SPAfari: Adventures In Spa

The word safari means journey in Swahili. It conjures images of khakis, binoculars, and weird hats. It oozes excitement and exploration.

The New York spa scene can be just as exciting as any savannah in Africa. So in the spirit of discovery, I traversed the perilous streets of Manhattan to experience some unusual and extraordinary treatments that may go untested for fear of the unknown. Get ready to expand your horizons!


Why it’s scary: needle equals pain, swallowing concoctions, talking about poop to a stranger.

Why you should go anyway: It’s not scary at all, and can treat a range of issues like acne, chronic pain, and irritable bowel syndrome.


Fear not – Yin Beauty’s relaxing, revitalizing combination of biotherapeutic and acupuncture methods will have you sipping cocktails in no time. This special cocktail is a blend of botanicals, enzymes, and vitamins custom-tailored to your body’s needs, according to a lengthy consultation with Zorina Beygel, Yin Beauty’s experienced and amiable biopuncturist. Beygel will zero in on your specific condition, dip acupuncture needles in your cocktail and introduce them subcutaneously. This differs from traditional acupuncture because of the botanical blend, and the needle’s depth is more superficial, making it a great introduction to acupuncture. Beygel is an expert with the needles – they’re placed comfortably and quickly without any pain. The only slight pinch occurs when she gets to an acu-point that corresponds with a problem organ, and it subsides. Afterwards you may notice redness around the needle site, which is a good sign – it means your immune system has been activated. Redness fades within a couple of hours. At the end of your session, Beygel dispenses the remainder of the cocktail under your tongue, where it will be rapidly received by the blood stream. The immediate effect is an overall sense of wellbeing, from both the botanical stimulation of acu-points and from knowing that you’re tapping into your body’s self-healing mechanism in a totally natural way.

Yin Beauty
22 E 66 Street, 2nd Floor


Why it’s scary: the huge, purple circles my roommate sported on his back for weeks; vibrate what? and nightmares of looking like Hellraiser.

Why you should go anyway: Gwyneth Paltrow was brave enough to rock the purple circle; it detoxifies, relaxes your muscles, and stimulates ch’i (your life force!) and vital organs.


Exhale Spa offers a smorgasbord of adventurous alternative modalities for you to choose from. Cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that has been around for thousands of years. Acupuncturist Philip Cohen starts with a consultation similar to Beygel’s, then begins the treatment with a few firm massage strokes to the neck and shoulder area. He applies the cups along the spine, twisting a valve to create a light suction that pulls the skin into the cup and fresh blood into the area, helping improve circulation and flushing out cellular debris. There’s no pain, and an advantage of the plastic cups at Exhale is the ability to adjust the suction intensity (in case you feel like you’re being eaten by a vacuum). The suction can leave a purplish hickey; the darker the color the more stagnation you have. (My session left me with only three light marks out of six cups.) During the allotted suction time, Cohen applies vibrational therapy to acu-points on the backs of the knees and ankles, specially selecting tuning forks for my maladies. The vibrations were gentle and ticklish at times, and worked to balance the points. After removing the cups, I turned face-up for acupuncture. The insertion of the needles was quick with only mild pricks in my legs, hands, and forehead. In tight muscles, they can cause a slightly more painful sensation. A needle inserted in the tense muscle next to my shin bone caused a dull, achy throbbing sensation for the rest of the session. (The point corresponds to the stomach, my chief area of complaint. Coincidence? I don’t think so.) The needles stayed in place for 20 minutes, and Cohen threw in a little foot reflexology with the extra time that we had, activating points with perfect pressure. I left feeling positive and renewed, and took that awakened ch’i on a little stroll (of 46 blocks).

Exhale Spa
150 Central Park South
(212) 561-7400



Why it’s scary: an open flame next to your head, seeing what is actually inside of your ear.

Why you should do it anyway: Get that stuff out!

Ear candling (or ear coning) is an ancient practice that has roots in ancient Egypt and the Orient. A cone is placed into the ear canal over a plate that protects the ear and face from any embers or drippings. The end of the cone is lit, and creates a suction that draws excess ear wax and impurities out of the ear and into the cone. As the cone burns down, you’ll hear some soft crackling and feel slight warmth, but it’s in no way uncomfortable. The session lasts only about ten minutes for both ears. Your therapist will probably cut open the end of the cone to show you what’s been pulled out – a nasty mix of ear wax and powdery yuck (a holistic teacher of mine once told me that powder is yeast). Whatever it is, better out than in!

My adventurous spirit led me astray with this session, and I ended up in a weird, kind of grimy spot in the west village. My advice is to try ear candling, but to go to a reputable spa that you trust.

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