Cover (Image: Spa Esprit)

Out of the ordinary and unorthodox. These wellness treatments in Singapore are unique and provide a different means of achieving your goals in terms of easing the mind, body and soul. When you’re won over by fatigue and need a brand new method of relaxation, pamper yourself with one of these alternative therapies

This story was updated on November 6, 2020.

Halotherapy at Pablo Blau

Halotherapy, otherwise known as salt therapy, is one of the earliest forms of alternative wellness treatments that date back to the medieval age. Harnessing the natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties of salt, it involved taking the sick or those seeking relief from respiratory and skin conditions to the salt caves where they could recuperate.

Inhaled fine salt particles would reportedly “fall on the airway linings and draw water into the airway, thinning the mucus…thus making people feel better”, according to Dr Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor to the American Lung Association.

Pablo Blau takes the concept of halotherapy to next level, combining the salt room environment with pampering facials, and as a beauty junkie who constantly deals with sinusitis, I was excited to find out how its salt spa could improve both my skin and respiratory discomfort.

For first impressions, the spa does it right—beyond a beautifully decorated lounge in royal blue and gold, Pablo Blau’s salt room takes up a spacious, private corner. After getting changed in the locker area, I was given sanitary feet covers before I stepped into the waiting room, an impressive space that features walls coated in dry salt crystals and snow-white floors covered in a thick layer of salt—hence the feet covers.

After taking time to relax on the lounge chairs, I was led into one of two smaller salt-covered rooms, where the pampering happens. The treatment rooms are each equipped with a halo-generator that grinds and releases salt particles into the air to create an allergen- and bacteria-free environment.

For my normal-dry combination skin, I was recommended the Detox Skin Refined—a 60-minute facial that is customised for various skin concerns. And despite the futuristic design of the environment, the treatment adopts an organic approach—natural ingredients are used in its products, which are meticulously massaged into the skin in every step, instead of machines. Even the extraction process was gentle, and there was little to no redness by the end of the treatment, which was completed with a soothing algae-based mask.

While I can’t say I felt much effect for my nasal congestions from spending an hour in a salt room, my skin emerged more radiant and plump with hydration after the facial, and the salt-covered lounge definitely made for an Instagram-worthy moment.

Find out more at Pablo Blau.

Infrared sauna at Pure Wellness Studio

When you’re feeling stressed out or fatigued, sweating it out at a sauna is a great way to lift your mood, improve circulation, and relieve sore or tense muscles and joints. But traditional saunas aren’t always comfortable—which is why an infrared sauna makes for an effortless alternative.

Instead of conventional heat, full-spectrum infrared technology is used to penetrate the skin up to seven centimetres—heating the core of your body instead of the air around you for a more effective sweat session.

Pure Wellness Studio is the first dedicated infrared sauna studio in Singapore. It offers three types of sauna treatments catering to different needs—the Rejuvenate cabin offers a combination of near, mid and far-infrared wavelengths; the Recover room allows for a more intense sweat session delivered with only far-infrared heat; while the solo Relax pod delivers 360-degree far-infrared heat while you are lying down.

I tried Rejuvenate—a gentle 45-minute session for those new to infrared saunas. The interiors of the enclosed sauna cabin are fitted with both infrared panels and chromotherapy lights, which offer benefits from improving clarity to energising. I opted for yellow, which evokes a sense of positivity.

It is recommended to experience the treatment naked to reap the full benefits. Temperatures can go up to 65 degrees Celcius in the cabin, which is automatically adjusted. I’m not fond of perspiring, but I have to admit that I found the session rather palatable. In fact, I hardly noticed the droplets that formed on my body during the first 10 to 15 minutes.

The heat did get unbearable at some point, which I managed by taking water breaks outside of the cabin. Towels and a jug of water are provided in a private space outside your cabin to refresh yourself in between the session. The studio also offers a shower room to cool yourself off after the sauna experience.

Overall, I would say it was a positive experience that allowed me some alone time with my thoughts—the cabin was too hot for me to use my phone, so I was forced to calm my restless mind during the 45 minutes. While the detoxifying benefits of the infrared sauna have been debated, it did make my tight shoulders feel more relaxed and I enjoyed a fairly good sleep that night.

Find out more at Pure Wellness Studio.

Floatation therapy at Palm Ave Float Club

If you are an avid fan of Stranger Things, you’d be familiar with the sensory deprivation tank—a dark, soundproof tank filled with saltwater—where protagonist Eleven’s psychokinetic abilities thrive. The high salt content allows you to float weightlessly, while stimuli like sound and light are cut off to allow your brain to enter deep relaxation.

While it may sound a little daunting, sensory deprivation tanks offer benefits like better sleep, muscle relaxation, enhanced creativity, and decreased stress and anxiety.

Nestled along Kallang Riverside Park, Palm Ave Float Club is the only known dedicated floatation centre in Singapore. It offers 60-minute floatation sessions in its float pods, which are individually placed in private rooms fitted with showers. A floatation therapy experience begins with a brief introduction of the treatment. Then, you are left in privacy to take a shower and turn off all the lights before stepping into the pod, naked.

It is recommended that you shut the lid and switch off the lights for an optimal sensory deprivation experience, but you can leave them on if you're uncomfortable. Calming music—a song aptly called Weightless, by Marconi Union—is played for the first 10 minutes to ease you in.

Each pod offers ample space to float and stretch out your joints, and it is filled with room-temperature water that is highly concentrated with Epsom salt. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I jumped right in and closed myself inside the pod in total darkness. This led to about five minutes of restlessness and a lot of aching around my neck and shoulders (I found it impossible to rest my head on the water without fear) before I brought in a headrest to reduce the tension.

Then, as the music faded off, I fell asleep before waking up in a panic when I couldn’t figure out where I was—yes, it was that dark. After fumbling for the light button and opening the pod for a quick break, I made peace with the darkness by indulging in my thoughts, which were (I'll admit) going crazy due to the lack of stimulation. From work-related topics and house chores to the concept of time travel—every possible thought ran through my mind before I somehow drifted off. Before I knew it, 55 minutes had passed, and the music began playing, signalling the end of my session. I stepped out and took a shower in semi-confusion. Had an hour really passed?

While I sipped on warm tea in Palm Ave Float Club’s spacious lounge after, I was still feeling a little groggy from the experience. As co-founder Sarah tells me, everyone’s experience with the float pod is different. In fact, we are told to experience it without any expectations. Those who are experienced in meditation may find it easier to enter a calm state of mind, while others—like me—may take longer to flush out their thoughts and find peace. I believe I may need another session to truly reap the benefits of floatation therapy, but for now, it makes for a great mid-day break that feels out of this world.

Find out more at Palm Ave Float Club.

Cryotherapy at Slimpify by Only Aesthetics

Wellness trends come and go but one treatment that has managed to stay put (and even rule Hollywood) over the past few years is none other than cryotherapy. It’s a treatment that truly awakens the senses so it should come as no surprise that it has picked up steam and remained popular over time. The treatment is straightforward enough: Picture yourself in an enclosed chamber that is chilled to a temperature of approximately minus 89 degree Celcius and relax the mind. Sounds impossible? I thought so, too, but I must say that the treatment went well enough.

The Whole Body Cryotherapy offered by medical aesthetics group Only Group at their slimming clinic, Slimpify, lasts three minutes—and this may or may not feel like eternity, depending on how well you can handle the cold. You will first need to fill out a health questionnaire before the treatment and have your answers assessed. The nitrogen-free chamber is in a separate room of its own and you will be accompanied by a staff member who will keep an eye on you to ensure that the entire session goes smoothly. 

It’s advisable to keep moving when you are in the chamber to prevent any skin complications after the treatment. Don’t worry if you think you won’t be able to focus for three minutes because you will be asked to choose a three-minute-long video or song to take you through the end.

For those who suffer from skin issues, cryotherapy has been known to improve irritated skin conditions; it is especially effective in reducing eczema, resulting in less frequent outbreaks. Other benefits of cryotherapy include weight loss; relief of pain and inflammation of the body; improvement in signs of ageing as well as mental wellness, all of which are supported by scientific research. The freezing temperatures force your body into survival mode, redirecting blood flow from the extremities to the core.

After getting out of the chamber, a rebound occurs, and blood resumes its normal flow as the body gradually warms up. This re-circulation therapy delivers nutrient-rich blood to your muscles and joints, enhancing your body’s overall wellbeing. You may feel out of breath, especially if you (like me) choose to jog on the spot as your way to keep moving. The experience is definitely one-of-a-kind and exhilarating, and no—you shouldn't worry about suffering from hypothermia after this treatment!

Find out more at Slimpify.

Super Vibrator Sound Bath at Spa Esprit

Finding the right balance between work and daily life can be a real challenge so it's always important to find time to hit the reset button. Super Vibrator is homegrown beauty provider Spa Esprit’s version of a new-age wellness treatment that can help recentre and rebalance your energy using a combination of a customised essential oil and a sound bath that involves Tingsha cymbals and a Tibetan singing bowl. I was immediately drawn to this because I'd always wanted to find out how a sound bath could help with one's mental wellbeing. 

There are two parts to the treatment, and it begins with a bio-energy reading using Spa Esprit’s unique Emotional Positioning System (EPS), a bio-feedback machine that maps out your “energy blueprint” through your fingerprints. Through a spectrum of colours, it recognises and visualises the strengths and weaknesses of your seven energy centres—the Root, Sacral, Solar Plexus, Heart, Throat, Third Eye and Crown. From this reading, a therapist highlights three of your weakest energy centres and recommends a number of corresponding customised essential oil blends that will help "rebalance" your energy levels by directly strengthening your weakest points.

Right before my session, I was given a selection of essential oils to choose from. My scent of choice was 'Amber', which consists of orange, cypress, grapefruit and patchouli notes. I chose to enter the massage room with an open mind and heart in hopes of experiencing an invigorating session. To signify the start of the massage, the therapist set the mood by creating a sound bath using the Tibetan singing bowl. Its vibrations send deep hums that are absorbed by the body; the sensation is unique and you will feel the vibrations ripple through the length of your body.

The second part of the treatment is a Lomi Lomi massage whereby your therapist will use long rhythmic, fluid strokes from the traditional Hawaiian technique to coax your body into a relaxing trance to relieve tension. Once again, the Tibetan singing bowl will be filled with warm water and your prescribed essential oil blend and placed on your abdomen and back. As the therapist rims the bowl with gentle taps and circling, note that the longer the sound vibrates and resonates through the body and room, the more attuned you are. A shorter vibration means that your body is lacking in harmony, thus absorbing the vibrations quicker as it attempts to rebalance itself.

At the end of the massage, the therapist performs another sound bath with the Tibetan singing bowl before finally concluding the experience with a resounding note from the Tingsha cymbals. As someone who's not the biggest fan of massages, I enjoyed the treatment enough to start researching the different types of massages available in Singapore. It's safe to say that I've discovered a new way to pamper myself.

Find out more at Spa Esprit.

Electroacupuncture at Pulse TCM Clinic

Pain relief comes in various forms and the efficacy of each treatment may depend on what you need. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has evolved over the years and has remained as one of the world’s oldest forms of medicine. TCM includes different practices and techniques including herbal medication, massage (tui na), exercise, dietary methods, acupuncture and more.

There’s also electroacupuncture (EA), a therapy developed in the 1950s that supplements the regular acupuncture of Chinese Medicine with electrical stimulation. It’s similar to regular acupuncture whereby very fine specialised acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin at specific acupoints. Specifically, selected pairs of acupoints on the body are stimulated by a very precisely regulated electric current introduced via the needles inserted into those two points.

EA is especially recommended for patients with very severe conditions or those whose conditions are resistant to regular acupuncture, said Dr Sim Beng Joo, Advisor (Science & Strategy) and Consultant Physician at Pulse TCM Clinic.

“In electroacupuncture, precisely defined electrical stimulation is now delivered to the subject for 15 to 20 minutes by connecting the inserted needles to an electrical device that delivers electrical pulses; the frequency and intensity of these pulses will be adjusted for the specific situation,” explained Dr Sim.

As someone with constant lower back pain due to an old injury that occurred during a spin class four years ago, I decided to give it a go. The main difference that I felt in the treatment, as compared to regular acupuncture, was the electrical stimulation applied through the inserted acupuncture needles on my lower back. It wasn’t any more painful than usual; in fact, the regular pulsating sensation felt rather therapeutic. The benefits of electroacupuncture are wide-ranging, some of the clinically therapeutic benefits include localised pain relief, improvement of the muscle system, treatment of addiction, weight loss and more. Patients who undergo EA can look forward to a strong therapeutic effect compared to their regular acupuncture treatment.

I walked away from my first session feeling much lighter, and I followed up with a couple more sessions on a weekly basis. However, it’s important to keep doing regular back stretches if you’re in a similar situation as I am so as to reap the full benefits of EA or even regular acupuncture sessions. You'll find yourself waking up each morning with less soreness in your troubled spots, making it much easier to start your day well.

Find out more at Pulse TCM Clinic.

Chiropractic adjustment at Chiropractic First

It’s almost the end of 2020 but we've spent most of our year working from home, and unfortunately, that has led to a rise in various health concerns stemming from the fact that some of us do not have proper office desks and chairs at home.

There are a number of ways to curb issues like back pain and chiropractic care is one way to go about it. As a new patient who’s never visited a chiropractor’s clinic before, I received a full consultation at Chiropractic First with Dr Todd Redfearn. Before that, I answered several detailed questions on a form about my condition as well as the concerns that I had. There was also a physical examination that consisted of a number of aspects including posture evaluation and a range of motion study. After my first consultation, I was also asked to go for an X-ray scan and this was followed up with a second consultation and my first chiropractic adjustment. 

“The primary goal is to determine if the patient has a condition called a subluxation in their spine. A subluxation is a condition where two or more spinal vertebrae have lost their normal movement and/or position causing abnormal stress to the soft tissues in the area such as muscles, tendons, disc, ligaments and most importantly nerves that exit out between those vertebrae,” said Dr Redfearn. “Chiropractic care is not just about treating the symptoms but rather about correcting and maintaining the health of the spine.”

If you’ve seen the viral videos of chiropractic adjustments online, you’d know what to expect during a session. The popping and cracking sounds may turn some people off while there are others who may find it thoroughly therapeutic. It’s important to stay calm and trust the chiropractor you’re seeing; in fact, the demographic at Chiropractic First includes patients of all ages—from those as young as babies (to treat colic or constipation) to pregnant women (to reduce back pain) and even elderly patients who want to increase mobility.

The most common concerns among Singaporeans include neck pain, back pain, headaches and poor posture. When asked about the biggest misconceptions about chiropractic care, Dr Redfearn said many would think that it’s a “painful experience”.

“A ‘spinal adjustment’ mainly consists of a manual (by hand) procedure where pressure applied to the subluxated spinal joints with the goal of improving the movement and alignment which helps to restore the normal function to the area which facilitates the healing process.”

For those who are keen on exploring new ways of pain relief, especially if you'd like to avoid oral medication, chiropractic care could be one option to seek out.

Find out more at Chiropractic First.

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