Does Black Friday shopping sound like hell? How about skipping the lines, crowds and other insanity and instead taking a yoga class in a baking, 133-degree Himalayan Salt Room? This toasty dream can be all yours through a new partnership between Spa Castle and SunstoneFit on a new Sauna Yoga program that launches November 27. If that sounds like the opposite of fun, let me explain.
One woman's hell is another's oasis.
Hellish: That's how my colleague Tiney Ricciardi -- who likes both Spa Castle and yoga, just not simultaneously -- described the idea when we were invited to try it this week. I, on the other hand, was all about it.
"Fish Out of Water" experiences are my jam and, coming off of my first encounter with a Korean spa in October, one of the only things I'd thought the experience was lacking was a reason to relax. A spa is the first place I'm going after a marathon or excruciating work week -- but, since I do things like "work from Korean spas," those don't come around too often.
I wanted a chance to work up a sweat before I sweat out worked up tension. (Different folks, different strokes.) Spa Castle presented just that opportunity.
SunStoneFit at Spa Castle
SunstoneFit is a big deal in D-FW and Austin. Their classes tend to be a little more focused on higher intensity fitness/sports style practices, and they're big on turning up the heat. The thermostat is set at 98.6 degrees and humidity at 60 percent, which creates a heat index of 124.6. Plus lots and lots of slippery sweating.
The program at Spa Castle is still in its infancy, and its vision differs. It takes place in the spa's Himalayan Salt Room, where the temperature is set at 133 with zero percent humidity. It's like the difference between "Santa Fe summer" and "Houston swamp heat" or "Denver winter" and "Dallas Icepocalypse."
According to instructor Hannah Oates, who led a preview class on Wednesday, classes will be low-impact, low-intensity and meditative. They will last 20 minutes, which means few active poses and an emphasis instead on breath, mind-body connection and letting go.
She started off our session asking if anyone was experiencing tightness in a particular area, and she focused on gentle hip opening poses to fulfill my request. On a scale of beginner to yogi master, I'd call the level absolute beginner. As long as you're properly hydrated and attentive to existing injuries, anyone should be able to enjoy the brief, relaxing classes.
After the Black Friday kickoff, classes will take place at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. a few times a week, and, according to a rep, the schedule will be published on Facebook, once finalized. There is a 12-person maximum, on first-come first-served basis, and cost is included in general Spa Castle admission.
What's a Himalayan Salt Room?
Spa Castle contains a number of diverse rooms in its "Sauna Valley." Each purports various healing, detoxifying or relaxing properties, and the Himalayan Salt Room is no different.
It is "made with blocks of pure Himalayan salt that is a natural ionizer. The salt creates a fresh, clean, bacteria-free environment and also contains compounds that can help relieve allergies and asthma, soften and clear the skin, and reduce signs of aging," according to a press release.
I suspend judgment as to those claims. What I do know is that salt rooms are my favorite type of sauna because of that lack of humidity and a feeling of toasty earthiness. They smell nice. And, the air feels still and warm.
Those are all reasons why I loved doing yoga in Spa Castle's Himalayan Salt Room. For me, surroundings make or break a great time on the mat. For instance, I love the fact that Klyde Warren Park offers free yoga each weekend beneath Dallas' striking skyline and what can feel like an endless sky. But, bright sun and uncontrollable temperatures aren't always conducive to controlled movement or my ability to "let go" of muscular tension. Give me 55 degrees for a long run, but please not while I chaturanga.
Spa Castle's dim, still salt room sets an ideal mood for a meditative, trance-like practice.
Want a closer glimpse at Spa Castle's Sauna Valley? Scroll through this gallery:
Need more details? Read more about each of these rooms.
Tell me more about Spa Castle itself.
Spa Castle -- which bills itself as a traditional Asian and European bathing house -- is similar to, but in some ways vastly different from, my recent Korean spa experience, which I break down to the micro level here.
It contains some of the same basic tenets:
-- Gender-specific locker rooms and wet spas
-- Co-ed communal areas for relaxing, working (with free WiFi), watching a big-screen TV and hanging out socially
-- Required uniforms
-- Locker keys that you wear and that operate as currency until final pay-out
-- A series of diverse sauna rooms
-- Luxury spa services (like massages, facials and scrubs) at additional cost
-- Outdoor swimming areas with child-friendly pools and adult-focused Jacuzzis with a swim-up bar
But, it differs in a few important areas:
-- The overall vibe: Spa Castle's facilities are pristine. They're absolutely gorgeous from the spacious saunas to the high-end design. An imperfect analogy might be that Spa Castle feels like a swanky, trendy Uptown hot spot versus King Spa's charm, more akin to a beloved long-lasting Lakewood haunt. In my mind, both have appeal, though others seem to develop strong preferences for one over the other.
-- More dining options with more diversity: Spa Castle features a Korean restaurant, a sushi bar, a poolside "snack shack" (with burgers and other American food), a frozen yogurt stand, a juice bar, a poolside swim up bar and even a Starbucks.
-- Additional facilities: Spa Castle features a fitness room with treadmills, dumbbells and other work out equipment, and it is connected to a full service, high-end boutique hotel.
-- The hours: Unlike King Spa, which is open 24 hours a day, Spa Castle is open between 6 a.m. and midnight.
Is it affordable?
That depends on individual budget, of course, but Spa Castle's general admission -- $35 for adults on weekdays and $45 on weekends -- includes so many amenities over the course of so many hours, it's absolutely comparable to the cost of a typical date night or weekend treat in D-FW. Keep in mind that food and drinks are not included, and those can add up quickly. But, if you're in search of a mini-staycation, you've found the right place.