April 11, 2017

balans boston

balans boston

It is no wonder that the sound of a pleasant sigh is in the word spa. spaHHhhHHhhHh. This noise was the soundtrack to my entire experience at Balans Organic Spa – an organic spa on Newbury St. in Boston. Here, I received a mini facial and a 30 minute session of floatation therapy. I was definitely floating on cloud 9 when my time here was finished.

I went to Balans with my sister and best friend this past weekend to celebrate my birthday. We were greeted with tea (a mixture of lemon balm and passionflower leaves), almonds, dates, and dried apricots, making it a delicious and nourishing experience from the moment we walked in the door. Potted plants lined the circumference of the front room, creating the ultimate urban oasis amidst the sounds of muffled voices and muted traffic below on busy Newbury St. The dichotomy of the classical indoor music paired with the soft hubbub of humans below was quite special.

We each received a 30 minute float session, in which I went first, so my opinion was entirely unbiased. It was a shallow pool, and the room and water (about the size of a king sized bed altogether) were both warm and comforting. Floating took a little while to get used to, but then it became a playful, joyful, and even jubilant experience. I was wiggling around like a jellyfish, entirely weightless. My mind was free, as I explored the possibility of having the superpower of flying. A sense of childhood wonder consumed me, and the 30 minutes went by very quickly, whereas I was originally concerned I may get bored during the session. It was the most active, but whole body relaxing, meditation I’ve ever had.

I then received a mini facial (25 minutes). After a cleanser and exfoliant, Ashley (my esthetician) gave me an unexpected shoulder massage, making sure to knead out the shoulder knots. Technique was 10/10, utilizing her knuckles to attenuate all rough patches. She then “extracted” around my T zone (a nice word for pinching out black heads) with the gentle touch of Tinkerbell. It was not painful at all, in fact the whole experience was overwhelmingly relaxing, especially since lavender scented pads were on my eyes despite the bright light of the facial flashlight above.

Next I had a face mask, which was painted on and extended down to my neck. Ashley then sauntered over to give the arms some attention. It was in this moment I realized the importance of giving elbows some TLC, and that I may ask my next massage to focus entirely on the area stretching from hands to elbows. My forearms, once fatigued, were stimulated and energized. And she really worked the magic on that fleshy piece of muscle between thumb and pointer finger. She finished the mini-facial with a face massage, and some extra pressure applied around the bottom of the skull near the occipital bone, which oddly enough is where I tend to get headaches. It’s like she knew. A sixth sense or something.

From the floating to the facial, the whole experience from start to finish was like being cradled, and all I had to do was just be there. I’m typically not very good at releasing the reigns to others. My sister and best friend planned this entire day for me, and I actually made it worse by meddling and trying to communicate with the spa beforehand. It was a relaxing experience yes, but also a lesson in that I should just be a bit more trusting and less controlling. Everything will be okay if you relinquish a bit of the planning power – something I will work on in this new year of 25.

As added entertainment, I asked my best friend and sister to give their opinion of their float:

  • “Ria’s 3R’s: relaxing, refreshing, rejuvenating”
  • Elly’s input: “I felt like I was in lord of the rings with the music playing. At first I wasn’t relaxing my body because I’ve never been able to float, but when I relaxed my abs and started doing snow angels in the water, it became really fun!”

In case this doesn’t quite capture what the experience was like, here’s what other people said (this board is hung right outside the floating pool room):

When I got home that night, I was pleasantly exhausted and clocked in nearly 10.5 hours of sleep, which rarely if ever happens. This is likely due to the high magnesium content of the float, which not only helps with stress and sleep, but also has favorable effects in inflammatory diseases.

Magnesium baths also help with atopic dry skin, and one study showed that “skin roughness and redness of the skin as a marker for inflammation were significantly reduced after bathing in the salt solution. This demonstrates that bathing in the salt solution was well tolerated, improved skin barrier function, enhanced stratum corneum hydration, and reduced skin roughness and inflammation” (1). The bath has also been shown to improve psoriasis and acne.

These baths are useful if you’re low in magnesium (responsible for helping to control stress and sleep). One study, in fact, concluded that magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt) baths are an easy and certain method to increase magnesium levels in the body. Body immersion in a solution of magnesium sulphate caused an increase in plasmatic concentration of magnesium (2).

Beyond skin and sleep, magnesium also has an anticarcinogenic effects, and tissues with high concentrations of magnesium have a lower incidence of cancer compared to tissues with low concentrations. Furthermore, magnesium, through its competition with cellular calcium, causes vasodilation, thereby lowering blood pressure (3).


(1): Proksch, E., Nissen, H-P., Bremgartner, M., & Urquhart, C. (2005). Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydratioun, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry kin. International Journal of Dermatology, 44(2), 151-157. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2005.02079.x

(2): Nica, A.S., Caramoci, A., Vasilescu, M., Ionescu, A.M., Paduraru, D., & Mazilu, V. (2015). Magnsium supplementation in top athletes – effects and recommendations. Journal of the Romamanian Sports Medicine Society, XI(1), 2482-2494.

(3): Matz, H., Orion, E., & Wolf, R. (2003). Balneotherapy in dematology. Dermatologic Therapy, 16(2), 132-140. doi: 10.1046/j.1529-8019.2003.01622.x

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