Get us in your inbox

Photograph: Shutterstock

I went to an ASMR spa in NYC and got tingles for the first time

Whisper Wave is a new space that offers a caring touch.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

One of my core memories from elementary school was riding home on the bus, eagerly awaiting my turn to sit with Tiffany, our fifth-grade neighbor who was good with kids. Tiffany would pretend like she was holding office hours to perform surgical procedures in her seat, using her hands to playfully take out vital organs and stitch us back up. My favorite was when she pretended to saw our heads off. She’d drag the side of her hand back and forth across our necks and make silly noises to make it more realistic in our second-grade brains. We giggled with delight and relished the attention she showered us with.

I always wondered why I held onto this memory growing up, but now that I’m learning about the importance of having regular personal attention and a caring touch, I see that it was an experience that was both fun and healing for me. Growing up, my family wasn’t very affectionate—not much hugging or up-close playtime—and as I got older, especially when I was single and living in NYC on my own, I found myself longing for a nurturing touch and to be cared for.

It was during the pandemic, when seeing friends was nearly impossible, that I started watching ASMR videos on Youtube. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response—a reaction to certain audio-visual triggers (like tapping, whispering, and hypnotic hand movements) that causes a tingling sensation on the scalp and down the neck and upper spine. Ultimately, whether you get the tingles or not, it’s a way to calm down, relax and reduce your heart rate.

Like many, I had a preconceived notion that ASMR was fetish content of chewing and whispering. But when my curiosity got the better of me, I came to find so much comfort in the personal attention these ASMR artists portrayed, even though I’ve never gotten the “tingles.” That being said, I can hardly fall asleep without playing an ASMR video these days.

This is why when I saw an Instagram Reel for Whisper Wave, an ASMR spa in New York City, I knew I had to try it out.

Whisper Wave, located at 41 Union Square West with a new second location at the William Vale Hotel, appears like any other spa room—but it’s a different game altogether.

What is an ASMR spa?

Imagine a room where you’d get a massage. At Whisper Wave, there’s a single table made up with silk sheets surrounded by ASMR tools and atmospheric lights and music. Instead of a massage, though, it is all about providing a relaxing sensory experience through gentle, personal attention, delightful scents and soft sounds.

It is a completely non-sexual experience and does not include any massage or spa treatments. You’ll be fully clothed during the experience.

How does the ASMR spa work? 

During the session, the practitioner provides a range of services such as hair brushing, head-scratching, back sweeping, and gentle words of affirmation for 60 minutes. These are meant to provide a sense of personal attention and care.

When I arrived, the founder of Whisper Wave, 39-year-old Rebecca Benvie, was my practitioner. She welcomed me in whispers to the space and did a quick consultation about any triggers I might like and any sensitivities I have to smell or touch that might make me squeamish. We set an intention once I was on the table to relax.

“Ultimately, it’s like nervous system therapy,” Benvie told me afterward. “We’re trying to basically hit every one of our senses with the space.” 

Whisper Wave ASMR spa hair combing
Photograph: courtesy of Whisper Wave

Benvie has over 25 to 30 tools she picks from, including soft brushes, finger extensions, a bubble wand and a rain drum, to conduct the ASMR. She uses the consultation and pays attention to her client’s body language to choose which tools to use. “I think of light tapping as being quite stimulating,” she says. “The effect of circling vigorously and then stopping—a gentle activation and pause—can have a relaxing effect on the nervous system.”

Having rushed to get to my appointment on time, I found myself pent up with anxiety at the start but Benvie hit a gong and released essential oils in the air, helping me to get into a more relaxed mindset. As she tapped away on my shoulders and moved a wooden tool across my hair, I felt myself melting into the table.

Over the hour session, I was softly traced on, tapped, raked and “written” on with words of affirmation that were also whispered. For some, this would drive them crazy, for me, it was calming and uplifting, albeit a new experience. It was my ASMR videos come to life, except this time, I got tingles. It was a soft brush on my ears that did the trick.

“It’s ultimately meant to induce the feelings we’d get from a caretaker or a big sister combing each other’s hair,” Benvie explains. “Whether we have personal experiences or something we inherently relate to, it’s a critical part of our development. We create an environment that activates our senses and brings us home to our bodies in a profound way while being playful and fun.”

Whisper Wave ASMR spa hair combing
Photograph: courtesy of Whisper Wave

What are the benefits of going to an ASMR spa?

A lot of us are starved for touch. Not the sexual kind, but the platonic kind. Physical contact is often limited or nonexistent for many people and that can have a bad effect on our health, according to

“Touch starvation increases stress, depression and anxiety, triggering a cascade of negative physiological effects,” the article says. “The body releases the hormone cortisol as a response to stress, activating the body’s ‘flight-or-fight’ response. This can increase heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and muscle tension, and can suppress the digestive system and immune system—increasing the risk of infection.”

Anecdotally, I’ve gone through several times in my life where I hadn’t hugged or touched anyone over long periods and it started to gnaw at my mental health. Benvie says she went through a similar period about seven years ago when she was traveling a lot for work that was “deeply isolating.” She said she found herself going for a massage simply because she wanted to be touched. “I understood the value of touch but when seeking it out, there were not a lot of ways to get that touch for me.”

I understood the value of touch but when seeking it out, there were not a lot of ways to get that touch for me.

There are actual benefits to ASMR and touch. It helps our brains release oxytocin, a neuropeptide involved in increasing sensations of trust, emotional bonding and social connection while decreasing fear and anxiety responses in the brain, according to the article. Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone.”

There’s a reason why there are professional huggers out there. An ASMR spa aims to provide something similar.

“Ultimately, it brings deep healing to the nervous system,” she adds. “Whether you’re into ASMR is beside the point. Touch is universal.”

For me, it was a moment of true calm. I felt cared for, which if I am honest, doesn’t happen often. I didn’t know how I was going to go back out in the city after getting into such a peaceful headspace. Instead of rushing home, I felt like walking and just enjoying the sights.

Who conducts the ASMR?

Benvie, the founder, is an entrepreneur with experience in somatic therapy, ASMR and energy healing. She tells me she’s been through a lengthy and successful journey healing her PTSD and learning from somatic healers. With an energy healing certification, she’s been searching for a way to offer some of the healing tools she’s learned in a format that felt right for her.

Last year, she attended a workshop that showed participants the benefits of non-sexual touch through the use of different things like flowers and other tools. “I went home that night feeling so good, and I woke up in the morning giggling,” she says. “I felt so alive and joyful.”

The more she learned about the importance of touch, the more she learned that many people aren’t experiencing enough of it. “Most of us aren’t being cared for enough,” Benvie says. “I think there’s a relearning that needs to be done on how to be touched but on touch as well. Any caring touch is often directly linked to sex because there have been so few times we experience touch [as adults]. There’s an association that a nurturing touch is followed up with expectations.

“I am passionate about providing a service that allows people to unlearn and relearn that conditioning,” she explains. “Even if I only see someone once, in that moment, I’m giving them a way to experience touch like they haven’t before.”

I think there’s a relearning that needs to be done on how to be touched but on touch as well.

You can read more about the benefits from an article Benvie wrote for

Whisper Wave ASMR spa hair combing
Photograph: courtesy of Whisper Wave

What else should I know about the ASMR spa?

An ASMR spa is not for you if you want pressure/massage or some sort of other service outside of light touch and attention.

You’ll likely see more of these types of spaces open up.

“This is really missing from the market right now. There’s no quality touch being offered,” Benvie says, adding that there are a few ASMR spas in Toronto, L.A. and Glasgow. “But something is happening right now.” 

You can book your 60-minute ASMR spa appointment at Whisper Wave for $162.

Popular on Time Out

    You may also like
    You may also like