Spa

By Dana Wagner

They say New York is the city that never sleeps, but in my ‘hood, all I’ve got is the bodega on the corner, Gray’s Papaya, the ATM vestibule at my bank and that’s about it. Which is all well and fine if you’ve had a late night out and need munchies to soak up the alcohol or some extra cash to pay the cab driver, but pretty much useless otherwise. Which is why Juvenex Spa, located in the heart of Korea town, is such a gem among gems-it epitomizes New York City in more ways than one, the first and foremost being, of course, that it’s open 24/7.

Juvenex is like no other spa in the city-unassuming would be a gentle way of describing the entrance, tucked away on 32nd St. between 5th and Broadway and sandwiched on either side by Korean restaurants and health food stores. Enter the 5,000 square-foot spa itself, however, and you’re instantly whisked into a world of luxury, an oasis of rejuvenation and relaxation. Korean style.

As soon as you pass through the doors, you’re greeted by the scent of gardenias and lavender. The walls, the floor, and pretty much everything else in the spa is covered by tiny, sea foam green mosaic tiles, giving you the sense that you’re walking on the ocean floor. As you cross the curved bamboo bridge (meant to symbolize the leaving behind of stress, worries and the world-at-large) you find yourself in an open air expanse that boasts a dry heat thermal sauna and a jade igloo made from 20 tons of the semiprecious stone that has been imported from the Chun-Chun mine in Korea. According to Korean beliefs, jade balances the mind, body and spirit well-being; heated like a traditional sauna and infused with a proprietary blend of Chinese herbs, it also aids in circulation, respiration, increases metabolism, detoxes the body, improves liver function and purifies you inside and out, head to toe.

Directly across from the igloo are the soaking tubs, a series of tubs ranging from a cold plunge to a warm, ginseng infused tub (to energize and soften skin) to a hot, fresh- lemon soak (to exfoliate and purify skin; anyone who enjoys a cup of lemon tea in the morning will forever after envy their humble tea bag after luxuriating in this tub). Each one an important part of preparing the body for upcoming treatments.

Adjacent to the tubs is the award-winning Diamond Herbal Steam Room. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to walk through a cloud, simply step inside the herb-infused vapors. Sit for 10-15 minutes to improve your respiratory system and sweat out any toxins the jade igloo didn’t manage to remove. Then stand beneath the cool waters of the Rain Forest Plunge Shower. Next to the shower is a simple wrought iron and white cloth floor screen, which separates the main treatment room from the rest of the spa.

After checking in, you change into a plush terry robe or towel (your choice)-but not for long. Nudity is the norm at this women-only spa, so be prepared to bare it all (or bring a bathing suit). It’s not unusual to see women in the all-together walking leisurely from the igloo to the tubs to their treatments. If you’re more of a Charlotte than a Samantha, you might hesitate to “go there”, but within a few minutes of being surrounded by women of all ages and body shapes, you ease into a state of relaxation (trust me here – I’m a card-carrying Charlotte, complete with a hand bottle of Purell for post-subway rides). Everything is thoroughly sanitized 3-4 times a day, every day; Juvenex house rules.

Modesty in check, you’re your way to begin your purification program. Clients are encouraged to start with the Jade Igloo after showering and told to completely relax and move at your leisure from one treatment pool or steam room to another. You can take as much time as you like. Whenever you’re ready, just signal and your treatment will begin. If only the rest of your world would adopt this theory, right?

I had the Korean Body Scrub followed by a massage and a mini-facial. Led by my aesthetician, Miss Kim (I highly recommend asking for her by name-while I’m sure all the aestheticians are superb, she was superlative). I went behind the aforementioned screen and found myself in a small space with five treatment beds covered in thick plastic. I hopped on a bed and, lying on my back, watched with a mix of amusement and horror as Kim stripped down to her bra and underwear to give me my treatment. Any trepidation I felt quickly dissipated as soon as she began to work her magic.

Filling a basin with warm water, she splashed my body and donned a pair of exfoliating gloves imported from Korea. Using a skin-type specific liquid soap (almond, tea tree, or a specially imported baby soap for sensitive skins) she began sloughing off the top layer of my skin in what has to be the most thorough exfoliating treatment this side of the Pacific Rim. Starting at my feet, she worked her way between my toes, up my legs, over my belly, chest and arms, then flipped me on my side to get another angle. Back, side, stomach, other side and back again. Every inch of my body was sloughed and scrubbed til it was shiny and new. And believe me when I say thorough, I mean thorough – she must have spent 5 minutes on each arm pit (thank god I had shaved) and several behind each ear, a place that hasn’t been scrubbed that meticulously since my mother hung up her washcloth when I was seven. Another splash of warm water from the basin, and I was ready for my mini-facial.

Miss Kim applied a tissue face mask to my face, then painted it with a rich, foamy seaweed concoction to brighten my skin and make it glow. That was then topped with a layer of cucumber so fresh it smelled as if she had just stepped out to the farmer’s market to buy it. She added another layer of tissue to help the ingredients soak into my skin, and then began the energy balancing massage.

She placed a towel over me and, using unscented oil, combined deep-tissue, shiatsu, acupressure, Swedish and stretching modalities to remove every kink and knot from my entire body. A true master, she instinctively knew where I needed more (or less) pressure. When my body was as limber as that of a Cirque de Soleil acrobat, she rinsed me down with a warm milk bath, and then gave me a to-die-for scalp massage with tea-tree shampoo and conditioner.

When this was over I was ushered to the showers, wrapped in a thick terry robe and then led to the juice bar where she brought me fresh pineapple, melon and paper-thin wafers of apple. Sated and re-hydrated with several tumblers of lemon water, I was shown to the Baked Clay Detox Room, a low-temperature sauna with heated clay floor that removes the last of the toxins in the body (should any somehow managed to survive) and helps clients summon the fortitude to return to the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

While Juvenex is for all intents and purposes women-only, they ultimately decided to take pity on the less-fair sex and allow them to enter this haven, too. From 9pm to 6am, the spa becomes co-ed (patrons are encouraged to wear bathing suits). Bring your honey and reserve the Celebrity VIP Room, which features a private hydrotherapy tub that can be infused with sake, milk, seaweed or any number of tinctures, or book a private couples massage behind the floor screen. There are also five multi-treatment rooms for massage, skin care and other treatments that range from endermology and hydrotherapy drainage for cellulite and bloat control to river stone massage, acupressure, reflexology, red Korean clay facials, jet-lag wraps, oxygenated marine ion therapy and a Vitamin C anti-oxidant therapy. There’s also something called the Gyno Spa Cure, available for the first time in the US, an ancient Asian remedy for restore optimum health “down under”.

Almost a week after my treatment, my skin is still softer than it has ever been since I discovered the lethal combo of baby oil and high-noon sun. I’ve been “jaded” and I plan on repeating the experience often. We all know New Yorkers are famous for their busy schedules, but now that we have the 24 hour Juvenex Spa, there is more time to take care of the skin you’re in.

Juvenex Spa
25 West 32nd Street, 5th floor
(between 5th Avenue and Broadway)
New York, NY
646-733-1330
http://www.juvenexspa.com

Originally published June 2004
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