My friend invited me to the spa, and finally I went! I’ve been promising myself a day at the Korean spa near my house. It’s one of those where you go in and there’s several different sauna rooms that are supposed to do several different things to remove toxins from your system, while heating you up to a nice and toasty temperature. But I never go. I’ve been promising myself a visit for over two years and I have not gone. Ever. No reason- I just never justify it… And then my friend, Andrea, pointed out that it’s so important to take a moment for self care. That stress and intense focus need the counter balance of relaxing and letting go. I realized that I always put that off. I mean, I run and work out, and that’s definitely self care, but it’s an intense, stressful version. Yes, it’s like therapy and it’s relaxing, but in a totally different way. The spa is the counter to all of that, too. If I push myself hard, I need the recovery opportunity, too. I definitely justified it to myself enough and I just went without question. Just that little nudge from her was all I needed.
So, naked spa. Every time I have written about it here I have gotten some feedback of ‘oh I could never’ and ‘is everyone there perfect?’ And all that. So I decided to kind of answer those worries for the woman who has never been…
First, naked is optional. You can wear a bathing suit in most of the Korean type spas I’ve gone to but I’ve only ever seen someone in a bathing suit once. Well, it was a pair of someone’s and they came in together, one in a bathing suit and the other in a head to toe spandex number that made me wonder how the toxins we’re going to exit, that wrapped in Lycra, but that’s not my chicken*, as my dad would say. Usually you get a robe and a towel or two for modesty and drying off issues. In the spas I’ve gone to before, the robe or pajamas are used in the heated rooms but it’s a naked situation once you get into the pool room. The place I went to this weekend, however, just had naked people walking around without bothering with towels and robes.
What’s it like to be in a room full of naked people? Once you get over yourself, it’s really not a big thing. The weirdest part is the first time you slip the robe off and there you are, standing butt naked in the middle of a room. My first time had me glancing around furtively for the first 20 minutes, but then I realized no one was staring at me, looking at me or anything so I just doused myself with mugwort water and got in the hot tub. Once you get used to the ide of nakedness, you realize that you communicate with people in the exact same way you always do. I observe people’s clothing as we come near one another but I don’t comb over their bodies and stare at their belt, shoes or shoulder pads while we talk. I watch their faces and mouths as we talk and it’s no different at naked spas. That said, I did have a moment this weekend when someone in my party approached the pool I was in and I turned around to say hello, I’m Tamara… and looked right up at her bush. In a panic I quickly averted my eyes to her tummy- that’s safe, right?! No! Women treat their tummies like private parts! Avert! Avert! Eyes continued up and there were her breasts… Suffice it to say that it only took about .75 seconds for me to make that transition to finally get to her face, but in that moment at that angle it was a little awkward to be making new friends. But I must mention that it’s a sea of sameness- the only thing that really looks different is skin color. The rest of it is just a blur of bumps and curves with light and dark spots. I couldn’t tell you who had their legs shaved, c-section scars, saggy boobs or anything. It just isn’t a focus when in the spa.
Is everyone there a skinny Minnie? No. I’m there. I’m not skinny. Furthermore, while I do have a highly unusual body due to the whole 149 pounds lost thing, thankyouverymuch, I’ve never stood out as the fattest, weirdest, oddest… I jokingly say that my body looks like a bigger person who had a rolling pin taken to her. Flattened out like I’ve been steamrolled over. But I don’t feel odd because we all are there. There are extremely fat women there. Skinny women. Women covered with tattoos. Women with burns. Scars. Hairy women. Women with giant butts. Women with huge or nonexistent boobs. Athletes. Mothers. Grandmothers. Hippies. Plastic surgery darlings- we are all there, being women. Honestly? I find it empowering to walk among them.
Ok, but what do you do? Sit, talk, sit, sweat, lay around. Yesterday I went into the salt room- literally a room with a giant canvas bag on the floor that is filled with piping hot salt. There were heat lamps and I laid my towel down on the floor and laid down on top of it. Drea joined me and we chatted, sweated, laughed and sweated and chatted some more. Two more people joined us and we sat in there chatting until I felt slick with sweat and hot as anything and we all headed into the 96 degree pool, followed by the hot sauna, pool, steam room, pool… Etc. We dunked down in the cold pool and then sizzled in the sauna- it was a good time. After about two and a half hours, we dried off and headed out. All my sore spots felt so much better after the spa!
I’ve decided that spa days should be part of my diet. I don’t know if I can afford to go every month- it was $36 to spend the morning at Ladywell’s Vitality Spa- which isn’t a lot but it also is a lot- but my body felt better after I went. I’m not sure I believe in all the toxin cleansing stuff, based on what mineral is being heated in my presence, but I do know that healing happens. Those falls I took last week took a toll on my body. I’ve been sore. My shoulder and back hurt, my hips been aching. Not fun. After the spa, though, my shoulders are amazing and my back seems totally better. Maybe it’s the placebo effect, maybe it’s the true power of eastern medicine, but it doesn’t matter to me. Spa was good and I’m better for it. 🙂
Olympus Spa- Lynnwood This is a bigger spa that shares its parking lot with a Chuck-E-Cheese and record store. You wouldn’t expect to find such a lovely, clean place of peace and tranquility inside. There are lots of rooms, lots of saunas, lots of tubs and lots of places to chill, lay around, read a book, chat quietly or have tea. It’s a heavenly place and a bit busier than the others I’ve been to. Most people wear robes in the heated rooms but the wet room with the steam, sauna and showers was a no clothing affair. Ladies only, here.
Bella Luna- Lynnwood Both men and women can enjoy this place. You get these odd little Capri pants, a pajama top and an odd little top hat to wear into the sauna rooms at Bella Luna. The heated rooms are all co-Ed and, while it does the job, it’s not quite as polished as Olympus. Unpainted edges, worn stuff- it’s just slightly more used feeling. The pool room is not co-Ed and women were unclothed, except the women who gave massages and scrub downs. They were wearing lacy panties on the day I happened to be there. I got scrubbed down, naked on a table in front of everyone, with dial antibacterial soap, but it was a hell of a scrubbing that left me pink and shiny. They even washed my hair with it. I’d go back if a friend wanted to go there, but it’s not my number one place.
Ladywell’s Vitality Spa-Seattle. You would never guess that there’s a day spa where Ladywell’s is. It’s just a little strip mall, but then when you get back behind the curtain it’s a whole, big spa! There were three saunas- hot, salt and steam- and three tubs- hot, 96 degrees and freezing cold. It was smaller, so I think as a result it felt much less necessary to have a robe on all the time. We just carried our towels with us from place to place and no one bothered much with modesty. I felt really comfortable here, though it did get crowded the longer we stayed. By 12:30, when we left, it was looking to get a bit cozier in the tubs than I may have wanted to and there were people there with bathing suits on arriving.
*’That’s not my chicken’ means that I would do it differently but I don’t judge how you are choosing to do it. It all came about when my dad and a friend were preparing chicken to cook one night and neither thought the others’ would be as good as his own, but they decided to each his own, that’s not my chicken, he’s the one who has to eat it, not me.