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We tried six alternative health and wellbeing treatments in Melbourne

The Time Out team gets some TLC with these left-field restorative treatments

We’ve come a long way since getting freaked out by Bikram yoga. That said, there are still some pretty kooky-sounding health and wellbeing treatments out there – but do any of them really work magic on the mind and body? We sent Rose Johnstone, Meg Crawford and Delima Shanti to investigate.

The Break Room
1/6

The Break Room

The patient
Meg Crawford and husband Andy

The concept
Harness your inner hooligan, smash the shit out of stuff with a baseball bat and feel tension drop away.

The experience
I suit up in coveralls, gloves, and a welder’s mask before entering the purpose-built 4x4 metre Break Room. There’s a reinforced window on one side for your mates to watch you while you lose your rag, a brick wall at the rear and a dinged up metal stool in the middle. I’m given a baseball bat and a milk crate full of unwanted glassware and crockery and left to go nuts. The only things I’m not allowed to wreck are myself and the milk crate. AC/DC provides a suitable soundtrack as I smash my way through the next ten minutes.  

The wellbeing factor: me: 1/5; my partner in crime: 5/5
I felt guilty about breaking perfectly good homewares and paying nigh on 100 bucks for the privilege. My partner had no such compunction – he roared in with a battle cry (“Fuck you Port Adelaide!”) and came out sweaty and satisfied.

The Break Room. Collingwood Mastercraft, 29 Budd St, Collingwood 3066. www.thebreakroom.com.au. Various times. $50 for single pass-$450 group of ten.

Reiki
2/6

Reiki

The patient
Rose Johnstone

The concept
Practitioners of Reiki – the Japanese energy healing technique – help to balance and strengthen the body’s energy and address emotional and physical disharmony by laying hands on various points. 

The experience
The lovely Pauline Burr, a certified Reiki healer, begins by placing a soft shade over my eyes and gently rubbing soothing oil onto my forehead. As she places her hands onto my forehead, then chest, then stomach, knees and feet, I notice that some parts are particularly warm; apparently this means that they require greater amounts of energy work. About halfway into the hour, I feel my body declench in a profound way – I didn’t even know I was so tense. 

The wellbeing factor: 4/5
I’m told that the effects of Reiki can be “subtle,” but there was nothing low-key about the stress relief that I felt during the experience. Even if the impact came from simply taking time to lie still and be nurtured by a caring human being, I couldn’t deny that something worked; I just wish it had stuck around for longer afterwards. 

Naturally U Body & Soul 138 Coppin St, Richmond 3121. 03 9429 0290. www.naturallyu.com.au. Mon-Thu 10am-8.30pm; Fri 10am-7pm; Sat, sun 10am-4pm. $100. 

The Holistic Facial
Photograph: Hang Le
3/6

The Holistic Facial

The patient
Delima Shanti

The concept
Christine Clais’ (AKA The French Facialist) approach to skincare is two-fold: topical, “using the right products and techniques for your skin”; and integrative, “taking care of your overall health and wellbeing”. Read more about Clais's holistic and very French approach to skincare in her book French Complexion: The Secrets to Beautiful Skin at Any Age. 

The experience
Clais first assesses my (minimal) daily skincare and make-up regime. I get a B- because I need to use more sunscreen and avoid exfoliating too often. Then off to the facial bed, where an hour’s worth of treatment begins over relaxing piano music. First you'll get a cleanse and exfoliation, then steaming to open the pores before a mask is applied. Clais massages my hands and arms while we wait for the mask to do its thing. Once the mask is washed off, a serum and eye cream is applied all over my squeaky clean face with a gentle massage, followed by a tinted moisturiser (with SPF, naturally) to finish. 

The wellbeing factor: 5/5
Perhaps your face doesn’t need an hour’s worth of gentle massaging, but Clais’ signature treatment is her holistic skincare approach in practice. I left with glowing, dewy skin, feeling relaxed and restored. Clais also insists that I take what I learned during the treatment and apply it to my daily routine so I don't undo all the great treatment I received. 

The French Facialist 46 Commercial Rd, Prahran 3181. www.thefrenchfacialist.com. Treatment starts from $110. Get Christine Clais's everyday skincare tips from her book, French Complexion: The Secrets to Beautiful Skin at Any Age. 

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Floatation tank therapy
Photograph: Melanie Elliott
4/6

Floatation tank therapy

The patient
Rose Johnstone

The concept
Sensory deprivation, coupled with the weightlessness of being in a magnesium- and Epsom salt-filled water tank, helps the ‘floater’ enter a deep meditative state. 

The experience
I step into the tank, close the lid and begin to float. The first thing I notice is the dark: there’s no difference between having my eyes open or closed. For a few minutes, I’m reflecting on the thoughts of the day; soon, I begin to grapple with the lack of distractions from my own thoughts. But then, something changes. I give into pure relaxation. I’m in a womb; I’m floating free in the galaxy; I’m deep, deep in the ocean; I’m consciousness existing outside of body, time or space.

The wellbeing factor: 5/5
I don’t see the future, and I don’t hallucinate like Lisa Simpson, but I do emerge from the tank feeling incredibly reinvigorated. That night, I sleep a deep, refreshing sleep, and I’m much more present and energised the next day. 

Beyond Rest 26 Regent Street, Prahan 3181. 03 9521 4963. beyondrest.com.au. Mon-Thu 8am-9pm; Fri-Sun 8am-11pm. $79. 

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The Hair Ritual
5/6

The Hair Ritual

The patient
Meg Crawford

The concept
Glamorous hair salon Oscar Oscar has teamed up with Shu Uemura (the high-end Japanese beauty brand) to provide a “hair ritual”, which combines elements of a geisha style-tea ritual and a stylised application of hair serums and masks to treat damaged locks.

The experience
We're off to to a good start with a shoulder massage. My hair is then washed twice, which is an exercise in bliss. However, the ritual aspect is overstated – it’s really just a nice cup of Matcha Maiden (high-quality, powdered green tea) while my hair is conditioned. 

The wellbeing factor: 3/5
My hair is glossier and softer than ever before, but the salon’s bangin’ tunes detracted from my overall sense of wellbeing. Go for the satisfaction of leaving with great hair rather than for relaxation. 

Oscar Oscar, 162 Acland St, St Kilda 3182. oscaroscar.com.au. $50. Mon-Wed 10am-6pm; Thu 10am-9pm; Fri 10am-8pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 10am-5pm.

Ho'oponopono meditation
Photograph: Eugene Hyland
6/6

Ho'oponopono meditation

The patient
Meg Crawford

The concept
This is an ancient form of Hawaiian mantra meditation that focuses on forgiveness.

The experience
The meditation is conducted in a soundproof, cosy “meditation pod”. During the next 20 minutes our experienced instructor says a number of phrases and we are asked to conjure up mental images in response (for example, “bring to mind a time when you didn’t take care of yourself physically” and “bring to mind a time when you bad choices”). We are then asked to repeat several phrases out loud: “I am sorry, I forgive you, I love you, thank you”.

The wellbeing factor: 5/5
Who knows what the hell was at play there, but it was cathartic and I left chilled out AF.

Bodhi & Ride 416-418 Bay Street, Port Melbourne, 3207. 03 9681 7688. www.bodhiandride.com.au. Times vary, check timetable. $15 for single class. $45 for unlimited monthly meditation.

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