Sunday, January 18, 2009

Heavenly Overload

Last month I wrote about how the weather dashed plans to make a day trip to Tacoma to visit the famous Korean spa. I'm on doctor's orders to sauna regularly (love my doc!) so the change in plans forced me to sweat locally and necessity led me to Loyly, a sweet and simple bit of heaven in SE Portland. I confess to now being utterly and hopelessly hooked on the sauna and curious about how other facilities handle the experience.

We made a second plan to visit Tacoma earlier this month when, wouldn't you know, the freeway was submerged under 10 feet of water. After canceling that expedition I wasn't to keen to plan a third. After snow, ice, and floods, what could be next? An earthquake? Tornado? I considered stocking up on bottled water before making plans yet again.

Saturday was as lovely day as one could dream of in January and my friend arrived early to pick me up. We chatted and laughed for two hours straight before heading off the freeway just south of Tacoma where we entered another world. Suddenly Korean replaced English on all the signs. We located the spa in a most unassuming strip mall next to what I think was a flooring shop.

Upon entrance we were handed towels, a thin cotton robes (think hospital gown) and funky pink striped bonnets (think hair net). The robes weren't required but the bonnets were and they acted as a great equalizer. It's hard to feel squeamish about being nude in front of strangers when everyone, regardless of shape, size, or color, looks like a naked lunch lady. It's kind of hilarious, really.

I have no idea about fancy-schmancy spas but this place was a perfect combination of utility and pleasure. It was easy to spend hours there as the choices were nearly infinite. After a a cleansing shower one enters the hydrotherapy room which has hot tubs ranging in temperature from 90 to 110 degrees and a chilly pool for plunging. There's also a big tub full of mugwort infusion--people would wander over and pour dippers full over their bodies at varying intervals. I have no idea what the stuff is for, but I did lots of dipping and pouring for the fun of it. After relaxing in the hot pools, I made numerous visits to the dry sauna and steam room, both of which were lovely.

There's a tiny restaurant--more of an indoor lunch cart, really. I'm sure they do a booming business because one thing I have learned is that sauna makes me ravenous. We had yakisoba noodles accompanied by tiny dishes of condiments and the meal really hit the spot.

After lunch we explored the dry side of the spa. I was delighted to find that the marble floors were heated, just like at my grandmother's house. There were women sprawled all over, reading and napping on the warm floors. There are three "earth energy" rooms as well, with heated floors and various stones and charcoal on the walls. Again, no idea what this was all about, but it was all reputed to be beneficial and it was certainly relaxing.

We originally planned this trip the week of my huge dental appointment when I had all my mercury amalgam fillings removed and I'd thought I would try out a detox body wrap. A month later I'm not sure how much benefit there might be, but I went ahead with it. Maybe I should have given it more thought. I was covered in goop, wrapped like a burrito, and left to stew for an hour or so with Billie Holiday singing in the background. Kind of weird and kind of claustrophobic but I really tried not to dwell on that seeing as I was straitjacketed alone in a room and if I wigged out, who'd know?

I confess I was relived when that part ended and I could get back to what I loved: soaking and sweating. Eventually, though, I reached a point when I knew I was done. I never felt cleaner in my life. Or hungrier. We found a nice Indian restaurant, had a lovely meal, and drove home completely and utterly relaxed.

I am somewhat surprised to discover how much I like this kind of experience. I don't think of myself as a "spa" kind of person. But the health benefits of sweating in sauna and steam are undeniable and I love how clean I feel afterward. But there's also something incredibly valuable about taking the time to step away from the daily responsibilities and let all that go. I worried a lot about being naked in front of strangers before I started this and it's funny how that just doesn't bother me anymore. Everyone has body issues of one sort or another but I'm finding that shedding those along with my clothes is incredibly healthy and invigorating.


Mimi said...

Yay! I'm so glad you made it - that spa is famous around these parts, everyone calls it the "nak*d spa" so now you know.

It sounds luxurious, and the weather was grand.

babs said...

I'm glad you felt so chilled afterward! I love the process of getting "scrubbed" when I'm there. I dream about it. . .