Most jimjilbang include sauna-like rooms that feature different natural elements and themes to help connect the body to natural environments. In deluxe spas clients might find a jade room, a salt room and/or an infrared clay room.
Jade is a mineral that has been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries, and is also worn against the body for its healing properties. The stone contains zinc, iron, copper and calcium, and Koreans believe that lounging in a jade room—where light reflects off the stones—balances the blood, stimulates body rhythms, increases brain activity and prevents osteoporosis.
The walls of a salt room are plastered with the common mineral, and its floors are lined with coarse salt pebbles. Among many other salt devotees, Koreans subscribe to the belief that the mineral catalyzes detoxification and helps clear sinus passageways.
Red clay rooms are constructed from the dark crimson substance, using infrared rays and low temperatures to preserve it. Infrared rays are purported to increase body metabolism and stimulate cell renewal, bringing about weight loss and slowing the aging process.
Wi Spa, located in the heart of L.A.’s Koreatown, boasts all of the above, plus an “ice palace” and a bulgama or “yellow earth room,” which is made out of oak wood and heated to a whopping 231 degrees to deliver an intense thermotherapy effect.
On the Fringe
Some Korean spas offer less typical treatments for more open-minded and adventurous clients. One of Tikkun’s most popular treatments, says Schwartz, is the V-Steam (30 min./$50), inspired by an ancient Korean ritual. During this process, a nude woman sits on an open-seated stool with her genitals exposed to a steaming concoction beneath the seat. In the brew is a boiling pot of mugwort tea blended with wormwood and other herbs. The theory is that the steaming treatment stimulates the production of hormones to maintain uterine health, aids regular menstrual cycles, boosts fertility and helps correct digestive disorders, while soothing the nervous system.
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