True story: there is a nook right in the heart of Orchard Road where you can change into pyjamas and take an hour-long nap in dim, quiet surrounds. And it even relaxes your muscles while you’re at it.
We’re talking about Ganbanyoku Hot Stone Therapy, a spa which opened at Far East Plaza last July offering ganbanyoku, a form of Japanese wellness therapy.
How it works: you simply lie down on a specially heated volcanic stone bed, adjust yourself into a comfortable position, and chill your way to health benefits. It all sounds promising, which is why we find ourselves at the zen Muji-esque spa on a weekday afternoon being shown around by Greta Ng, the spa’s highly animated 70-year-old owner.
“I used to have such bad backache that I had to move around in a wheelchair, but ganbanyoku has helped me so much,” she raves as she swans in and out of the establishment’s four communal treatment rooms without so much as a creaky joint. “But don’t just listen to me, you have to try it yourself!” she urges, shoving a set of freshly laundered Japanese-style pyjamas and two fluffy towels at us.
We change into the PJs and gingerly lower ourselves onto the stone bed, which is really an elevated platform made from Japan-imported volcanic stone that’s kept heated at 45 degrees Celsius. The temperature supposedly helps in alleviating joint and muscle ache while improving blood circulation and one’s immune system. And boy, is it hot. Our sensitive skin tingles upon contact with the hot stone, so we decide to spread a towel between ourselves and the bed.
It’s kinda like suntanning at the beach, where you chit chat with your pals while lying supine, occasionally flipping yourself into a different pose (a bamboo pillow is provided). Greta encourages us to ‘heat up’ our sides and front as well for maximum effect. About 15 minutes into the hour-long sesh, we start to sweat lightly, which Greta says is a sign that our body is expelling toxins through perspiration.
If you’re the sort who cannot sit or lie still, like us, you’ll start to experience an existential crisis at the half hour mark, especially when you’re doing the therapy by yourself. You can bring your mobile phone along, but that is not encouraged as you’re expected to be totally Zen and leave the evil clutches of technology outside the room. Out of boredom, we took a short nap during a lone sesh.
The spacious treatment rooms are communal, which means you might have to share the space on a busy day. You can also book an entire room for your squad (each room has a range of three to six ‘beds’; the spa has a total of 16 beds available). Each bed is demarcated with a removable wooden divider, so you can either lift it if you want to talk to your companions, or leave it there for some privacy if you’re lying next to a stranger.
At the end of the session, we are perspiring slightly, like we had just gone for a short easy jog. Oh, so that was why we were told to “bring extra underwear” when we received the media trial invitation (if you’re garang enough, you can go commando under your PJs). But don’t rush straight to the gender-segregated shower rooms; Ganbanyoku’s PR rep tells us we are supposed to gently pat dry the “silky sweat”, which acts as a layer of natural moisturiser for the skin, instead of washing it off.
When we walk out of the spa, we did feel much more refreshed, kinda like how you’d feel after some light exercise. “It’s not a one-time miracle, you need to come back for more sessions!” Greta tells us. So it’s a little like TCM, where the heat therapy gradually restores your body to tip-top condition. An hour-long session costs a promotional price of $20/hour (till Feb 28, after which it will cost $25/hour). Or you can opt for a seven-day package ($77), which lets you book one session a day for a week.
The therapy’s effects did keep us going back a few more times (once or twice a week is recommended), but we reckon we’d need to find ways to entertain ourselves if we were to spend more hours in a darkened room.
Ganbanyoku Hot Stone Therapy, #02-29 Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Rd, S228213. Tel: 6208-9357. www.ganbanyoku.co.
PHOTOS: Courtesy of Ganbanyoku Hot Stone Therapy