KOREAN SPA: INTROVERTS PARADISE - PART 2

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In Part One (click here) we were naked (oo-er!) with the locals in the basement of the Korean spa, trying out the different types of bath and sauna.

So, now I am very clean (I don’t think I could get much cleaner!) and soothed by a variety of different natural elements. I put on my cotton pyjamas and, in my bare feet, ready to explore the rest of the complex trying the range of other relaxing therapies it has to offer. Of course the baths (due to the nakedness) are segregated, but now we are in the communal areas back with the women.

A lot of the floor space consists of open lounging areas with people laying on the floor, relaxing, quietly chatting, reading or sleeping with large varnished tree trunk logs to lean against or leather mattresses to lay on, surrounded by various therapy and activity rooms. I intentionally visited the spa on my first day in Seoul because of the jetlag, as it seemed the safest space where my zombie-state would be least damaging to the world!

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I took my book and headphones from my locker and found the oxygen room on the first floor, where I laid on a mattress reading, listening to chilled music and falling in and out of sleep, enjoying the thought that I was breathing in pure oxygen. I then went to the cafe where the ajummas (middle-aged Korean women) were cooking fresh Korean dishes. I endulged in some spicy noodles, with a side-helping of kimchi (Korean spicy cabbage). So healthy and delicious!

The next floor up is a more active space, where there is a gym, group spaces for discussion sessions and a games room for children. There are a collection of electric massage chairs, where you feed in the equivalent of a couple of quid to have a 15 minute shiatsu massage that digs into your neck, shoulders and lower back to release any painful knots.

Floor 3 is the most interesting because of the collection of fomentation rooms (hot igloo-type rooms for relaxation and easing muscle tension). Similar to those in the bathing area, each room is themed with a different natural element, like charcoal, jade and salt. You can lay on a bed of hot salt crystals, jade pebbles or sink into a sea of hot loess balls (that look like maltesers, but are actually a kind of ceramic). The heat is uncomfortable at first, but you can’t help but let go and give into it.

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At one end of the floor are the extreme temperature rooms. One is like a pottery kiln with a temperature of 90 degrees, and then immediately next door is an ice room, that is like stepping into a freezer. Alternating between the extreme temperatures is good for the skin and blood circulation.

On the next floor up are the sleeping caves, which are essentially sleeping capsules, a bit like those in a pod hotel, for those who are staying the night or just want a nap. It is not only separated into men’s and womens, but also an area for ‘snorers’!

Inside the Korean spa it is like time stands still. There is a collective appreciation of peace and quiet and the simple joy of satisfying the five senses. On your own, it encourages letting go, meditating on the sensations and contemplation. For those of us who are introverts (or highly sensitive people), you can truly recharge from the over-stimulations and demands of modern-life, or just ease the jetlag! With friends or a partner it encourages enjoyment of each others company in a gentle and intimate fashion.

And all of this at a modest and accessible cost, where the facilities are hygienic and maintained to a high standard. This kind of standard tends to be reserved for the wealthy in the West, because they are percieved to be more deserving of what we would call 'luxury’, but what I would call basic health provision.

If everyone had access to a quiet, non-invasive space where they could commune in contemplation and enjoy these holistic therapies, I believe that society in general would be less angry, less aggressive, less fearful and people’s true compassionate and creative nature would be given permission to flourish.

As a coach, my purpose is to provide this kind of calm and safe space to individuals to explore who they are, what they really want, and how to get there. That is how the Korean Spa has inspired me!

Take care for now.

Oliver

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