If you’re a fan of the 1990s film Demolition Man (a so-bad-it’s-good action flick starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes), the word ‘cryotherapy’ will probably conjure up sci-fi images of people being frozen in tubs.
Cryotherapy isn’t exactly like that (though there are similarities). This advanced ‘cold therapy’ treatment works on the principle that exposing the body to extremely low temperatures for a period of time brings with it certain health benefits. Rather than being frozen, participants stand in a chamber whilst extremely cold air is blasted over them.
Athletes and celebrities alike are queuing up to jump in London’s state-of-the-art cryochambers, in which customers are immersed in liquid nitrogen vapour (aiming to reach the optimum body temperature of -110°C) for up to three minutes. It’s a bit like a high-tech version of sitting in an ice bath (a technique long favoured by professional athletes). When undergone regularly, cryotherapy is meant to accelerate muscle regeneration, boost the immune system, and rejuvenate cells.
Where can I try it? A range of health centres now offer cryotherapy, from fitness locations like KXU (Chelsea) to dedicated wellness venues like SaiSei Cryotherapy (Stoke Newington) and LondonCryo (City).
Banyas have been popular in Russia for centuries; however, it wasn’t until recently that this treatment caught on in the UK. It’s now one of the most popular spa experiences in London, with bath houses and members’ clubs across the capital installing banya experts and specially-modified spas within their walls.
Banyas and conventional saunas have one big difference: the amount of steam. In a banya, the heat is produced by the process of water being splashed onto cast iron (which is heated to 700°F inside a brick furnace). This causes huge amounts of steam to be produced, causing inhabitants of the banya to sweat profusely. As soon as you start to feel that the heat is becoming too intense, you leave and either plunge into an icy pool or stand under a very cold shower. After that, you head into a leisure area, where you can eat, drink, chat, or simply relax. As soon as you’re ready, you head back into the banya and the cycle starts again. It’s a long treatment, typically spanning several hours.
Visits to the banya are often accompanied by traditional treatments, like a parenie – which involves being brushed vigorously with a bunch of eucalyptus, oak or birch twigs, so that the essential oils are released onto your skin and you sweat more – a deep tissue massage, or an exfoliating scrub.
The experience of a banya is highly unusual but deeply effective: relaxing and energising all at the same time. Basking in the steam both relaxes the body and causes toxins to be purged; the act of then jumping into icy water releases adrenaline, invigorating the senses. It can be an eye-opener for first-timers though, particularly if a traditional spa experience is expected: Banyas are about extremes and providing a shock to the senses. Not for the fainthearted!
Where can I try it? There are dedicated Russian bath houses springing up all over the capital, including Banya No.1 in Hoxton. Alternatively, many plush members clubs – like the South Kensington Club – are offering banyas as part of their spa packages.
Tired of treadmills? Had enough of HIIT? Then it might be time for you to fly high (literally) with London’s latest fitness craze: aerial fitness.
An exciting trend that has taken the capital by storm, aerial fitness promises to inject fun into fitness regimens by allowing participants to combine principles of yoga, strength training, posture work and more – all whilst suspended in the air! There are a number of different classes to try, many of which use soft hammocks to support and suspend your body in a variety of ways, depending on your body type and goal. There are fitness classes that focus on lengthening and strengthening muscles, as well as those geared towards improving posture, aligning joints, and increasing mobility. Keen aerialists can experiment with hoops, trapezes, and straps, and can even learn circus skills.
Where can I try it? Flying Fantastic is one of the most popular institutions in London, with four branches across the capital (Bankside, Battersea, Wimbledon and Old Street) and a diverse range of classes catering for beginners and experts. Aerial Life (Hammersmith) and Floating Fitness (New Cross and Forest Hill) have some great programmes on offer, too.
If you have time…
…and you’d like to immerse yourself in health, why not experience a prolonged hit of wellness by attending a themed festival? Forget soggy tents and lukewarm cans of beer: visitors to a health festival can expect classes, exclusive previews, and plenty of superfoods!
From the four-day Mind Body Spirit Wellbeing Festival at London Olympia to the three-day Balance Festival in Shoreditch, there are plenty of opportunities to unwind, expand your fitness horizons, and enjoy some delicious (health) foods in the coming months. Be sure to let us know how you get on – we’d love to see some snaps of your wellness ventures!