The Luxury Spa Edit Experiences the Power of the Banya
The South Kensington Club is a private members’ club for both the body and mind and is laid out over 25,000 sq feet of a beautiful Georgian building, offering a stylish haven for its’ members. Once housing Ronnie Wood’s notoriously decadent Harrington Club, nowadays it’s an altogether more healthy affair, with the club ethos being that a fit body promotes a healthy outlook and an enquiring mind.
The club is like a labyrinth of places to uncover; a skylight gym occupies the top floor and there are studios for other activities such as Yoga, Pilates, Barre, Boxing and Dance classes. The bathhouse has a Hammam, Banya and Saltwater pool. And there are plenty of places to wind down after your workout, with relaxation areas, a tea library, a Mediterranean Club restaurant, a juice bar and my personal favourite, the fabulous Voyager Club Room, where you can find books, maps and photos, designed to inspire travel, as well as experiencing talks from speakers such as adventurer and author Alastair Humphreys.
Leading trainers are on hand to support members in achieving optimum goals, whether it’s to shed a few pounds and tone up like me, or get ‘marathon fit’ like some of the more high-achieving members. I had a personal assessment where we discussed my diet, talked about my goals and tested my movement. I was extremely smug when Josh told me I was hypermobile. Not so smug when I was put through my paces by my personal trainer Fraser. He has worked with many esteemed clients, including movie stars who need to train for a role. He came up with a series of circuit exercises and was incredibly patient when he had to explain to me how to do things several times. I was always of the belief that I was pretty self-motivated, but my aching limbs the next day made me realise that while I may have been devoting the time, I wasn’t utilising it as effectively as I could have been.
Next, it was time for my Banya treatment. The founder of the club, Luca Del Bono, fell in love with this traditional Russian treatment, and found an expert in James Larkin, who would help him recreate his vision in London. My experience started with a hot herbal tea, and 10 minutes in a sauna which allowed my body to start to get used to the heat and for my pores to open. I was then led into the heat of the Banya by my Banchik (therapist). It’s heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and is incredibly steamy as herbal infusions are poured onto the hot stove. As I lay my head on the pillow of leaves, I was stroked, brushed and tapped with a Veniki, which is a softened and heated whip of birch, oak and eucalyptus leaves. The heat was intense and whilst it was a slightly surreal experience, I reminded myself it was one which has amazing health benefits, such as helping circulation and eliminating toxins. Just when I thought I couldn’t bear the heat a moment later I was led across the bathhouse to a shower, where a bucket of gasp-inducing ice-cold water was tipped over my head. As I was trying to compose myself I was led to a freezing plunge pool and told to submerge my head into the water. I couldn’t get out quick enough, but it made the warmth of the water in the final relaxation pool, even more blissful.
To conclude my treatment I was wrapped in a sheet and I arrived at the relaxation library in a state of euphoria. As I lay listening to the gentle music my mind started to wander and it was almost as if my mind was disconnected from my body. I visualised being on a beach, my definite happy place, and my mind started to have moments of the most intense clarity. I arrived home and sunk into my pillow to settle down for probably the deepest sleep I have ever experienced. I went into the treatment not knowing what to expect and slightly sceptical that the treatment could be so powerful, and left feeling utterly convinced in the power of the Banya in invigorating both the body and mind.