Jonny Edbrooke test-drives a new spa treatment that’s becoming popular with the men of Ho Chi Minh City, Aura & Co. Infrared Wellness Studio.
I’m not a fan of saunas.
If I want to get hot and sweaty in Saigon, all I have to do is walk to the shop down the road. No need for a fancy spa session with a fancy price tag.
The very idea of sitting in a hot and steamy room, unable to read a book or use electronics, holds no appeal.
With my anti-spa sentiments, I’m probably not the ideal candidate to try Aura & Co. Infrared Wellness Studio in the numbered streets of Thao Dien, near the British School of Ho Chi Minh City.
Before I visited, I did a bit of research, just to calm my fears about being nuked with infrared rays.
I discovered infrared therapy involves light waves that don’t heat up the room, but the body that’s in it.
There are a raft of claims about the benefits of infrared therapy, with proponents saying it can aid weight loss, turn back the hands of time, detoxify the body, improve circulation, reduce pain, repair joints and muscles, and aid cardiovascular healing.
When it comes to things that sound too good to be true, I am a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic. While the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of infrared therapy abound, I couldn’t find much scientific research to support the claims.
It was time for this grumpy anti-saunite to find out for myself. I toddled off to Aura, located in a fairly normal Thao Dien villa in a hem off a hem.
It’s a simple place, neatly laid out and pristinely clean. I was met by Aura Director Oanh Nguyen, who directed me to change into sauna sandals and guided me upstairs to my clean and airy private room, with rows of towels to wear and a small one to soak up the sweat.
The saunas themselves look pretty much like your normal home sauna, a paneled box with a bench to sit on, set in a private room. But unlike a steam-filled sauna, Aura’s infrared sauna has an interactive screen with Netflix and Facebook. I give extra points for this, as I don’t really know how to do nothing.
Stepping into the sauna from the air-conditioned room is odd because it’s not hot.
Wrapped in a towel, I settled in for my first 45-minute session. I chose to re-watch Mad Max Fury Road, thinking that a bit of mindless violence would take the edge off the soothing elements of having a sauna.
After a few minutes I started start to feel the heat. For my first session my internal temperature was raised three degrees, which was enough to give me a good sweat-on.
Within 15 minutes I started to feel my neck and shoulders relaxing. From a working life hunched over a computer, I always have upper back and neck pain. But the heat made the everyday tightness ease a bit.
I was pretty sweaty by now, and I followed the advice to pop out of the sauna a few times to hydrate with electrolyte-enhanced water. Obviously nipping into the aircon was nice. But the weird thing is that when you go back into the sauna, it’s not hot.
So now I have done three sessions. For my second and third visits, I did a bit of forward-planning and chose Netflix shows that lasted 45 minutes. (Shameless, season 1, to be precise).
At the end of three sessions, my body feels a lot less stressed. My shoulders and neck definitely feel more relaxed than usual.
These symptoms could be psychosomatic, but, frankly, I don’t care. Something is working, and so I’ll be going back for a bit more infrared and telly-watching.
Aura has an introductory price of VND1.5 million for three 45-minute infrared sessions, as well as a number of long-term packages if you, like me, get hooked.
Aura & Co. Infrared Wellness Studio
21/1 Duong 46, Thao Dien, District 2