Health & Grooming: Breathing Lessons

If your notion of an ideal spa involves a calming massage, a relaxing sauna, or a soothing facial, think twice before entering New York’s Exhale Mind Body Spa. “We’re not about beauty and pampering,” insists Annbeth Eschbach, its founder and CEO. “Our treatments are transformational in nature—for both the mind and body.”

 

At its Madison Avenue and Central Park South locations, Exhale offers skin correction programs, hard-core muscle strengthening regimens, and rigorous body enlightening therapy, all of which, Exhale claims, will produce noticeable changes after one or two treatments.

During a body enlightening session, which takes place in a candlelit room while soft background music plays, a master therapist stretches you into a range of acrobatic positions and even lifts you into the air, supporting you with only his feet. This therapy combines yoga, assisted stretching, body alignment, and Thai massage. “This is deeper than massage,” Eschbach explains. “It’s more powerful physically and emotionally.” While massage leaves you relaxed and sometimes yearning for a nap, body enlightening, Eschbach says, “leaves you feeling energized and wanting to take on the world.”

Brentwood Associates, a Los Angeles–based equity investment company, invested $40 million to develop the Exhale concept. The first New York location opened last September, and there are plans to open spas in Chicago and Boston this year. “Our objective was to take the destination spa concept and put it in the heart of the city,” explains Eschbach, a 20-year veteran of the spa and athletic club industry. “People go to vacation spas to get results; we are making that concept available in sophisticated urban cities.”

Unlike many spas that are designed to appeal predominantly to women, Exhale was developed to cater to both sexes. Among the services particularly appealing to male clients are acupuncture, cool laser therapy, and the spa’s signature Core Fusion exercise class. 

Cool laser therapy is a popular treatment for busy clients who can visit Exhale for a quick-fix 10-minute eye treatment. Using a metal transmitter placed under the shoulder and a wand coated with conducting gel, the laser gently circles the eye area and purportedly removes broken capillaries and discoloration and reduces dark circles and wrinkles around the eyes after several sessions.

The most favored Exhale program by far is the Core Fusion class, which blends the disciplines of Pilates, yoga, core conditioning, and orthopedic stretching. “A lot of men come into the class thinking they have strong abdominal muscles,” says its cocreator, Fred DeVito. “They are always surprised by how challenging it is to hold positions using their abdominal muscles.”

Though the class can be humbling for many men, they quickly become hooked, DeVito adds. “After three sessions, most guys begin to witness improvement in their strength, and they always come back for more.”

Exhale, 212.249.3000, exhalespa.com

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