If you have ever read any of my articles, you probably know I am not a skinny woman...and that's ok. It has taken me a long time to learn how to love my body, and love all of it. Over a year and a half ago I read about Korean spas or Jimjilbangs. I decided to try it out and bought a Groupon to attend.....only to have a tree fall on my house the week it expired and planned to go by myself. Priorities switched, and I soon forgot about the spa.
A few months ago a friend brought it up again in passing, she saw someone get a Korean body scrub at one and thought it looked interesting, and I remembered: I was going to do that. So this time, instead of planning on flying solo, I asked my friend Emma if she would join me. We bought our six-hour Groupon and we were off.
When we got there, we were greeted by a sleek and modern reception in the lobby. The man at the counter explained what to do and we were pointed to shoe lockers to check our shoes in, the keys to those lockers corresponded with the same number locker in the female locker room and we were also given prison-like uniforms. We changed into our uniforms in the locker room and looked at the bade pool.
Oh, I forgot the most import part about Korean bathhouses...the gendered parts are all nude.
That's right, if you want to take a dip in the bath part of the bathhouse, you have to be naked.
I stood there, a little awestruck, looking into the actual sea of naked women and got instantly overwhelmed. So we did the poultice rooms first. The poultice rooms are the non-gendered part of the spa and require you to wear your prison uniform.
Each room in the spa was a different temperature and offered a different healing source. Most often, the healing element was a gemstone or natural element.
Even if you do not believe in crystal healing, each room left me feeling invigorated and gave me a clear headspace. My favorite room was the red clay ballroom because it was the full body equivalent of sticking your hand into a bag of dried beans. We did half the rooms and decided it was time to ditch the clothes.
We went back to the locker room and stripped.
You first have to shower to get into the community bade pools, which for me was the most awkward part because it's right there in front of everyone. But, as soon as the water poured onto my body, I instantly forgot about it.
As soon as we entered the pools, my nervousness dissipated. Women of all shapes, ages, and sizes were all coexisting in the shared space, and there was no judgment. I did not feel the judgmental eyes of others on my body and I never felt my eyes judge back either.
All the different areas of the main pool had special jets that targeted tension spots. My favorite was the one that targeted the shoulders because I carry all of my stress there. There were also giant hot tubs with jets and without, as well as steam and infrared saunas. The craziest pool was the ice pool, and boy... was I cold. We had done the ice room in the poultice rooms but this was even worse!
We got out, dried up and got lunch. Most Korean spas have in-house restaurants which are great because you never have to leave. I got bulgogi beef and Emma got dumplings. Everything was so delicious and filled us up. We did the rest of the poultice rooms and used the sheet masks I bought within a particularly hot room. Doing sheet masks are actually encouraged at the spas! We then got bubble tea at the juice bar and enjoyed them on while lounging on plush leather couches.
We looked at the clock and realized we had spent five hours at the spa already! Because there are of limited clocks and no windows, you lose track of time fast. We decided to use the rest of our time back in the pools. just to enjoy them a little bit longer.
When we left after the six hours were up, I felt amazing. My skin was actually glowing, I assume from the combination of heat, extreme cold, steam, and sheet masks and my muscles felt amazing.
While I sat relaxed in the spa, I realized after scanning the room that the idea of a woman hiding her body is kind of weird. This giant room full of naked women wasn't sexualized at all, it was harmonious.
While going to a Korean bathhouse won't make you a body positive queen overnight, you definitely will understand your body better when you're done.