Dröm UK have never been afraid to go that extra mile to give customer satisfaction, so when one of our consultancy clients told us that he wanted an authentic Russian Banya in his project, and that he was a member of the famous Banya No 1 in London, we knew we had to go and experience it for ourselves so that we could fully understand his requirements …
Now even though I work for a wellbeing company, relaxation and massage and generally getting hot and sweaty is really not my thing. So it was with some trepidation that I accompanied Erin, my enthusiastic MD, up to London to be treated to the full Russian Banya treatment.
The Banya itself is located in the basement of an apartment block in Micawber Street in North London. Erin had booked us in for the 3 hour Gold Package. This did nothing to calm my apprehension as it included a Parenie treatment, a honey and salt scrub, a 25 minute massage (no seriously, not my idea of fun) and a mud décolletage/footbath treatment. But descending down the glass staircase, smelling the sweet aroma of eucalyptus and hearing the soothing sound of running water, I started to feel a sense of excitement, a sense of something different.
Once we were changed we were guided to a booth in the lounge/dining area which acted as a bit of a base for us. This was a place to leave our phones and magazines (and bikinis at times!!) and relax with herbal teas and beetroot kvass throughout the morning.
Then it was time to start! We were accompanied by one of the therapists, a lovely lady called Rasa, who turned out to be our guide and therapist for the whole session. Before we started she let us take photos of us posing with the veniks (the bunches of eucalyptus branches used for the Parenie massage). Then she told us to sit in the Banya for around 5 minutes to get acclimatised whilst wearing a less than flattering sauna hat to protect our head from the heat. Then, once we had time to cool down and have some tea, it was time to start.
First up was the Parenie massage. Our Banshik for the morning was called Boris, who didn’t speak much English. You lay on a pillow of eucalyptus leaves and then another venik is laid over the head so you are enveloped inside a sweet smelling darkness. I have to admit that the sound of Boris building up the steam was quite intimidating without being able to see, with lots of loud hissing and banging going on! Once the steam is hot enough the veniks are fluttered over the body to create a hot air flow. Then they are raised up into the warmer air, shaken to gather the heat and then pressed firmly against the body. This was a weird sensation – it almost felt as though it was too hot to bear but just as you think you are going to have to say something, the sensation cools. Then he slapped the veniks over the body (quite hard lol) before declaring ‘we are done!’ The treatment stimulates blood circulation, improves metabolism and relieves stress and muscle tension. Well, it didn’t help with my muscle tension as I was tensed waiting for the next time the hot leaves were pressed onto the skin!
Afterwards he leads you to the drench bucket where he (quite gleefully) showers you with a bucketful of cold water and then Rasa guides you to the plunge pool. The pool is at a temperature of between 7-10 °C which comes as a shock for the body, releasing adrenaline and serotonin leading to a feeling of rejuvenation. Blood vessels contract stimulating blood circulation and oxygen intake and also boosting the immune and lymphatic systems.
Afterwards it was time for the honey and sea salt scrub treatment. You lay naked on a marble hammam table and get covered – and I mean covered – in honey and sea salt. When Rasa asks you to turn over, be aware that it is not easy as you slip and slide all over the place! The salt absorbs toxins and removes dead skin cells and the honey moisturises and nourishes the skin with vitamins and minerals. Then it’s back to the Banya, to let the heat help open your pores, helping with the detox. After about 5 minutes, we washed off the scrub to leave our skin feeling as soft as a baby.
I have to say the Banya was really clean which I thought was because we were the first guests there, but as the day went on it was obvious that cleanliness was very important and everywhere was cleaned after every treatment.
Back to the lounge for some more tea – and beetroot kvass which has many benefits including reducing mild causes of high blood pressure, cleansing the liver and speeding up metabolism.
Then it was massage time. Rasa was the perfect masseuse and for once, I could feel myself truly relaxing.
Finally it was time for the mud décolletage and footbath treatment. Mud from the Latvian marshes which is rich in minerals and vitamins was slathered all over our faces and neck and we sat and relaxed with our feet in soothing, warm water for about 10 minutes before heading to the shower to wash it off. The skin felt toned and tightened and absolutely fabulous!
Would I do it again? Yes. Definitely. I have to admit I loved every minute (even the naked bit which I wasn’t expecting!) There were only 4 other people at the banya that morning which helped with the feeling of space and exclusivity. It was great to have others there to chat too about the experience as it was the first time for everyone.
If you don’t fancy mixed bathing, the Banya offers single sex sessions. See their website for details. http://www.gobanya.co.uk/
And before you leave, you MUST try the food – absolutely delicious.
Dröm will be back!