The New Health Spa: This Isn’t Your Mother’s Spa Day

By Deann Zampelli   |   May 28, 2024

I met a woman a few weeks ago who doesn’t like to get massages. I felt like I needed an interpreter. What could she possibly mean by speaking this heresy? I have heard of people who weren’t into it, but I assumed that like “uptight yoga instructors,” and mean Trader Joe’s employees they were mythological in nature. I love getting spa treatments. In fact, I don’t know why they aren’t incorporated into other kinds of appointments. “While I do your taxes would you like a 15-minute scalp massage?” or “As the hygienist cleans your teeth, would you like a gel manicure?” It seems like a no-brainer.

Well, like many things in life, health spas aren’t exactly what they used to be. Most still offer massages (phew!), facials and body scrubs but the new generation offer more of a functional approach. Like functional medicine, functional therapeutic treatments can not only offer relief, but they are looking to get at the root cause of the complaint. Come with me as I take you through my spa day at Restore Hyper Wellness on State Street.

As I walked in the door I was immediately taken aback by the slick, high tech, and somewhat futuristic atmosphere. It was as if NASA and Crossfit had a secret lovechild. Everyone (yes, everyone) was very friendly, professional, and extremely knowledgeable. They made me feel comfortable from the jump, which was a good thing as I was more than a little apprehensive about my pending Cryotherapy. I wondered to whom, exactly, I was entrusting my 98.6-degree self?

It turns out that while Restore Hyper Wellness in Santa Barbara has only been open since September, the company has over 225 franchises nationwide and has been helping people “do more of what they love to do” since 2015.

As Elizabeth, my very wise and caring Hyper-Wellness Rep showed me to the first of my many treatment areas, she highlighted points of interest along the way, letting me take pictures or offering to take mine as we cruised by things with names like The Cryo Machine, The Red Light Therapy Room, and the Compression area. I was scared. I was very scared. 

I thought she was breaking me in gently by starting with the Infrared Sauna, but like everything at Restore, the decisions were thoughtfully made and based on safety and efficacy. The infrared sauna warms up the body and releases toxins. It feels like it is working from the inside out – very relaxing, and very hot. And it felt amazing. After the sauna, it is important to shower off all those wayward free radicals and enjoy the benefits of burned calories, reduced inflammation, and improved circulation, all in just 35 minutes.

After my shower I was escorted to the Red Light Room. Images of Amsterdam flashed before my eyes until I opened the door and saw a very Star Trek looking contraption that consisted of two panels that you wedged between for ten minutes while the Red Light Therapy (also known as Photobiomodulation Therapy) does its magic. The low wavelength is absorbed by our mitochondria (which are the powerhouse of our cells) and can help promote healing, reduce swelling, and even enhance our moods. It was a quick 10 minutes and while I am sure it did wonders, I didn’t really feel anything one way or another. Except dread. Cryotherapy was up next. 

Elizabeth then took me through a series of standard health questions to make sure I didn’t have any conditions that would make the upcoming three minutes of being exposed to 128 degrees below zero unsafe. You know where I am going here. Isn’t being exposed to 128 degrees below zero inherently unsafe? Apparently not. Brief exposure to these sub-glacial temperatures causes the body to shift into survival mode; blood flow is constricted away from dispensable extremities (hence the losses to frostbite of our noses, fingers, or toes) and redirected to the core, to warm and protect the life-conferring organs. Genius, right? While this is going on, the body increases its oxygen production, which explains the reduced inflammation. But I’m stalling. The Cryo awaits.

I am asked to don two pairs of gloves, long socks, booties, a knit beanie, and a mask. It’s fine that I am totally without clothes under my robe for some reason, but I had to wear a beanie. I step into the antechamber and await the glow of the green light. When instructed, I enter the tiny compartment and as the white smoke snakes out, I go in. With zero visibility and feeling like Edmund Hillary at Two Bunch Palms I enter the way-below-zero chamber. There is music playing but I don’t particularly care what it is. I can do this I think; I will just dance around and jump up and down. You can do anything for three minutes right? I’ve got this. I will not wimp out, I repeat, I will not wimp out. It must almost be over; I glance at the illuminated clock. It’s only been 25 seconds. The clock must be broken. I think I am getting frostbite. This can’t be normal. My temperature setting is broken. Like childbirth and Space Mountain, if anyone remembered this experience, they would never do it again. I am 100% sure I have frostbite. I am amazing, I am almost done. Clock check. WTF? It’s only been 50 seconds. How, oh how is that possible? After a grueling 2.5 minutes, the machine turns off and she tells me to come out. You don’t have to ask me twice. But here’s the weird part. The minute I got out I could feel my body already warming up. I had visions of leaving the chamber and being greeted by a Patagonia-wearing Sherpa with warm foil blankets and a chopper touching down just in front of Petco. (In my head, it was a scene from Chicago Med.)

I felt AMAZING! Surviving what was a near death experience in my head but was really a very mild two and a half minutes felt so invigorating. I get it, this is the whole cold plunge vagus nerve thing. I was sold! I wanted to know more. 

According to the General Manager, Karlyn Roberts, “Restore Hyper Wellness is providing health and wellness nationwide. Our whole mission is to make customers feel better so they can do more of what they love to do. Our more popular services include cryotherapy, IV drip, and compression. These accessible services help our customers manage their pain, boost immunity, enhance sports performance, and speed recovery!!”

Thank you Karlyn, I will be back. 

After all, there is a much greater chance of me coming back for another cryotherapy session than of having another baby. Or going on Space Mountain, for that matter.  


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