Teaching the art of relaxation to the next generation

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
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A new trend in relaxation borrowed from a cultural phenomenon in Korea is popping up in Koreatown and many other local areas.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Southern California may be famous for beaches, exercise and healthy eating, but it's no secret L.A. metro area families lead fast-paced lives with jam-packed schedules.

Now, a new trend in relaxation borrowed from a cultural phenomenon in Korea is popping up in Koreatown and many other local areas. These are places where the whole family, young and old, can de-stress together.

For busy advertising executive 44-year-old Toni Robinson, it's a central part of her health routine. When she clocks out at work, Spa Palace in L.A.'s Westlake District is where she likes to check in.

"Most people like to go out and drink and go to bars. I like to come here. It helps me relax and heal my asthma," Robinson said.

Unlike American-style spas, this 100,000-square-foot spa is open 24 hours a day. Clients can get a massage, sit in a whirlpool, hang out in nature-themed sauna rooms or get a body scrub.

It's a cultural tradition passed down from Spa Palace's owner Marc Chun's father to him. Their dream is to introduce the Korean art of of family relaxation to as many Americans as they can.

"What a Korean spa is about is a bond between father and son, a mother and daughter and then later expanding it to the whole family," Chun said.

De-stressing begins with blending in. Everyone is given matching loose-fitting T-shirts and shorts.

Robinson's first stop is a 135-degree hot room where floors are covered in tiny ceramic clay balls that hit acupressure points when you lie down on them. Other themed rooms include a stone sanctuary and icy cold spa.

And the largest? A cave-like room made nearly entirely of salt. Besides pebbles of Himalayan salt to lie down on, the floors are also made of blocks of salt. Numerous medical studies show breathing in salt has a way of opening up the airways.

Robinson says the salt and all the elements in each room make her breathe a lot calmer.

But this style of spa is also a place for the whole family to be together in a relaxed settings. Kids have their own play room and can take advantage of the pools.

The "no clothes" protocol inside the separate men's and women's bath areas is something Robinson always has to explain to her friends. Robinson says she tells them once they take off their clothes, no one is looking at them.

There are several, smaller spas offering similar concepts dotting the landscape of Koreatown, but what surprises many newcomers about these facilities? You can stay overnight on a padded mat on huge, heated gym-like floors or on many of the various lounge chairs.

Clients can take advantage of a full-service Korean restaurant. Robinson says besides getting all her meals there, she can work quietly on her laptop and eventually take a nap.

Spa Palace opened in August. It's one of many Korean spas open 24/7. Most spas generally charge between $25 and $35 for access to saunas and pools, but of course, there are additional charges for treatments like massages and food.