This summer is fully engaged in a wellness conversation. Between the release of the novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh (which we reviewed here) and “The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner for the New York Times (which I couldn’t put down), it’s clear that wellness is big business in our current climate. Maybe it’s due to our debilitating health care system, or the poor medical care that women have historically received, as former BB Editor Annaliese Griffin pointed out last year. Or maybe we just have a deep need for comfort under this hellscape government.
Whatever the cause, we are reaching towards spas, nature cures and community spaces in all aspects of our life. Here are four Brooklyn and upstate businesses that are answering the call with new, restorative ways to work, sweat, meditate and vacation this summer.
“Is this swimsuit professional enough for work?” I ask myself. I’m writing this from my new workspace for the day, SPAce Co-working at Body by Brooklyn. In return for an honest review, I’m using the space for free for the morning. (They even threw in a 30-minute Swedish Massage, and I’ll try not to let that cloud my judgment.) Located in a tucked away corner of Clinton Hill, this spa flies under the radar. Presumably to maximize their midweek foot traffic, someone here conceptualized an idea to market their day spa as a workspace. In reality, there is nothing different from its spa identity, with the exception of me working here in the dry lounge.
If you haven’t been here before, the vibe here is a little less feminine and a little more club vibes than many spas you may be familiar with. I’m sitting in a robe in front of a roaring fire (yes, it’s summer) and across from a fully stocked bar (yes, it’s morning). There is a cocktail list offering up a spa spritz ($15) or a rum punch ($15). There is also a private VIP room that I could have rented by the hour that comes with a jacuzzi for two and a glass of champagne. It’s sexier than your normal spa, and definitely sexier than my normal workspace.
I will say that it’s a quiet space, as during my morning here, I was one of the only people here besides the staff and a trickle of people coming for treatments. “Not too many people use the workspace yet, maybe because we just rolled it out or because summer is a little slower,” Paola, the very sweet manager, explains to me. There are tables, chairs and couches to work at, and it’s no less comfortable than a local Starbucks. When my concentration started to wain, instead of checking Instagram, I cycle through the wet lounge: hot tub, cold plunge pool, hot Swedish sauna, and even hotter Russian sauna. In America we don’t place such a value on the importance of water treatments, but a day at the spa has undeniable health benefits. This isn’t the type of workspace that will replace my Wing membership, but on a slow day where you still have to answer a few emails and need a Wifi password and an outlet, this would be a treat. You probably won’t get very much work done here, but you won’t stress about it either.
Body By Brooklyn, 275 Park Avenue, Clinton Hill. A one-day wet lounge pass is $45, monthly co-working membership starts at $225 which includes locker, robes, day passes for non-members and discounts to all spa treatments.
The last time I tried a sweat lodge, I was in Tulum, Mexico. I crawled into a clay structure with ten other people and alternately sat and lied on the ground, pouring water over my head and swatting myself with bunches of herbs. Most of the people I went in with scrambled out before it was over. I stayed inside and waited to have some sort of spiritual awakening or to pass out from dehydration. Shape House, NYC’s “urban sweat lodge” was nothing like that. It was, in fact, more like sitting on my couch and watching TV. For one thing, I was wearing a full sweatsuit (including sweat socks, all of which they provide). For another, I was lying on a bed in a thermal sleeping bag, zipped up to my head, with a hole for one arm to reach the remote control. On HBO Go, I was watching a documentary about Robin Williams through headphones. I was laughing. Oh yeah, and I was sweating. A lot. There was nothing spiritual about this sweat; it was just dripping off of me in order to lose weight, detoxify my skin and boost my health. A 55-minute sweat gives your heart the same workout as a 10-mile run, they claim. The last twenty minutes are the hardest, and that’s when the practitioner comes in with a lavender scented wet washcloth for your head. I needed that, because the last ten minutes are really difficult. I stopped laughing. Actually I started feeling like they must have forgotten about me. OK, it felt like an emergency. I needed to get the fuck out of the sleeping bag. I tried to breathe through it and put the washcloth on my face. The last five minutes I was ready to punch the call button (which conveniently is on the side of the bed). Instead, I slid my arm out through the hole to feel some cool air. I waved my neck. The last minute I almost started crying. Then it was over. It didn’t seem that bad in hindsight. I used a towel. I was fine. I was alive. I went into the chill-out room, where I got to eat orange slices and drink a gallon of water. I felt spaced out and was soaking wet. I had lost three pounds. (I’d gain them back the next day.) I felt good. “How was it?” asked the practitioner. I answered, “No sweat.” Shape House, 160 Water St., Dumbo. $70 for a single sweat.
Most wellness spaces are modeled after the GOOP newsletter: feminine spaces filled with toned, leggy blondes wearing the latest in Outdoor Voices colorblocking. HealHaus, on the border of Clinton Hill/ Bed Stuy, opened by co-founders Darian Hall and Elisa Shankle in May, has a different vibe. Billed as a wellness concept and cafe, it works as a community space offering yoga and meditation classes, smoothies, acupuncture, meditation, workshops and even psychotherapy. The owners wanted to make an inclusive space where people who weren’t usually into wellness could come to the cafe and check out what was happening in a non-intimidating way. “We play regular music,” Hall explained. The space was specifically designed to be non-gendered and welcoming to everyone. The magical back porch is perfect for relaxed morning yoga or evening workshops, but customers are also free to grab a matcha up front and come back for continued conversation. Inside, the neutral spaces are soothing without being frilly. Many of the teachers and practitioners are ethnically diverse, and private sessions range widely from Digestive Health to Vortex Healing. A newcomer won’t need to make a big initial investment: $20 will give you a week of unlimited classes and community classes are also on offer. I stopped by for a Chakra Clearing Meditation class, taught by Omar Davis, which managed to straddle between a beginner and intermediate level, benefiting everyone from newbies to experienced yoga teachers. It was a diverse class: there were six of us, in a wide variety of hues, ages and body types. The teacher guided us through an endocrine system meditation and afterward there was plenty of time for questions. In fact, after class, the teacher stuck around ready to chat further over a juice to lend a deeper understanding to anyone who wanted to talk. At the juice bar, the elixirs and teas were developed by an herbalist. I got a delicious Protein Dream smoothie ($9) on my way out, and overheard conversations on breathing and dream interpretations. This is a real community space; one that has wellness tools for everyone, not just the Goop demographic. HealHaus, 1082 Fulton St., Clinton Hill. Drop-in yoga: $20/ class, drop-in meditation: $15/ class. Upcoming Workshops include Heart Magnetics: A Course on Law of Attraction on August 7th 7:30pm-9:30pm, The Power of Breath on August 12th, 2:30pm- 5:30pm.
YO1 Luxury Nature Cure
YO1, a 68,000 square foot Catskills retreat, is billing itself as “America’s First Nature Cure.” Although the name sounds like a new app, it actually stands for “Yovan”, which means “Youth” in Sanskrit. “It represents the human quest of attaining eternal youth, through a complete rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit,” the website explains. Like any worthy pilgrimage, this one comes at great cost: around $900 a night. Before you blanch, this includes over-the-top luxurious rooms in a breathtaking Catskills setting, all of your incredible meals lovingly prepared by a top chef, and every single one of your many wellness treatments. No expense is spared. On the day you arrive, you will meet with a wellness expert dedicated to the vision of YO1’s founder, Dr. Subhash Chandra, “The Father of Indian Television,” who will do a full intake. Your health concerns may range from “diabetes, migraines, hypertension, infertility, impotence, insomnia, anti-aging, cardiovascular issues and autoimmune disorders.” Or maybe you’re just here for a little R & R. Either way, your daily treatment plan will be prescribed. From there, you will be in the hands of knowledgeable Ayurvedic teachers, healers and counselors for a schedule of yoga, acupuncture, mud therapy, hydrotherapy, steam rooms, saunas, physiotherapy, classes, massage and herbal therapies. There are treatments you’ve never heard of alongside a basic cooking class. In between, you can hang out at the 5,000 square foot indoor pool or hike the numerous trails. Your personalized plan might be anywhere from 3 days to a week, and if you’re not cured by the time you leave, it’s definitely your own fault. YO1, 420 Anawana Lake Rd., Monticello, NY. All-inclusive rates start at $900/ night, or $450 for a day pass including treatments and use of facilities. Call to reserve or for details: 855-200-6004. (Monticello is approximately a 2-hour car ride from NYC.)