Hopping inside a chilled chamber filled with -130°C dry nitrogen gas, wearing only gloves, diving boots, disposable knickers, and nipple stickers, might not sound like a great way to relax, but then again, our city is full of surprises. I had no idea what to expect when I accepted an invitation to try out Hong Kong’s first and only cryotherapy centre, Polaris Wellness, tucked away on the 10th floor of Lee Theatre Plaza in Causeway Bay.
The idea of standing naked in sub-zero temperatures wasn’t exactly appealing, even when faced with the sweltering Hong Kong heat, but I figured if celebrities like Daniel Craig, Demi Moore, and Jennifer Aniston can handle it, then so can I.
A growing trend in the United States and Europe over the last few years, cryotherapy claims to have a number of benefits for beauty, overall wellness, and athletic performance. These include increased collagen production, boosted metabolism, strengthened immune system, improved blood circulation, reduced inflammation, regulated sleep patterns, and faster muscle recovery, but perhaps the most enticing fact – it can help you burn 800 extra calories in just 3 minutes. Beats the gym any day!
It comes as no surprise then that cryotherapy has become a popular treatment among professional athletes and Hollywood stars around the world, and since opening its doors in Hong Kong, Polaris has welcomed runners, swimmers, rugby players, and crossfitters into its sleek, spaceship-like, 2,000 square foot facility.
How it Works
During a whole body cryotherapy session, a chamber (or ‘cryosauna’) is filled in a slow controlled pattern with dry nitrogen gas to cover the whole body (excluding the head) for three whole minutes to reach a temperature between -90°C to -140°C. That’s right, below freezing temperature.
The cold temperatures trigger the body’s natural fight or flight response, stimulating blood circulation and increasing oxygen and nutrient supply to areas of the body that need it, along with the release of endorphins (ooh yeah) to relieve stress and instantly increase energy levels. Ideally, you emerge from the chamber feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.
How it Feels
Gold nipple stickers at the ready, I boldly stepped into the cryosauna, which resembled some kind of spacecraft, and removed my bath robe to let the cold blast work its magic.
As the nitrogen fog overflowed from the chamber, I slowly felt the cooling air begin to drop, but after one minute or so, started to wonder what all the fuss was about. I felt blissfully refreshed as the air cooled my entire body, which only minutes before, had been subjected to the blazing sun on the streets below.
The seconds seemed to fly by as I lapped up the coolness – that was until about two minutes into the session, when the temperature plummeted to serious sub-zero figures, leaving me shivering furiously with chattering teeth and goosebumps all over. Every hair on my body seemed to stand on end and a tingling sensation swept over me.
“How long left?”, I asked, trying to ‘play it cool’ while feeling like a prickly fish finger poking out of the box. I have to say, the countdown really helped, as my Polaris therapist cheered me on to the finish line, encouraging me to rotate slowly in the chamber to distribute the coolness and stop me freezing over. Then before I knew it, it was over.
Swiftly throwing on my bath robe and stepping out of the chamber, I felt hugely relieved that I made it to the end of the treatment – with only a few curse words to my name. As my skin began to warm up again, I felt surprising relaxed, and at the same time energised, as if I’d just come out of an hour-long full body massage inside a giant freezer.
A couple of hours after my treatment and I was sound asleep in my warm and cosy bed. With no particular muscle pains to deal with, I can’t vouch for cryotherapy being an effective solution for sports injuries, but I certainly felt a lot more ‘chilled’ after stepping out of the chamber. Perhaps, like many treatments, you need regular sessions to experience a real effect, be it muscle recovery, improved sleep, or weight loss.
Either way, it clearly works for many, as Polaris claims to have sold over 2,000 treatments in the first three weeks of opening. So if you’re looking to chill out at the coolest place in town, it might be worth donning the nipple stickers.
A single three-minute whole body cryotherapy session costs $900, or $550 with membership, which ranges from $5,544 to $15,903 per month. Polaris also offers localised cryotherapy treatments and facials, click here to find out more.