Why You Must Experience the Korean Spa At Least Once
There are few things I feel confident saying this about: You haven’t lived yet until you have fully experienced a real Korean Spa, one run by Koreans and (primarily) for Koreans, although thankfully they let us “foreigners” in with a lovely smile.
This was my fourth time back at the heaven-in-disguise 24-hour 7-days-a-week Korean spa, the fabulous Spa World of Centreville VA. I knew my way around by now. We pay the $35/person fee gladly and get a cubbyhole each in the lobby for our shoes. No slippers, you go barefoot from here on out. Locker numbers: 2295 for me and 1106 for hubby. We then get our uniforms, orange for women, yellow for men and are set to go in.
We enter the sex-designated areas and I find the large cubbyhole #2259, I put all my stuff there and get into my thick-and-cheaply-made uniform – I would not be caught in public wearing this!!! – I go out to meet the hubby.
Out in the common area, people are wandering about in slow motion, with Korean TV playing in a few corners and Korean magazines & papers abound. You have the snack bar and the 24-hour Korean restaurant attached right next door to it. There is noise and there is quiet; it’s a happy mixture. Many are on tatami mats laying down, eating, sleeping, reading, or just dazing in the distance. We are all in uniforms, and we wear them proudly. We all look like prisoners except the happy-to-be-here relaxed kind.
The walls of the common area are surrounded by different “rooms”, mostly hot rooms except for the Eskimo room, where you enter the little Igloo and stay until you can no longer take it. The other rooms range in temperature from 100 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 to 76 Celsius, and each has a beautiful theme, the rock room, the clay room, the crystal room and the sand room.
For our entrance fee, we are welcome to roam about all we want and do as we please for 24 hours but we can’t leave and come back. Hotel California, anyone?
A few minutes together and I return to my own area to get ready for what I came here for: A 90-minute no-nonsense no-fluff entire body scrub & massage by a Korean lady in a black underwear and bra. Oh yeah!
I get out of my uniform, get completely naked except for my locker key around my waist, grab a small towel – the only kind over here – and enter the “wet area”. Whirlpools, jacuzzi, hot sauna, steam room, cold pool and a lot of naked women, too many for comfort level frankly, but alas, it doesn’t matter because nothing shall deter me from getting what I came here for!
I do my routine: hot tub, really hot tub, cold tub, medium tub, sauna, repeat. I do this several times while keeping an eye on the clock.
At 7:30 sharp, one of the lovely Korean ladies comes out from behind the wall of “treatment area”, showing a sticky note with #2259 on it and when she sees my number, she smiles, grabs my wrist and takes me to her little scrub & massage bed. I can barely contain my excitement.
What follows in the next 90 minutes works magic and wonders into my physical, emotional and nervous system, not to mention giving me a new layer of skin altogether.
This escapade into happiness is second to none in the spas in the world. It is like an immersion into a deep meditative zone with someone pushing you far into that zone at lightning speed. It is the sweetest of all body treats, it is close to some of the best sensations and it is perfectly legal to boot :)! In short, it is something that you, my dear reader, must experience first-hand at least once in this life.
Seven Surprising Life Lessons to Learn at the Korean Spa
Nobody on earth can scrub and massage like the Korean women at this spa. Even so, I do not return there just for the sake of the magnificent scrub & massage. I return because these women, with whom I can not even communicate, have taught me the best and fastest seven surprising lessons of life:
1. Trusting a complete stranger when you are vulnerable and exposed:
You learn to trust a stranger who does not speak your language, and in whose presence, you are totally naked and vulnerable. She tells you what to do, how to do it, using her gestures and 10 English words at most. You learn that there is innate goodness and benevolence in people, and that ought to be our default impression of others.
2. It doesn’t have to be pretty to get you killer results:
These beds are covered with rubber, not soft cotton sheets; the floors are all cement, no soft fluffy carpet. With complete absence of luxury, this place is more like a serious bathhouse than a spa. It is not pretty. There is no soft music or incense or candles burning. Or any privacy whatsoever in this giant space with 10 beds stacked next to each other, large buckets of water, huge containers of stuff and a whole lot of hustle.
But I continue to come back, back I get results – consistent, happy, incredible results. You would too!
3. Being an expert breeds respect and authority:
As this Korean woman was scrubbing me like there is no tomorrow, I sneaked a glance at the disgusting layer of skin that was coming off MY body! It’s less shocking the 4th time but it shows me again that first of all, I’ve been wasting a lot of time showering quite obviously and second of all, there is nothing like a true expert hard at his or her trade. It is a beautiful sight and aspires you to be good – really, really, REALLY good – at what you do!
4. Anticipating surprises with poise and grace:
Since she can’t talk to me, she can’t exactly prepare me with what she will do next. One minute, she has me laying down face up, and slowly moving my arms, and the next minute, she is slapping my thighs into submission! The surprises were so nerve-wracking at first that I wanted to control them at first but no more. You must learn to let go the obsession of control, and learn to be OK with life’s surprises and take them with poise and grace.
5. Being receptive to pain and discomfort:
Body scrubs and massages, when done right, are anything but comfortable. The pain is plenty during the session, and the discomfort can be high, but you feel an underlying pull them, you want to experience it so that you get to feel what follows. In case of the scrub & body massage, complete utter bliss. In case of life, well, pain leads to growth and growth to wisdom and wisdom to inner peace. May we go through the process with this in mind.
6. Shedding layers of doubt, fear and insecurity:
Just as this amazing experience leaves you with a completely new layer of skin, in life too, you need to shed the layers of doubt and insecurity and fear. You cannot hold on to them and expect to live a courageous life on your own terms. It is an either/or not a both. Let them go because those layers are just as disgusting as the old dead grey skin that only this Korean woman was able to get off my body (and the body of every other woman there, just to give you a reference!)
7. Letting go of expectations and trusting that you are in good hands:
It is hard not to let the mind wonder, when you cannot talk and you cannot completely relax, and you also cannot hide! What do you do?
Well, you go within the maze of your thoughts, and take tours within the land of your consciousness, and habitual thoughts come up, such as: I wonder if she knows what she is doing?
Why is she making me wait, where did she go?
And on and on, but then, at some point, you let go, you decide to trust – trust yourself for being here and making the choice – and the trust the expert, the guide, the mentor, the coach, whomever you have chosen to help you on your path.
In the end, it does turn out beautifully, if you can trust the process and believe in the goodness that you are here to enjoy and to share. Don’t you think?
If you want to learn how to build the confidence and courage to go not just into the Korean Spa for this divine experience, but also through life with your head held high and your heart and mind in the right place, then hop onto my insider’s list below:
Disclaimer: Spa World didn’t offer me a penny to endorse them or link to them. I wish! I’d have taken it in a quick minute! This is a heart-felt review.