In a perpetually stressed and overworked society, we’re always looking for new ways to relax and unwind. Some people exercise to destress, or turn to meditation. Others listen to music, watch TV or go for a massage or a facial.
But when none of those things are doing the trick, it’s time to think outside the box. Spas around the world certainly did when they came up with these weirdly awesome treatments. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider trying one!
1. Venik (Or Platza) Massage — Russia
Does being smacked with bundles of leaves sound relaxing? Well, it might feel nicer than it sounds. The venik massage, sometimes called a platza treatment, is a traditional Russian practice that dates back to ancient times. A venik is a bundle of oak or birch tree leaves that is soaked in warm water and used to stroke and tap the person receiving the massage, usually in a Russian bathhouse called a banya. The massage takes place in a sauna or steam room and is immediately followed by a plunge in a cold pool.
This massage is said to improve blood flow and circulation, as well as release phytoncides, which can bolster the immune system. The heat from the leaves and the smacking motion also helps with muscle relaxation.
2. Vinotherapy — France
Contemporary vinotherapy, or bathing in wine for health benefits, began in Bordeaux, France, in the 1990s. A professor who was visiting winery owners Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas told the couple they were “throwing away treasures” when they discarded grape seeds left over from the winemaking process. The couple learned that grape seeds contain polyphenols — antioxidants with anti-aging properties. Thus, they started the skincare company Caudalie, which uses grape seed extracts in its products. They also opened a spa on the premises, which featured treatments using these extracts and brought about the invention of vinotherapy (vinothérapie in French).
But, in a way, vinotherapy can be traced all the way back to ancient Rome, when physician Galen was said to have used wine to bathe gladiators’ wounds.
Regardless of when and where it originated, vinotherapy is now available at spas around the world, and some people are even trying it at home. Apparently, former NBA star Amar’e Stoudemire liked to bathe in red wine to help him relax and rejuvenate. But true vinotherapy is more complicated than just filling your tub with wine.
3. Hanjeungmak (Kiln Sauna) — South Korea
In South Korea, sitting in an extremely hot kiln sauna — a traditional practice dating back centuries — is making a comeback. Guests are invited into kilns, usually used for charcoal production, to sit and sweat at temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. A cotton uniform is provided because synthetic clothing can melt in the extreme heat.
The charcoal kilns have been replicated in jjimjilbang, traditional Korean bathhouses, around South Korea and even in some U.S. cities. In terms of health benefits, researchers have found saunas decrease blood pressure and improve circulation, in addition to helping with cardiac function and the removal of heavy metals and toxins from the body. Plus, it’s just really relaxing.
4. Chocolate Fondue Wrap — Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA
Chocolate lovers: this one’s for you. The Spa at the Hotel Hershey in Hershey, Pennsylvania, offers several treatments involving your favorite guilty pleasure treat. Particularly enticing is the Chocolate Fondue Wrap, in which guests get a “luxurious body brushing,” followed by the application of a chocolate “fondue” made of warm moor mud (natural, organic mud used in spa treatments) and essence of cocoa. Guests are then wrapped in a soft warm blanket, and finally given a shower rinse. Add-ons, like a “whipped cocoa bath” in foaming chocolate milk, are available to top off the experience.
Cocoa contains a surprisingly high number of antioxidants, which have many benefits, including slowing the aging process and potentially preventing cancer and other diseases. Cocoa can also help smooth the skin and decrease its sensitivity to sunlight.
5. Hakali Cactus Massage — Mexico
Getting rubbed with a cactus doesn’t sound particularly pleasant, but the Mexican Hakali massage might be worth a try. The massage is offered at the spa at the Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, Mexico. The needles are removed from the cactus paddles, and then the paddles are heated in warm water to soften them. The paddles are split in half and rubbed on your body with local sage and aloe.
Apparently, the cactus removes toxins and helps treat sunburns by rehydrating the body. It also contains antioxidants. So if you find yourself down in Punta Mita, consider facing your fear of cacti head-on. Or rather, facedown.
6. Ramen Noodle Bath — Japan
You’ve probably eaten Ramen before; the Japanese noodle soup has become quite commonplace across the United States. But would you bathe in it? That idea has probably never even crossed your mind before. But now, believe it or not, it’s an option.
Yunessun Spa House in the southeastern Japanese town of Hakone has a variety of unusual bathing experiences, including a coffee spa, a green tea spa, a red wine spa and a Japanese sake spa. Add to that list a Ramen noodle spa, filled with pork-based broth and synthetic noodles.
But why, you ask? According to the spa’s owner, the collagen in the broth is good for your skin. Also, it’s gimmicky and fun.
Header image courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita