The Treatment That Wants To Be Your Gym

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Even though I fancy myself a healthy person, when given the choice, I will gladly take a nap over exercise. This is because I am sane. So, when I heard about a full-body spa treatment that claims a 60-minute session is on par with taking a 10-mile brisk walk, I couldn't run there fast enough. Except, I didn't actually run because of, you know, that whole unnecessary exercise thing.
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The treatment is called Pure Flow, and it's being offered at The Erno Laszlo Institute in Soho. From the waist down, you're strapped to a device that compresses your legs and pulses in sync with your heartbeat. Before my appointment, the Institute sent me a packet describing what my visit would entail, which read like a lazy girl's dream: It stimulates blood and lymphatic flow through counterpulsation technology, energizing you and helping with post-workout recovery. Okay, so it's not a workout in and of itself, but it could help you feel better and boost circulation.
They had told me to wear leggings, a loose top, and wire-free undergarments so that the compressions wouldn't hurt me. I felt like I was ready for a snooze — and then my technician showed me the bed I'd be sprawled across for the next half hour. Suddenly, I was nervous. I'm not a person who enjoys feeling trapped, and here I was about to have my legs strapped down for 30 minutes. My technician told me to relax, and that she'd come check on me throughout my session.
I laid down, and she secured the device around me. She also adhered three heart monitors to my torso to dictate the compression speed and ensure my body wouldn't have a funky reaction. (Since this treatment involves your heart, you're required to sign a waiver ahead of time.) I was free from the waist up, so she told me that I could read a magazine or use my phone. "Truthfully, most people fall asleep," she told me.
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Once she turned on the machine, I felt like sleep wouldn't be in the cards. The compressions were unlike any sensation I had felt before. They kind of reminded me of a time when I was younger, and had somehow squeezed my younger brother's swimmies onto my arms. My legs jerked around so much that I texted my friend: "The lower half of my body looks like I'm having an exorcism." Eventually, tucked under the blanket, I began to feel cozy and safe. Sure enough, in a matter of minutes, I was asleep.
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When the tech woke me up, I felt like I'd just come out of the deepest, most restful sleep of my life. As she unstrapped me, I noticed that my legs and butt felt a little sore, but she assured me that was normal. After helping me upright, she went over the rules for the next 24 hours: Drink plenty of water, and don't drink too much alcohol (the effects would be doubled, since everything's moving so fluidly through your system).
Rules memorized, I gently got up — and realized I felt incredible. It was like I'd just finished a rejuvenating yoga class, except I wasn't sweaty or disgusting. After leaving The Institute, I grabbed a liter-and-a-half bottle of water and walked from Soho to my apartment on the Upper East Side — a nearly five-mile trek that takes about an hour and a half. I felt like I was bionic. When I finally settled into bed for the best night of sleep I'd had in months, I wasn't the least bit tired.
Will I be working Pure Flow into my routine? Probably not, seeing as membership at The Institute isn't exactly cheap, and regular treatments won't replace the strengthening and muscle-toning benefits of a good workout. (Sigh.) But, this was a happy reminder that your body is a pretty incredible mechanism. Sometimes, you need to be strapped to a bizarre machine for a half hour to remember that.


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