I wasn't sure if this was the kind of spa where it's permissible to go nude but I decided to take the chance. I slipped off my oversized robe and laid it on the white tufted bench. If I was going to detox I would shed everything. Isn't that the point? Floating in the churning waters of the Vitality Pool, Dr. Rachel Fortune's words surfaced in my mind. "It's a hoax," she had told me in a conversation about the detox industry. After speaking with internists, nutritionists, and holistic healers, I wasn't convinced my body was poisoned, that my occasional fatigue was the result of heavy metals inflaming my tissue, or that my daily intake of three meals was tiring out my digestive system. But two hours into my detox treatment, I was too tranquilized for skepticism.
The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is the kind of place you go for "me time." High above Columbus Circle, weary urbanites can submit to the Ultimate 24-Hour Detox program or the Digital Disconnect Wellness Escape. The Mandarin has a beat on the modern wellness seeker, the ones giving up gluten, dairy, and alcohol, suspending their social media accounts. Peruse the treatment menu and you won't find terms like luxury or indulgence (which, given the price, you might expect.) You find balance, strength, rejuvenation. It's a healing spa for a wellness generation.
At check-in I placed my phone on a tray which a fastidious receptionist whisked away, along with my shoes, so neither would soil the beige-toned inner sanctum. My day's agenda consisted of a whirlpool bath, a deep steam, and a lymphatic drainage massage—a type of bodywork celebrated in holistic circles for its ability to detoxify, but one with scant scientific support. Six Dirty Lemon Detox Tonics would serve as my sustenance. For weeks I'd heard arguments for and against the merits of detoxing. Now I would step inside.