Iyashi Bedrock Spa
MY TREATMENT: ROCK BATHING & YIN YOGA
Ganbanyoku, or rock bathing, is a spa treatment that involves lying down on black silica stone beds "heated to about 44C in a humidity saturated room" which, so the brochure says, "feels incredible, like lying down on a warm beach".
What is promised (in a medley from the flyer and the website) -- Ganbanyoku will:
* increase your metabolism (burning 600 to 2400 calories/hour)
* give you softer firmer skin, and silky hair
* release harmful metals (cited examples are lead and mercury)
* dramatically increase the activation rate of natural killer (NK) cells which "directly attack any cancerous and other infected cells"
What is delivered:
Now, I don't know what my "going in" rate was of natural (born) killer cells. But it's always fun when a spa whips out a new bit of scientitianography. The pamphlet also refers to far infrared rays and negative ions, but those are the usual suspects. Natural Killer cells though, that's where the phlebotonum money is at.
(Note that I'm not saying it doesn't deliver on the Natural Killers etc., I just have no way of measuring it. So I can't say one way or the other. So says Science.)
The Iyashi spa is located halfway between Eglinton and Lawrence on the west side of Yonge. On the second floor, up a bigass flight of stairs. Which is possibly not an ideal location for a spa that bills itself as good for "joint and nerve pain".
I am greeted at their front desk by Norma Percy. The wife of one of the owners, she has a soothing TVOntario voice straight out of Today's Special.
Norma shows me around the spa's two halves. The deluxe side features 4 stone beds, for use by men, women, or couples. The traditional side features 17 stone beds, and is for use by women only. For the fellas, there is no choice -- to maximize their changing room space, Iyashi devotes the larger communal area to women, and male clients can only use the deluxe area, and so pay the deluxe price. (Special dispensation though for men coming for a yoga session, which takes place in the traditional side).
The deluxe and the traditional change areas are similarly appointed, the deluxe is simply a more private, scaled-down version. Both sides have the same Japanophile decoration. Tealights in zen-ish candle holders, water features, single flower buds, tatami, and what looks not-unpleasantly like outdoor patio furniture for lounging.
On my visit, I was treated to the hot rock/ hot yin yoga combo session. 90 minutes long, it begins with 30 minutes of rock bathing, followed by a 60 minute yin yoga class (total sticker price: $50).
All rock bathers are provided lockers which come stocked with rock bathing necessities. A large towel to lie over the flat rock bed. A small towel to use as a pillow (or for sweat moppage). A pair of disposable flip flops for getting around. If you're there just for straight-up rock bathing, you also get the spa's lightweight cotton robe, bottoms and disposable underwear. People coming to the yoga class are asked to bring their own yoga gear. (You can try doing the class in the robe, but as it's a wrap style, odds are high that just one overly enthusiastic side-bend will leave you flashing your fellow yogis).
Packing your stuff away in a locker, you pull your stretchy locker key bracelet on your wrist, and make your way through the "cool down room" (where the aforementioned furniture resides, and where you're encouraged to take periodic breaks) to the rock bathing room. A double-door entry makes it feel like a cedar-lined airlock (especially if you make a Space Odyssey "shwoosh" noise under your breath as you enter).
The air inside the rock bathing area is humid, about half that of an average steam room. It was enough to best my camera though, which only managed this one photo before it daintily passed out from the heat (see the Iyashi website for more pics of the beds).
I chose lucky rock bed #7 and spread out my towel, lying lizard-like, belly-side down on the rocks. And I waited for the Natural Infrared Rays or Killer Ions or Far Cells or whatever to do their thing.
At the end of a long day, rotating yourself against a flatbed of hot rocks is an amazingly soothing activity. Music is piped in to the room of gently baking people, a sort of medley of the piano piece from Pretty Woman, and "Frodo's going to a better place" Zamfir flutes.
Filtered through both the towel and my lightweight workout wear, the rock beds start off feeling like quite a gentle heat -- not unlike lying on a row of electric heating pads set to low. But since Norma mentioned that most people don't start really sweating until they've gone in and out of the room a couple of times, I have faith that soon I'll be sweating like a champ.
At the end of 30 minutes, our yin yoga instructor (who reminded me weirdly of Justine Bateman) prompted us to go and grab some water and a bit of cool-down time. Knowing that I am exactly the sort of stupid who will "tough" it out and stay in longer and sweat more than I ought to, I'd decided in advance to have water at every opportunity, so I flip flopped my way out and downed a few glasses from the cooler.
My yoga days pre-date Lululemon, but I still see and understand yoga's benefits (even if I do own this tank top). Even more so after a yoga class of the most focused, individual, non-competitive variety. And the shvitz did come, after an hour of hot yoga done on hot rocks, my clothes were soaked through. By the time I get to Savasana in a regular practice, I usually feel one deep centering breath away from a calm and blissful coma. By the time I got to Savasana in a hot yoga hot rocks class, my heart was pounding a distinct rhythm of "go. get. water. go. get. water. now. sweet. mother. of. god."
As promised, the sweat was not the garden-variety kind (a.k.a. the kind that smells very unlike a garden, unless that garden happens to be planted with stinkweeds). My skin and hair were slick to the point of being reflective, but it felt neither unpleasant or uncomfortable.
I still believe that if you think lying on (even the most very special volcanic) rock is the same as running 5K then I have a rock that repels tigers you might enjoy. But in a city that's long on winters and short on beaches, a warm room and a warm rock and time spent doing nothing but picking the next side to flip to is a fine way to spend an afternoon.
* Traditional Rock Bathing: $47.50 | 60 min
* Traditional Rock Bathing: $59.50 | 90 min
* Deluxe Rock Bathing: $59.50 | 60 min
* Deluxe Rock Bathing: $74 | 90 min
* Hot Rock + Hot Yin Yoga Session: $50 | 90 min
Ganbanyoku (rock bathing) "is a Japanese Holistic wellness experience that has swept Japan since 2001. Japanese people have been lying on natural stone for many generations in order to heal diseases by sweating and detoxifying their bodies".
PACKAGES & DISCOUNTS
* 4 Treatment Package (Traditional - 60 min): $160
* 9 Treatment Package (Traditional - 60 min): $300