I am a TOTAL sucker for steam rooms and saunas. I try and go to one at least twice a week to try and elimate all my toxins and to relax my muscles after the gym. I don’t know how they work or what it is that is so good about them, but I always feel incredible afterwards; I sleep better at night and my skin looks fresher in the morning. So, I was really excited to speak to the gorgeous Antonia Plunckett about a new type of sauna/steam experience that has hit London by storm and find out exactly what the benefits are! Here is what she had to say:
Bathhouse culture was a pillar of ancient society enjoyed across Roman and Ottoman Empires. Its made a big comeback recently in some of the most sought after venues of London. In fact – more and more health clubs, hotels and gyms now have some sort of bathhouse element… So get out of the chill and melt into the a cocoon which combines the raw elements of water, fire, wood and stone.
As the golf course is to America, the banya is to Russia a place to socialise, renew and relax. Banya stories take place as far back as 900AD when the village banya was a place for its people to warm up, socialize and help boost immunity against potential epidemics. Now it’s very much a part of the beauty and health regime of many and Londoners have woken up to its health benefits.
Less hot but more humid than a sauna, you enter a large wooden rustic room where you will sit for ten minutes to warm up the body. Forget the smell of jasmine or rose… and embrace leafs, wood, and the smell of an outdoors wet forest. Nothing fancy here! Once your skin is warm and supple, the banya therapist (Banschik) will create a micro climate over your body by pouring a herbal infusion over hot stones and with large soft branches of birch and eucalyptus (veniki), the banshik will bring the heat down to your body and lightly caress your body with the veniki. After 10-15 minutes of light whipping and hitting with the veniki (it is a lot less scary than it sounds! Honeslty!), the Banschik will lead you to a very very cold plunge pool. Ice cold in fact! Expect to make sounds you never thought you could as your system is shocked and completely rebooted. You can then go back into the banya in intervals or if you’ve had enough, wrap yourself in a fluffy bathrobe and lie down with a herbal tea. Close your eyes. Let your mind wonder. You can literally feel the blood rushing through your body and your hole being come to life again.
Increased circulation and better complexion / skin regeneration
Elimination of toxins
Reduction of cellulite
Improved flexibility and reduction of muscle stiffness and soreness
Since the Roman Empire, public baths have been a place for men and women to relax, socialize and wash before modern plumbing was in place. Much like the banya, the hammam was used for health benefits and deep cleansing of the body and mind but also a place to catch up with gossip and socialise. Today hammams are not only popular in countries like Morocco and Turkey but are found in some of the best spas of London.
With beautiful stone or earthy walls, a hammam is a steam room bursting with the smell of eucalyptus to clear the lungs. A detoxifying and cleansing ritual is performed by the Tellak (hammam therapist) with a kessa glove and black soap made of black olive pulp and either aragan or olive oil. The black soap has antiseptic properties for a deeper pore cleaner and gets rid of dead skin. It smells delicilous so although the cleanse can be a little rough, the experience is on the whole relaxing…and you will come out looking radiant.
Improved lymphatic drainage and stimulation of circulation
Removal of dead skin cells
The healing properties of water and steam have been around for centuries and for good reason they have lsted the test of time. Today, we make the effort of including exercise and healthy eating in our every day lives – but do we really switch off? Do we stop and close our eyes and connect back to nature. Get back to the roots of ancient traditional medicine and treat your body and mind to a very authentic and natural way of rejuvenating and reenergizing.
Favourite London Banya and Hammam:
Written by Antonia Plunkett
Antonia has worked in the hospitality and private members club industry for a decade from launching a nightclub in Hong Kong to setting up a health and fitness sanctuary in London. Bought up between Paris and London and having studied at Trinity College Dublin, she has an international outlook on life which is reflected in her work. She doesn’t stop moving and exploring and therefore understands the importance of being healthy and keeping well to keep up with her own lifestyle.