Getting back to nature in the city
SARAH ROBERTS regains a spring in her step after indulging in the heat and ice of a traditional Banïya treatment and Venik massage - complete with birch twigs - at K Spa in the K West Hotel in London
Images: Courtesy K Spa in the K West Hotel
I was feeling a little lackluster when I arrived at K Spa in the K West hotel, tucked down a West London side road, just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Shepherd’s Bush and Westfield shopping centre.
A combination of the short days and the arrival of winter temperatures had left my mood in need of a lift and my skin crying out for a thorough exfoliation. So it’s fair to say that I didn’t take too much persuading to try the energising effects of a traditional Banïya treatment and Venik massage, although I realise that being thwacked (albeit gently) by birch twigs and having snow rubbed into your skin is not everyone’s idea of a treat.
My Ukrainian therapist asked me what I’d like to get from my two-hour treatment, explaining the various options and urging me gently to sample the traditional Banïya experience. She was keen to showcase the treatment that recreates the alternate exposure to heat and ice of the Russian (or Ukrainian) bathhouse, and is designed to stimulate your circulation and boost your immune system.
I acquiesced and also opted for a body scrub, followed by the Banïya, then a full body massage, finishing off with a facial. The products are all ‘Russie Blanche’ an exclusive Paris-based brand created by former Miss USSR, Julia Lemigova, so I was happy to be sampling a range fit for a beauty queen.
The Salt & Caviar Body Polish contains eucalyptus and pine oils which have antiseptic, fortifying properties – and they smell lovely, shut your eyes and you’re immediately transported off to the forest – while the Siberian golden root ingredient is said to improve your immune system, and the sugar grains effectively slough away any dead skin cells.
After showering off the scrub, I donned my bikini and began the first part of my Banïya treatment and Venik massage which takes place in the sauna: the birch twigs (Venik) are soaked in piping hot water and essential oils; liquid droplets are sprinkled over your body; then your skin is alternately brushed and slapped all over with the bunches of birch twig.
The next part made me feel a little bit self-conscious (and drew a few curious glances from fellow spa users) as I walked from the sauna to the Snow Paradise covered in bits of leaf and leaving a trail of greenery – although Lyudmila told me I looked like a woodland goddess, I was thinking to myself “more like an Ent from The Lord of the Rings!”
Once inside the snow-filled cabin (London’s only Snow Paradise), she told me to close my eyes and take a deep breath before rubbing fresh snow into my limbs and on my chest. I could have opted out after one round but I gamely agreed to a second, I was determined to get the maximum health benefits!
A further shower, then I switched into relaxation mode for a deep pressure massage, finishing with a facial where I hovered in that delicious state of almost surrendering to sleep, but not wanting to miss out on a moment of the pampering experience.
For the ‘Siberian Petals’ facial my therapist used a gentle exfoliating cream, hydrating mask, revitalising serum and cream, all from the Russie Blanche range, containing the magical Siberian Ginseng and Golden Root ingredients.
After a lovely cup of K Spa signature tea, I got dressed and not only was my skin super soft and gleaming, I swear that my face had fewer wrinkles. It remains to be seen how long-lasting those effects are over the winter months, but I certainly stepped out into the fading afternoon light and urban landscape, with a spring in my step and an inner glow.