt for the first time and it's pretty sweet. While I'm out here I'm playing a little bit. :) (I'm sure I'll blog about my niece another time... you know how she is the cutest smartest baby in the world and all)

Yesterday when we were talking about what to do, my brother mentioned going to a Korean Spa. I heard the word Spa and was all in! Then something clicked and I vaguely remembered reading something online recently about Korean Spas. I don't remember but it was something along the lines of "Oh... you know about those korean spas and what happens there..." I had tried to research it upon reading that but never found any information. So I asked my brother about it (because he goes to one about once a week).

"There's men and women saunas. They're separated. And there's a steam room, dry sauna, different temperature pools. There's a co-ed area upstairs with different kinds of saunas. Oh... and when you're in the men or women sauna, you can't wear clothes."

HOLD. THE. PHONE. You want me to do what?! I hear naked. In front of other people and my mind starts racing. How do people do that?! And internally I am running in the other direction.

Call me prude. Call me too modest. But how in the world is hanging out in a pool with other naked people relaxing?! It's funny because people tell me "well you get massages and you're naked for that, so it's not really that different."
WRONG! When I get massages I am in a DARK room COVERED by a sheet. Not in a lit room, in hot tubs with other naked people. SO NOT THE SAME!

Well... last night we took a walk and were going to go to the spa after the walk. But my brother's dog apparently doesn't learn lessons and chased the skunk again... and got sprayed again. So our spa time was actually spent giving him a spa day to get the skunk spray off of him. Gotta say I wasn't that bummed that our spa date wasn't happening haha

Then today we started making plans and that dang spa idea came back up again. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought maybe I should give it a shot. Try to live a little. 

Now I don't know about you, but public nudity... NOT my thing. I wasn't even comfortable sleeping naked until I was like 20 years old. I don't even let my cat see me naked. In case you don't know my brother, he is definitely the more adventurous one. The dude has no fear of anything... whereas I fear EVERYTHING. 

We grabbed lunch at Whole Foods and then came home so he could go for a run and then we were going to the spa. While he was gone, I decided to mentally prepare myself for what was about to occur and I started looking up korean spas online, read a couple blogs about people who went, etc. It seemed to calm my nerves a little bit, but I was still crazy nervous going there. 

On our way to the spa! 
It's funny... We got there and I was crazy nervous and I think the lady at the counter knew because she asked if I'd ever been there and then explained it a little bit to me. (I was still super lost). We paid, they gave us a towel, a t-shirt (to wear in the co-ed area. You also wear shorts but those are in the locker room area), and a wrist band that is your locker key (water proof and magnetic. pretty fancy) and then they send you on your merry way. 

I found my locker.... and then stood there for a few minutes. Slowly took off my jewelry... took my sweet time. In this time, the girl with the locker next to me came by twice. The second time she told me it was her first time, I told her it was mine too. She said "you're going to see a lot of naked people! Enjoy...." and then was off. I had so many questions for her... Where do I go? How do I enjoy being naked in front of people? Do people stare at you? Is it scary? But alas she was gone... So I told myself it was time to just suck it up. So I undressed... then wrapped myself in the towel and wasted a little more time by going to the bathroom. Then I got lost and couldn't find the dang sauna. 

I walked in... still covered in my towel and went to the shower (I read online that sometimes people tell on you if you don't shower haha). I showered, covered myself BACK up (it's getting a little ridiculous) and then found the WARM TUB and got in. There were probably around 8-10 other women in there. And there I sat. Not talking to anyone, but just sitting. And thinking. After that I went to the steam sauna (118 degrees) for a bit. Then sat in the hot tub. Then went to the dry sauna (172 degrees). Then sat in the cold tub for a bit. They have an option to get massages and body scrubs which apparently make your skin SUPER soft. I wanted to do one, so I walked over to where the tables are and all the ladies were washing the tables and no one asked if I wanted one. A part of me wonders if they were closing down for the night, but who knows. 

As I sat there it made me think about our culture and how ashamed so many of us are of being naked in front of other people. When other cultures (korean) really aren't. Some of the women were talking to each other. There were women of all shapes and sizes there, but at no point did I ever see or feel judgment. In a lot of ways, it was kind of liberating. 

After all that I went back to the locker room to put on that t-shirt and shorts and head up to the co-ed floor. 

I got there and found my brother laying on a mat so I sat next to him for a little bit. I was feeling kind of light headed, so first I went into the Ice Sauna (41 degrees). It felt really nice actually... not too cold, which is weird because I am cold ALL THE TIME. 
THE ICE SAUNA is the final stop after a day at the spa. This room helps bring the core body temperature down, closes the pores and tightens the skin. By finishing with the Ice Sauna, circulation will improve and overall well-being is restored. Recommended usage is 10-20 minutes.

I decided that while I was here I was going to try everything.... So next it was on to the Salt Sauna (122 degrees). There are a bunch of salt rocks on the ground that you lay on. 
THE SALT SAUNA, with the help of thousand-year-old minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, sodium and selenium, improves the physical, chemical and hydrodynamic conditions of the body. The respiratory system is purified, circulation improves, the immune system is strengthened, and muscles are relaxed. In addition, halotherapy (salt therapy) is healing for skin conditions. Recommended usage is 10-20 minutes.
After being in there for a little bit, I was a little light headed so I went and got some water (definitely important). And then I made my way to the Clay Sauna (126 degrees). Where my brother was. The clay sauna has clay balls that you lay on. I was under the impression they would be soft, wet clay balls, but they were hard, dry ones, the size of small hail. And when you walk on them, you sink a little bit. 
While THE CLAY SAUNA features clay specially imported from Korea, clay has been used for centuries around the world for its medicinal and cosmetic benefits. This natural mud stimulates the lymphatic system and assists in the heavy metal detoxification process. Guests immerse their bodies under layers of clay balls to increase the body temperature. Recommended usage is 10-20 minutes.

I just laid on top of them. But there was a tv in there so that was kind of cool. It was in korean though so I didn't watch anything. :) 

Upon leaving, we went and got some more water and then went for the Bulgama Sauna (213 degrees). I was convinced I wasn't going to last more than a couple of minutes in there. It was hot, but it didn't seem as hot as I thought it would. It made me wonder about Bikram Yoga and how hot that is. Being as I don't like being hot OR doing yoga, that's not my thing... but I can't imagine doing yoga in that heat. WOAH. 
THE BULGAMA, made mostly out of oak wood, sits at an impressive 231 degrees for intense thermotherapy. As guests lie on the floor, heat helps to loosen muscles, remove toxins and bacteria in the body, and reduce blood pressure -- for an overall cleansing effect. Recommended usage is 10-15 minutes.

After that, we moved to the slightly cooler Jade Room (125 degrees) although it didn't even seem that much cooler than the bulgama. 
The powerfully hot JADE ROOM eases muscle tension, helps with arthritis, and is known to lower the cerebral temperature. The sodium and minerals within the walls of Jade Spa also help in the balancing of hormones. In Asian culture, Jade has long been revered for its healing properties and in aiding stress relief. Recommended usage is 10-20 minutes.
Since the Jade Room is supposed to help with arthritis, I did a little bit of stretching while I was in there (as did many other people in there) and then we decided to end it with the Ice Sauna (since apparently you're supposed to do that last, not first like I originally did. 

After the ice sauna, we went to the main room where there are mats all over the place and laid down for a bit. People are everywhere, playing on their phones, reading (there is a library you can get books from), napping, some are watching tv, there are massage chairs, there is a restaurant up there, there are computers you can get on. Seriously... you could spend ALL DAY there if you wanted to. 

It was definitely relaxing and I'm glad I went. Definitely out of my comfort zone, but after the first couple minutes it really doesn't seem that weird to be naked around other people. 

Have/Would you ever go to a korean spa?
What have you done that is out of your comfort zone?

~Jessica~

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