20 truly odd relaxation techniques
Some Asian spas will make you wonder if you’ve paid to be pampered, or tortured. Traditional detoxes involve scraping the back with a spoon and suctioning it with hot glass cups. Modern fads -- such as screaming clubs and tantric tai chi -- are less painful but equally bizarre. Here’s a round-up of the 20 weirdest techniques people use to loosen up.
1. Stumble around in a pool of red wine
Yunessun is a resort near Mount Fuji famous for its 'amusement baths.' Bathers splash around in red wine, sake, coffee or green tea. Appropriately, the sign next to the pools reads “Do Not Drink.”
2. Be eaten alive by fish
It’s like a scene from a horror movie: you dip your legs into water and a hundred tiny Doctor Fish swim over to chew away the dead skin. Fish pedicures have recently blown up in Asia, and Kenko Spa is among the most popular de-stress destinations in Kuala Lumpur.
3. Lie down on hot stones
Ganbanyoku is a fancy name for stretching out on a hot slab of granite. As the surface heats up, wave goodbye to your physical and mental stress. The treatment originated in Thailand and is all the rage in Japanese spas.
4. Feel like a newborn with a human placenta facial
For years, the Chinese have been using sheep placenta to treat aging skin. Singapore’s Maylande salon takes it a step further, offering products that contain human afterbirth. Don’t worry: the 'special ingredient' comes from mothers who carried full-term babies and gave written consent.
5. Spread nightingale poop on your face
Geishas kept their skin clear by massaging it with nightingale droppings. Japanese spas still offer these pungent facials, or you can pick up a bottle for US$17.99 online.
6. Get the vampire treatment from leeches
Here’s a treatment that sucks: leech therapy. The Unani technique, practiced by several hospitals in Kashmir, uses these blood-suckers to clear poisons from the body.
7. Scream your frustrations away
Every morning, retiree Mrs He and her friends climb to the top of a hill for a round of yelling. “It’s cleansing the lungs out. It’s like yoga,” she says. See the screamers in action in this CNNGo video.
8. Double over with laughter yoga
It’s no joke: Mumbai’s yogis have embraced the idea that laughter is the best medicine. Chuckling releases feel-good endorphins, so practitioners gather to ha-ha-ha their troubles away. Read more and watch a CNNGo video.
9. Rejuvenate your energy, Tibetan-style
In the 1930s, an American named Peter Kelder claims to have met a British colonel who taught him the Five Tibetan Rites, an ancient system of exercises to increase energy and reduce stress. Are the benefits real, or greatly exaggerated? Find out at Tokyo’s Maranouchi Café.
10. Stoke the flames with tantric tai chi
CNNGo mused about modernizing tai chi by turning up the sex factor. Apparently, the idea’s been done. The Tantra Tai Chi DVD (US$13.97) shows couples how to “connect the Sex Center and the Heart Center” for explosive results.
11. Be a human pincushion
Acupuncture, or sticking needles into pressure points on the body, is a tried-and-true Chinese method of relieving worries. That is, unless you’re a trypanophobiac (afraid of needles).
12. Burn your skin with mugwort cigars
In moxibustion, the therapist lights a stick of mugwort over or onto your skin. It burns, it burns -- but it also boosts your circulation and qi.
13. Release anxieties with fiery suction cups
Many Asian bathhouses will stick hot glass cups over your skin until you feel like Neo waking up from the Matrix. The pressure creates temporary circular hickies, but clients say they’re well worth the relaxation benefits.
14. Scrape away toxins with a spoon
Gua Sha, practiced in China, Vietnam and Indonesia, is said to scrapes away fever with a spoon, leaving behind angry red stripes. Blogger Joel reports that it was calming and “not uncomfortable except for the last two or three strokes on each line.”
15. Tap the pain away
You might mistake your Manaka therapist for a carpenter when he picks up a mallet to tap pegs all over your body. Then he becomes a drummer, hitting pressure points to the beat of a metronome. The bizarre practice dates back to 16th century Japan and is still available today.
16. Drip oil onto the third eye
Shirodhara, in which oil or buttermilk is slowly poured over the forehead, is a close cousin of Chinese water torture. But rather than driving the victim insane, this Ayurvedic treatment 'opens the third eye' and releases tension.
17. Hold your nose and swallow feng dou
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) prescribes elusive and odd-tasting potions to help manage stress. Such as feng dou root from Yunnan Province, which increases the body’s heat to take away tension. Read more about TCM in this CNNGo article.
18. Float in the air with transcendental meditation
Transcendental meditation teaches you to evoke the sound of a mantra until you feel like you’re floating in the clouds. As you spiritually progress in the TM-Sidhi program, you’ll supposedly gain powers of levitation.
19. Rotate baoding balls in your palm
Originating in the Ming Dynasty, these hollow metal balls are rotated in the hand, stimulating pressure points and refreshing your body.
20. Bake in a Korean kiln sauna
Korean spas are notorious for their rigorous treatments, especially kiln saunas called han jeung mak. The staff gives you a potato sack-like blanket to wear, then puts you in a stone hut to sweat out your worries. SeoulStyle blogger Jill says, “Because the heat increases your circulation and makes you sweat profusely, it has a relaxing cathartic effect.”