I’ve never been afraid to try out new things in the name of health and beauty. Juice cleanses, lip fillers, eyelash extensions… you name it, I’ve tried it! So, when the opportunity to try out cryotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and an infrared sauna at Sydney’s Vrai Health came up, I jumped. It was only once I arrived at the clinic that I realised just what I’d got myself into to (that tends to happen to me a lot — I currently have tickets to go skydiving but keep putting it off!)
I knew the oxygen therapy and infrared sauna were going to be easy peasy — it was the cryotherapy I was nervous about. For those who haven’t heard of it, it involves hanging out in a chamber while you’re blasted with nitrogen mist cooled to -140°c. Yes, that’s a minus! I was going to be spending 3 minutes in there, 45 minutes in the oxygen chamber and 45 minutes in the far infrared sauna. Here’s what happened.
You may be wondering why on earth someone would want to be submerged in sub-zero temps in the first place. Well, the treatment is a favourite among athletes and models, thanks to its many health and performance-boosting benefits. You see, when your body is exposed to freezing temperatures, it increases blood flow to the internal organs. Your red blood cells are flooded with oxygen, nutrients and enzymes. This is said to lead to:
- Decreased muscle soreness and inflammation
- Quicker recovery time after workouts
- Improved muscle strength and joint function
- Increased endorphins for elevated physical and mental wellbeing
- Increased collagen production for healthier skin
- Accelerated metabolism
So, what it was like? I’m not going to lie, it was very, very cold. I was given a robe to change into (you keep your socks and undies on underneath) and stepped into the Cryo Therapy Chamber — which looked like something out of a sci-fi movie! The technician boosted up the platform I was standing on, so that my head was poking out. The first minute was bearable. In fact, as the technician chatted away to me, I barely noticed the cold.
For the second minute, it got so cold that I had to bounce around and couldn’t focus on what the technician was saying. I would describe it as a kind of dry chill that almost stings the skin — without ever being painful. I ended up lasting two minutes in there, which is more than I thought I would (considering I find 20°c cold!) When I hopped out, my body immediately went back down to its normal temperature. I felt quite an endorphin rush — but that might have just been because I was so excited to be in a warm room again!
The hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Next, it was time for the oxygen chamber. This kind of looked like a mix between a time machine and a camping swag — once again, I felt like I was in a sci-fi movie! Inside the pressurised chamber, you inhale an increased amount of oxygen via a mask. There’s a pillow and mattress in there for maximum comfort and you’re allowed to bring in a phone, tablet or book for entertainment. You’re also given a walkie-talkie to communicate with the technician if you ever feel uncomfortable throughout the session. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is thought to assist with the body’s natural healing processes, by improving the flow of oxygen around the body and boosting the performance of white blood cells.
Throughout the session, my ears popped (like when you’re taking off on an airplane) but I didn’t experience any discomfort. In fact, I felt so relaxed that I nearly fell asleep! The 45 minutes flew by and before I knew it, it was time to get out.
The far infrared sauna
This was the part I was most looking forward to – I love relaxing in saunas. However, this was totally unlike any sauna I had been to before. While most are heated with coal or hot rocks, this one was powered with light technology. This penetrates deeper into the body and is thought to cleanse and detoxify the tissues more effectively than traditional saunas.
Far Infra-red (FIR) heat is not ultraviolet radiation but a narrow band of energy within the 5 to 15 micron level. This type of energy travels 40 – 45 mm deep into the body. Far-infrared levels are used primarily for detoxification purposes and can promote physiological adaptations that result in increased endurance, easier acquisition of muscle mass, and a general increased capacity for stress tolerance.
Studies show the composition of chemicals found in the sweat during an infrared sauna is quite different from that produced by a steam bath, traditional steam/hot rock sauna, or exercise. The sweat of people using a far infrared sauna will not only contain water but will also contain cholesterol, fat-soluble toxins, heavy metals (such as mercury, aluminium, and arsenic), nicotine, sulfuric acid, ammonia, and other undesirable elements. Normal sweat produced by other methods, including exercise, is mostly water and sodium chloride (salt). – Via the Vrai Health website.
I find that with most saunas, I get too hot and have to get out after 20 minutes. But despite being more efficient that traditional saunas, the Far Infrared Sauna is about 40°c cooler. This means that your body can cope with the extreme heat for longer. Hanging out in there for 45 minutes with some relaxing tunes playing (they give you an iPad to bring in with you) was absolute bliss.
Immediately after my treatments, I felt very calm and relaxed. A few hours later, I went to a dance class and found that I was way more limber than usual. The knee discomfort I’ve been experiencing lately seems to have disappeared too! As has the pimple that was growing on my chin when I came in — it was pretty much gone by the next morning (presumably thanks to the cryotherapy.) Despite having a million things to get done the next morning (as I was heading overseas), I slept very well that night. I also found that I bounced back from jet-lag a lot more quickly than I normally would.
All in all, I was really impressed with all three treatments. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly which results were from which treatment, but they work best when combined, anyway. I’ll definitely be back for another dose of ice, air and heat!
The lowdown on Vrai Health
Address: Vrai Health has two locations: 1/84 Mary Street, Surry Hills NSW or 15/245 Chalmers Street Redfern NSW
Phone: 1300 241 835