What Is A Volcanic Sand Bath & Should You Get One?
Ray Bass is the associate movement and wellness editor at mindbodygreen and a NASM-Certified Personal Trainer. She holds a degree in creative writing from the University of Pennsylvania, with honors in nonfiction.
Unless you've had one before, a volcanic sand bath is not what you think. If you guessed by the name that it's a spa treatment, you would be right, but if you think it involves a bathtub or an actual bath, you would be wrong.
Humor me for a moment—take yourself back to your childhood (or maybe your more recent past) and imagine you're on a beach. A friend or family member wants to bury you in the sand, and you begrudgingly or ecstatically agree, and before you know it you're covered in hot, heavy sand. That's kind of what a volcanic sand bath is like.
Usually, the appeal of this beach activity is fleeting—you bury or get buried, and once you've snapped a photo, it's time to unearth. But given that a volcanic sand bath is a treatment, it outlasts 90 seconds (it's 10 to 15 minutes, to be exact). I had the opportunity to get a volcanic sand bath at SoJo Spa Club, and since the experience, I've done some reflecting.
What is a volcanic sand bath?
According to SoJo's site, a volcanic sand bath is a therapeutic treatment and tradition that hails from Japan. As such, the sand they use is flown in from Ibusuki, Japan specifically for this treatment. The sand is, as its name implies, volcanic, and is said to offer a myriad of benefits—it's mineral-rich and alkaline, and it supposedly possesses detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties—properties, of course, that are supposed to make the treatment worth it.
After booking your treatment and arriving at your designated time, you're given a pink robe as well as a choice: You can wear your swimsuit under the robe, or you can be naked underneath. Regardless, you must wear a long thin robe at all times during the bath.
Once fully robed, I moseyed over to what can only be described as an oversized sandbox (and I mean that in the best way). The sand warmed and soothed my feet as I padded across it, heading for my plot. Yes, my plot. There's enough room for multiple people in the sand bath (I would guess 12 to 15), and lines are drawn in the sand to designate where each person will lie. I joked that they were digging my grave and I was lying in it. The employees were a tough crowd.
I lied down in the sand and perched my head on a wooden block while a kind man with a rake began to pull sand over my body, like he was raking leaves into a pile. I immediately noticed the weight of it. On my legs, feet, shoulders, and arms, the sand felt like a much-needed gravity blanket. I felt my muscles loosen and my body uncoil. The pile of sand on my chest, though, felt like a corset buttoned a little too tight. Every time I took a breath, I felt like I was pushing against the sand, and it was heavy. I asked for some to be removed and the gentleman complied.
For the next 12 or so minutes, I reposed under the sand trying to embrace the sensations I was feeling and clear my mind. I spent the first few minutes alternating between being relaxed and anxious—I'm obviously not used to being under the sand, and we had already done a lot of sweating in the spa's saunas. There were times when I could feel my heartbeat in every part of my body, and other times when I slipped into an almost meditative state. The sand was warm, but not too warm, and I appreciated the calm with which the employees ushered new people into the sandbox. It was quiet, still, and sedative.
In an ironic twist, the short duration of the treatment that I had questioned earlier in the day (massages are typically a minimum of 50 minutes—what kind of treatment is 10 minutes long?) ended up being the right amount of time. I now understand why the session is brief. See, I'm not sure my face has ever sweat as much as it did when I was in the volcanic sand bath. I wanted to wipe it off so badly, but, given the circumstances, I couldn't. That was surprisingly the best aspect of the sand bath—you're forced to stay still and just be; no one, aside from several yoga teachers, has ever managed to make me do that. Any tenseness in my body and any newfound thought I had was forced to pass through, like a car flying down the coast. As it turned out, 12 minutes was just enough time to have me go from uneasy to chilled out.
After my time was up, the sand was pulled aside and I was free. It took a second for my body to readjust to not having the weight on top of me (and I definitely needed a glass of water), but those 12 minutes made for a peaceful, stress-free rest of the day. I disrobed, took the most refreshing cool shower I've ever taken, and made my way back to the pool.
And that was it—I had taken a volcanic sand bath, and it was quite the experience. Do I think you should get one? It depends what you're looking for. Since the treatment is short, the price point isn't insanely high, and as I said, I truly did feel serene afterward. I wouldn't recommend this for people who list "being buried alive" as one of their worst fears. As for everyone else, I say: Why not give it a try?
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