A touch of Morocco is set to spice up the urban Melbourne scene, with the launch of modern bathhouse and hammam experience in Collingwood this spring.
Inspired by Eastern European culture, the new bathhouse and wellness space—Sense of Self (SOS)—will be a welcome refuge for urban dwellers needing an escape from the humdrum of city life.
The spa concept, created by Mary Minas and Freya Berwick aims to revive the tired spa scene and offer a refreshing ‘no bullshit’ approach to bathing and relaxation by providing an ‘antidote’ to the competition mentality and instead offer an experience that demonstrates ‘wellbeing isn’t about performance or beauty.’
“The experiences I had in my 20s in communal hammam spaces in urban European centres really opened me up to a positive approach to wellbeing and the healthy impact of intergenerational bathing. Not only were the health effects immediate—from the physical benefits through to the mental health impact of stillness but allowed a newfound body acceptance,” explains Minas.
As part of SOS philosophy, the bathhouse will be open to everyday people offering a unique space that allows them to cultivate a relationship with their bodies and feel connected to a community too.
“Having a connection with other people in real life was a mind-blowing experience for me when I first began going to bathhouses,” explains Minas. “It can be scary and confronting to observe our bodies but if we’re doing it in a space that engenders belonging we’re confronting ourselves collectively, in communion with people makes these spaces so special.”
And while being nude can seem full on, outside feeling calm, connected and community orientated, Minas says bathing also offers deeply therapeutic healing benefits too.
“To be honest, I first gave myself permission to go and do the research that lead to Sense Of Self being created right after my father passed away. I had been a film producer, but I wanted the chance to research & direct a subject matter that was a personal passion of mine. So whilst undertaking what I lovingly called my “bathhouse odyssey” documentary research and exploring public bathing, I gave myself a chance to connect back into myself and heal a bit,” says Minas.
“It was then during this time, I fell in love with the European, Middle Eastern & North African bathing rituals. What I loved was that these were places accessible to people as an everyday or every-week tradition, not just reserved for ‘special occasions’. This is something we hope to bring to Melbourne with Sense of Self.”
In addition, Berwick says in Scandinavia hot and cold plunging is a way of life and something they wish to bring here. “Over there bathing is not an indulgence or trendy, it’s just something you do for yourself, which is really nice.”
So what can we expect at SOS? “We will have salts and other special things in our onsen-style bath but our primary treatments will be in the steam bath (aka hammam), and there will be clay and soap-based rituals that cleanse, scrub and relax the body,” says Minas.
As for the benefits, think all the good vibes and so much more. “Heated bathing has many health benefits from improved cardiovascular and respiratory function and added immune defences to psychological benefits such as release of Dopamine and Beta-Endorphin—which in combination leads to feelings of euphoria—so in essence, it will just make you feel damn good!”
While Sense Of Self is still in the making, according to Minas and Berwick you can expect a certain kind of feel-good aesthetic too.
“We want people to feel heady, delighted, comfortable, present, able to nurture themselves. So SOS will be a mixture of warmth, pleasure, timelessness, hecticness—with both softer sensorial cues and extremes,” says Minas.
“There will be a lot of attention given to the user journey, the language we use, and of course the aesthetics and imagery. Health is not, and should not, be synonymous with how you look. So, we want to make sure that the wellbeing on offer at Sense Of Self is more than beauty and performance practices.”
Amen! A spa that places self-care, self-acceptance, body love and ‘real-ness’ while nurturing and valuing people and community over aesthetics, we’ll get naked for that!
Stay tuned for updates on the Spring launch of Sense of Self here.