News Off-the-wall spa trends that might actually be worth a try

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Off-the-wall spa trends that might actually be worth a try

From warming up your soul in Seoul to chuckling loudly while doing the downward dog, we've looked into the benefits of some silly-sounding wellness trends to see if they're worth trying - and we tell you where you can have a go.

A woman walking into the woods at Meji Jingu shrine in Tokyo

The trend: Forest bathing

What is it?
In essence, having a bit of a walkabout or sit down among some trees, although forest-bathing advocates say there’s more to it that. The practice, called shinrin-yoku, has a official seal of approval in Japan, where therapeutic parks have been built to give city-dwellers access to the healing properties of trees.
The benefits:
Phytoncides, compounds released by plants and trees, have been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and activate the immune system.
What it feels like:
It depends how you do it. Walk or relax in the woods and it’s a pleasant pastime. Camp out overnight, as diehard forest-bathers do, and you’ll need some good thermals (and to lay off the ghost stories).
Where can you try it?
Meiji Jingu Shrine is the last word in shinrin-yoku for Tokyoites, its forest of 100,000 therapeutic trees donated from across Japan.
Where to stay:
Book a hotel in nearby Shinjuku ward
Get there:
Book flights to Tokyo
Get around:
Tokyo has an excellent and safe public transportation network

Man laughing

The trend: Laughter yoga

What is it?
Stimulating belly laughs via an array of techniques perfected by the Indian laughter guru Osho (in the 1960s) and physician Madan Kataria, who conceived ‘laughter yoga’ in the 1990s.
The benefits:
Laughter helps the brain regulate the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine and links have been found between laughter and the production of antibodies and endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers).
What it feels like:
At first, frankly, a bit daft. But go with the flow and your fellow chortlers’ laughter proves infectious.
Where can you try it?
Find your inner mirth beneath a canopy of banyan trees at Karnataka’s SwaSwara ayurvedic resort, where yogi Raj puts you through a series of deep breathing and laughter-provoking exercises aimed at lowering your blood pressure and boosting your mood.
Where to stay:
Book a room in nearby Sanskruti resort
Get there:
Book flights to Goa
Get around:
Hire a car from Goa International Airport.

Person buried up to his neck in sand as a spa treatment

The trend: Sand dune immersion

What is it?
In short being buried up to your neck in hot sand before having your head swaddled in damp fabric against the sun.
The benefits:
It’s said to ease rheumatism, cure impotence and boost fertility, though evidence is scant. Topical treatment with heat is, however, known to decrease muscle pain.
What it feels like:
Depends on your disposition. To some like being cuddled by a sandy cocoon; to others as relaxing as – eeek! – being buried alive.
Where can you try it?
At Dunes by Al Nahda in Oman they do it in style: immersing you in sanitised sand and dressing your head in fresh fruit. Try not to nibble the melons.
Where to stay:
Book Dunes by Al Nahda
Get there:
Book flights to Muscat
Get around:
Hire a car from Muscat International Airport

Pint of beer

The trend: Beer bathing

What is it?
A Czech fad that involves lolling about up to your neck in specially brewed ‘bathing beer’.
The benefits:
Chodovar family brewery claim their bathing brew ‘stimulates the skin and internal organs’. Science says: the panthothenic acid and vitamin B complex in beer are good for skin.
What it feels like:
One part stag-night jape to two parts Cleopatra. The drip-tray aromas linger.
Where can you try it?
Chodovar Brewery’s ‘beer wellness land’ offers visitors a 20-minute soak in bathing beer followed by a mug of the brewery’s foaming rock lager for £29. For a few quid more you get a top-notch deep-tissue massage.
Where to stay:
Bed down in the brewery’s adjacent hotel U Sladka
Get there:
Fly to Prague
Get around:
Hire a car from Prague International Airport

Seoul

The trend: Korean kiln saunas

What is it?
A practice that dates back to the 15th century, hanjeungmak involves sitting in a room heated by burning pine wood wrapped in a thick jute garment to protect your body from the heat.
The benefits:
Touted locally as an (unproven) treatment for shoulder and back pain and to improve skin health. However a recent Harvard study found sauna use to be linked to longer life and better heart health.
What it feels like:
Intensely hot and dry (often topping 100 degrees C), this isn’t one for the sauna uninitiated.
Where can you try it?
Seeing a resurgence, hanjeungmaks litter South Korean capital Seoul. Kiln saunas cost around £10 a session at the reputable Insadong Spa
Where to stay:
Book a room in Seoul’s Jongno district
Get there:
Fly to Seoul
Get around:
Seoul has an extensive, safe and efficient public transportation network


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