If you’ve ever hung out with Scandinavians during the European winter you’ll know that jumping into the snow naked after taking a sauna is pretty standard. But in Australia, exposing your body to extreme cold for therapy purposes isn’t quite as normalised – or readily available.
Cryospa Clinics in Crows Nest may be as close as you’ll get – it’s Sydney’s only wellness spa that offers whole-body cryotherapy, an infrared sauna and a Himalayan salt room in one location.
The practice of cryotherapy – exposing your body to intensely cold temperatures as a medical treatment – reportedly dates back to Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian civilisations. But whole-body cryotherapy in its modern form (using a chamber that surrounds the body with cold air or liquid nitrogen) was invented in the 1970s in Japan. It’s claimed it helps with muscle and joint soreness and skin rejuvenation, and aids mental clarity and energy levels over multiple treatments – though there is little scientific proof behind this.
At first the machine seems intimidating. I’m instructed to wear only swimmers or underwear and to put on gloves and a pair of Ugg boots to cover my extremities. The treatment lasts a maximum of three minutes. My head peeps over the top of the chamber, so I can chat to the staff member guiding me through the process. The intensity of nitrogen cooled to -150 degrees on an almost-naked body is not to be understated, but I’m surprised at how the mind manages to distract itself by talking as my body works to keep those vital organs protected and warm. When I step out, my leg hairs are frosty and my skin tingles as I robe up and slowly adjust back to room temperature. I definitely feel awake and present, and my endorphins are rushing.
Next up is the infrared sauna, a timber hotbox that uses “infrared rays to penetrate your skin at different wavelengths, to raise your core temperature by two to three degrees,” according to Cryospa owner Mitchell Diamond. “Although they aren’t as hot as a traditional sauna, you still get a deep sweat.”
My sauna is set to 65 degrees (the maximum is 70 degrees) for 30 minutes (traditional saunas typically operate at between 78 degrees to 90 degrees). There’s an iPad to select your choice of tunes or a Netflix show to watch. I opt for full relaxation mode with meditative background music. Afterwards my skin feels supple and I’m immensely relaxed – it reminds me of that Lord Howe Island holiday back when I was 16, salty-and-sun-kissed, and with no phone distractions.
After a rinse in the shower, a Himalayan salt room awaits. The floor of the lightly humidified room is covered with salt crystals, and the tiled walls beam lights that change colours, designed for chromotherapy (colour therapy). The colour spectrum is your choice – red to yellow tints supposedly boost energy and purify the skin; hues of blue induce calm and reduce nervous tension, or you can reap the full benefits by enjoying a rotating mix of rainbow colours.
Diamond says, for some people, the salt is “good for your respiratory system and immune system, and can help break up the mucus sitting on your lungs.” Indeed the effects are subtle, so bring a book along or simply lay back on the lounge and relax for 45 minutes with the space to yourself.
Diamond says he invested in each of the treatments four years ago after seeing the cryotherapy trend in sports and alternative medicine in the US. He looks to Dr Rhonda Patrick, an American cell biologist who researches aging, cancer and nutrition, and is a proponent of cryotherapy and sauna treatments.
“As far as clinical science and studies go, there isn’t much backing it,” he admits. “As with anything there are people who swear by it and there are people who are against it. Ultimately it helps with de-stressing and letting the body do what it needs to.”
Choose from packages of one, two or all three treatments when you visit. It may not change your life but a little time for self-love and solo relaxation never goes amiss.
Three treatments begins at $139 for one session.
21 Falcon Street, Crows Nest