Back to the Well

Above: Inner Light Owner Kelly Ingraham

The holidays are a time when I let myself overindulge in every way. After all the fun, though, I’m happy for the New Year and a healthy reboot. This year I didn’t have to look far for help, as there’s a new crop of wellness boutiques in Darien, each with services that complement an overall wellness routine. While nothing is a magic bullet, these therapies make you feel great and are sure to inspire a quest for better health.


Reported Benefits: Relaxation; rejuvenation; cleansing; opening of respiratory airways; detoxification

I couldn’t wait to go to Salt Cave because I had heard it was a great place to relax. Owner Arianne O’Donnell Schuck met me at reception, handed me some cozy socks and explained her obsession with Himalayan salt. “Europeans have been using this mineral for decades to treat patients with everything from asthma and respiratory illnesses to skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema,” she explained. The salt has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is made up of 84 essential minerals and negative ions, which are believed to offset the unhealthy side effects of positive ions emitted from electronics and cell phones. O’Donnell Schuck’s 450-square-foot cave is a dimly lit room that consists of 14,000 pounds of Himalayan salt embedded in the walls and 4,500 pounds of crushed salt on the floor. A generator pumps in salt-filled air to mimic natural salt cave conditions. The room, maintained at 65 degrees, is an inviting space. I settled into one of six lounge chairs, covered myself with a soft blanket and listened to Zen music. The experience was relaxing, not only because I felt like I was inside a giant pink geode, but because I knew I was cleansing and opening my airways—a good thing for me as I’m prone to sinus infections. If you don’t love sitting still, Salt Cave also offers yoga classes and core workouts. Or, you can rent the room for a private “happy hour.” Cost: $45 for a 45-minute seession.


Reported Benefits: Detoxification; relaxation; pain relief; improved circulation; more energy

When I entered Inner Light, I felt as if I had walked into a beautiful spa. Founder and owner Kelly Ingraham opened this wellness boutique in July, complete with three personal infrared saunas. “Our saunas are heated to between 130 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit by infrared light, which is created naturally by the sun and penetrates your body at a deep cellular level,” said Ingraham. She explained that many clients use light therapy as part of a wellness routine to heal and relieve pain from injuries, arthritis, Lyme disease and chronic fatigue. I climbed into my sauna after changing into a robe and was thrilled to see an iPad loaded with Hulu, Headspace, Netflix and Pandora. My Express session (25 minutes) was a unique, indulgent experience during which I took a quiet moment to recharge. When I emerged from the sauna into a private booth, I drank water, then entered the relaxation area, where a cold eucalyptus-soaked towel and herbal iced tea were set out for me. I left totally refreshed and wanting more heat. (Fortunately, standard sessions are 55 minutes.) “Our mission is to be a space where people can come heal and take time for themselves,” says Ingraham. Cost: $50 for standard session.


Reported Benefits: Relaxation; elongates and relieves stiff muscles; improves athletic performance; decreases healing time from injuries

The main thing on my mind as I entered the Lymber studio was that I wanted a massage. The soothing, neutral black-and-white palette offsets a driftwood-like wall where “Relax, Perform, Recover” is written in huge letters. Friendly co-managers Cara Perillo and Christine Cody run this clean, modern wellness center with a focus on customized stretching to improve flexibility and range of motion. Lying on one of four stretching tables, each separated by a frosty glass divider, Perillo took me through a series of progressive dynamic stretches for my lower body that felt like a cross between a massage and an active stretch. All Lymber therapists have a background in body work and complete a 100-hour training course on the company-specific method of progressive dynamic stretching. The customized movements for my legs, lower back and hips pushed me in ways I wouldn’t have challenged myself. Perillo explained that Lymber stretches can help you exceed your normal stretching limits by resetting your range of motion and retraining muscle memory. “I love helping my clients get back to a full range of motion and a pain-free life,” says Perillo. Next time, I’ll go back for upper body stretches, which are done while sitting in a chair with help from a therapist. Lymber offers 30- or 60-minute sessions, as well as packages and private party options for up to 30 people. Cost: $55 for 30-minute session.


Reported Benefits: Re-oxygenates blood and improves circulation; relieves sore muscles and lessens chronic pain; reduces inflammation; increases metabolism and energy; enhances sleep

Performance Physical Therapy & Wellness (PPT) was founded 15 years ago as a sports medicine and PT provider. The Darien location opened in 2015. Services now include Pilates, personal training, massage, nutrition counseling and—most recently—cryotherapy through the company CryoPoint. Whole-body cryotherapy—the process of exposing your body to extremely cold temperatures in a chamber where liquid nitrogen is converted into gas—has been around since the late 1970s, when a Japanese physician created the technique to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis. “This sudden cooling causes a full-body systemic response called fight or flight that constricts blood vessels in the hands and feet and sends blood back to vital organs,” said Todd Wilkowski, founder and CEO of PPT. “After a session, your body heats back up and the oxygenated blood is flushed back to your extremities and joints, increasing circulation and reducing inflammation,” he says. Each session lasts between two and three minutes, which doesn’t sound long, until you realize you’re in a cylinder that is cooled to between 190 and 270F degrees below zero. Before my session, I changed into a towel wrap, put on thick socks, slippers and mittens and stepped into the tank. I was raised up on an electronic platform so my head was above the chamber, and the freezing began. My legs took the brunt of the cold, feeling numb almost immediately, and by the end I was shivering, but I wasn’t too uncomfortable. I rotated my body 45 degrees every 30 seconds or so, making sure the cold was evenly distributed. For the next few hours I felt an energy burst, though I needed a cup of hot tea to stave off the chill. Depending on personal needs, the PPT pros recommend building up to two cryotherapy sessions a week as part of an integrated wellness routine. Cost: $75 per session.



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