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Media releases for Shrink Wrap call it “innovative infrared heat therapy.” You can also call it “lying naked and alone in a small hot tube.” I’m not really a sauna gal usually, but Shrink Wrap founders Carly Chadwick and Jenny Beth Meischl invited both myself and a guest to try out a solopod sesh. I mentioned it to my partner, who is a bit of a heat freak. In the past, he’s only sat in saunas at pools and community centres (which are, more often that not, inexplicably littered with other people’s Band-Aids) so this was a real step up.
That’s how I found myself sweating my ass off in a personal sauna pod this morning. The sessions are advertised as promoting “detoxification, weight loss and anti-aging solutions, improved muscle recovery and stress relief.” Apparently, the internal radiant heat produced by the saunas stimulate a natural sweat that’s good for you in all the ways listed above. It’s also supposed to “aid in muscle recovery, relieve chronic pain, boost blood circulation and oxygen flow, improve the body’s natural immune system, lower blood pressure, and stimulate collagen and elastin production.”
Big claims for a little pod. Prior to my visit, I was more focused on not having a panic attack. Again, I don’t love the heat. And photo research beforehand led me to expect the sauna to be a bit like an MRI machine (another thing I haven’t experienced, but am pretty sure I don’t want to).
It’s not like an MRI machine. You don’t slide in to the pod—you lie down, then pull the cover up to your shoulders, a bit like a half-cylindrical blanket. You’re also 100% alone in the room, so if you get uncomfortable during your session, it’s easy to pull the cover down, stick your arms out, or get out completely. The cushion and pillow are covered in a soft (removable, washable) fabric, and under that is a waterproof plastic cover. Safe for COVID times, and pretty necessary anytime—if you’re getting up close and personal with a sweat pod, you’re gonna want it to be clean.
Ten minutes in, I hadn’t broken a sweat. I was comfortably listening to my true crime podcast and reminding myself that there are much worse predicaments to be in than lying in a private luxury sauna (like, for example, being murdered). The pod wasn’t as claustrophobia-inducing as I had expected, either—it only comes up to the top of your shoulders, and the Yaletown space’s loft ceilings are comforting to stare at when you start feeling a little stuck. From the shoulders down, though, I did feel a bit like a baked potato.
Fifteen minutes in, I still wasn’t sweating—or so I thought. I made the mistake of touching my hand to my stomach and found I had cultivated my own belly button pool. Gross. The more I moved around, the more sweat I found. My advice for new solopodders: lie still. It also struck me that the pods are a one size fits most-ish situation. My partner later told me that he had to come completely out of the pod to flip on to his stomach. I asked Jenny and Carly about it, and they said that they were looking into getting larger pods in order to make the experience more accessible.
It’s recommended that you stay in the pod for 30 to 45 minutes, and I decided that 30 was enough for me. I was careful to take my time sitting up, wiping off (ew) and putting my clothes back on—Carly and Jenny warned me that I might be feeling a little lightheaded after my session.
My partner stayed the full 45 minutes (classic) and came out beet red and positively drenched in sweat (not a great first date idea, gentlemen). He said he started to panic a little around halfway through his session—he could actually feel his heart rate increasing—but calmed himself down with a few deep breaths. All in all, he felt very relaxed and invigorated, and said that the time flew by.
It’s similar to the post-massage feeling, but in pandemic times, it’s nice that the relaxation is via light and not via person. Chatting with Carly and Jenny later, I learned that the two friends had initially bonded over a love of health and wellness, and had traveled around the world together trying different kinds of wellness studios (they called it “market research”). Heat therapy was their favourite, and they preferred sauna pods to heated blankets. Since the studio opened last week, they’ve had a variety of clientele, which they attribute to Vancouverites being fitness-focused (leggings are our official municipal pant, after all) and probably missing whatever sunny spot they usually vacay in.
The founders suggest booking 3 sessions a week. The sessions are $59 each, which is honestly less than I expected given the L.A.-luxury vibes of the studio. For folks who are looking for some relaxing post-gym therapy or a Hawaii-like nap (no UV rays included), Shrink Wrap is certainly worth a try. Of course, I can’t confirm the weight loss, chronic pain and immune system claims. But I can see the mental health benefits that scheduling time to relax and reconnect with your body can have. It’s definitely a lot better than the public pool sauna (which is closed due to COVID, anyway).
Shrink Wrap is located at 1028 Mainland Street in Yaletown.