Flotation Therapy, Sound Baths, Escape Rooms and Forest Bathing: Hollywood's Newest Getaways
Charlize Theron, Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal and Keri Russell are just a few of the A-listers who are partaking in these new starry antidotes to anxiety.
Whereas once on-call private masseurs did the trick, with today's 24/7 connected culture and top TV and media executive shake-ups, who could blame Hollywood for seeking out more novel escapes? "Tuning out the whole world," says Orange Is the New Black actress Jessica Pimentel, can be a blissful side effect of the following new therapies.
Back in vogue, flotation therapy — which involves floating on one's back in an enclosed pod or pool filled with buoyant saltwater — spiked in popularity in the early '80s before unfounded AIDS fears took hold; now new centers are cropping up on both coasts. Spurred by Ultimate Fighting Championship commentator Joe Rogan, who advocates on his podcast the mind-clearing benefits of floating, Pimentel has been heading to Brooklyn's Lift Floats (Keri Russell is also a fan) for 60 minutes of isolated "me" time ($99). Relaxation stems from being submerged in water, coupled with sensory deprivation, with nothing to distract you save for the ceiling of the pod, says co-owner David Leventhal. "The environment makes it easier to meditate." Adds Pimentel: "It's like resting on a cloud, [with] a good hour to yourself where you can indulge in a weightless, beautiful environment." According to a recent study from Karlstad University in Sweden, "restricted environmental stimulation technique (REST) in a flotation tank can generate a multitude of beneficial effects like pain reduction and stress reduction."
In fact, Jim Hefner, CEO of Just Float in Pasadena ($60 for 60 minutes), says his facility particularly appeals to creative types because "by removing outside stimulation, it frees up resources in the brain to solve problems like writer's block."
Flotation Tank: All sensory input gets shut out while floating in saltwater at Just Float.
Originally founded in Tibet or Nepal, this trendy new healing modality — featuring the playing of metal bowls to create vibrations that induce relaxation — has been taking luxury hotel spas by storm. At Faena Hotel Miami Beach (frequented by FKA Twigs, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen), a 10-minute sound-bowl segment is incorporated into all bodywork treatments ($185 for 60 minutes).Vibrations from the bowls (which sound like otherworldly humming) tap "immediately into the theta waves, which are part of your sleep pattern, in the brain," says wellness director Vivianne Garcia-Tunon. "People who don't sleep enough at night don't get those theta waves." Nina Dobrev had a massage that started and ended with sound bowls at The Mulia in Bali, which she called "rest and relaxation at its finest."
Meditation centers around Los Angeles offer group sessions: Unplug in Brentwood features a Saturday night 75-minute sound-bath special session for $20. Charlize Theron and Robert Downey Jr. have made the pilgrimage to the Integratron, near Joshua Tree, Calif., which claims to be an acoustically perfect space. With sound-bath sessions starting at $25 for 60 minutes (25 minutes of live playing followed by recorded music for the rest of the session), the desert setting is a popular stop for Palm Springs regulars.
Sound Bath: A sound bowl at the Faena for surround sound-level relaxation.
In Hollywood, the mingling of off-duty fun with networking has migrated from after-work drinks to group spin classes to, now, staff outings at escape rooms. The venues — where about 10 people voluntarily lock themselves in rooms as small as 20 feet by 40 feet and have 60 minutes to solve puzzles and logic games to find an exit — have started sprouting up around L.A. and attracting stars to boot. (If you want out, there's an emergency exit button, an unlocked door or a staff member present to end the session early.) Downtown's Escape Room LA, which has been around for 12 years but lately has seen a surge in popularity, has hosted teams from DreamWorks, CAA and Sony Pictures. "Perhaps it's because of the entertainment connection in L.A., but people here like things that allow them to escape from their regular lives," says John Hennessy, founder of Escape Room LA, where the toughest room has a completion rate of only 9 percent. (Tickets cost $30-$35 per person.) "Team-building is such a cheesy word," says Edd Adamko, executive producer of ABC7, "but you can bond with work friends, and you'll see them in a different way." Opened in DTLA in June, EscapeIQ ($32 per person) is where Dax Shepard recently celebrated his birthday with wife Kristen Bell and friends; it has a new room debuting later this summer.
Don't think hot-tubbing among redwoods: With roots in Japan (where it's called shinrin-yoku), forest bathing includes immersion exercises paired with a nature walk. At L'Auberge de Sedona in Sedona, Ariz., where Jake Gyllenhaal recently stayed, forest bathing ($150 for one hour for up to four people) involves a leisurely stroll in the woods plus "a series of invitations like, 'I invite you to close your eyes now and listen to the sound of the creek,' " or communion with a "celebration tree," says Catherine Powers, the spa director. Tree-bonding might sound hokey, but it sure beats car honking on the 405. Says Powers: "It can be magical for people from urban environments."
Forest Bath: Communing with nature, not actually bathing, is the focus at L’Auberge de Sedona.
This story first appeared in the June 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.