I don’t know about you, but I find it very difficult to sit and do nothing. Most of the time I am doing at least two things at once. I’m that constantly fidgeting person who never seems to pause for breath. I know it’s not healthy and I’ve lost count of the amount of times people have suggested meditation. Sit down cross legged and stare into space for more than two minutes, maybe even up to an hour?! Nope. Not for me. I just can’t switch off.
I do, however, love filling my diary up with exciting new things to do. So when my colleague suggested I try a new type of meditation - one that involved a VR headset that promises to “transport you to the other side of the world” - I thought, alright then.
Virtual reality meditation is a new experience on offer at the recently launched Re:Treat spa at the five star Lowry Hotel. The Re:Treat spa has benefited from £750,000 of investment and is the "first of its kind in the UK". It features some of the most technologically advanced equipment you can find.
Among these are what I like to think of as the Walt Disney experience. A “cryotherapy chamber” called an Icepod®. This is essentially a human sized freezer that you step into in your kecks. The temperature goes down to minus 110 degrees (but don't worry, you won't turn into a frozen chicken). Since my own apartment was not far off that temperature at the time of visiting, I skipped this one.
Instead, I had a quick go in the Somadome®. This feels a bit like climbing inside one of those colour changing globe lamps you get from Argos. It uses “colour therapy” and relaxing sounds like binaural beats (which I am already a big fan of for concentration).
The technologists behind Somadome® promise that “powerful magnets positioned in a specific configuration in the base of the dome block harmful frequencies and remove blockages that enable chi flow. The crystal strip along your spine activates the body’s seven main energy [centres] and encourages chakra alignment.”
Hmm. I have to say I was sceptical, but after even just a few minutes in the egg shaped pod, I did come out feeling floaty light in a way that I only thought was possible via pharmaceutical means.
Beyond SomaDome, what about the VR meditation? A sense of calm washes over you as soon as you step into the Re:Treat spa. The space is decorated in shades of terracotta with comfortable furniture in natural fibres. A welcoming spa therapist hands you a picture book from which to choose your VR destination. This induces a little FOMO. Shall I go to the moon or under the sea? Both a bit scary tbh. I leaned towards a peaceful German forest scene or a visit to a deserted Seychelles beach before settling on a trip to see the Northern Lights. I’d done beaches and forests before in real life but the Northern Lights would be a new experience for me.
Once you’ve chosen your destination, the difficult bit is over with. Now, all that’s needed is to head into the comfortable relaxation area as a therapist fits your VR headset and some noise cancelling headphones.
Before fitting, a unique blend of essential oils (different depending on which virtual destination you choose) is added to the VR mask. On goes the mask and you lie down as a serene voice (you can choose from male or female) guides you through a meditation as you gaze around at your chosen scene. I imagine myself as the little orange dangly character you can drag onto a google map to see the street view. It feels like being placed inside a 360 degree moving image, you can’t move around in the space but you can look all around the virtual setting. I looked down and there was deep snow at my feet, in the distance the outlines of trees and all above and around me twinkled the psychedelic colours of the northern lights.
I found the combination of words and visuals really helped me to get “out of my head” and I was able to relax and completely let go for the duration of the session more than I have ever been able to in previous meditations. Emerging 20 minutes later, I felt much more tranquil than I usually do after a day in the office - and I slept like a baby that night.
The virtual reality meditation is £20 and can be experienced on its own or added onto a foot massage for the full zone out experience.
Re:Treat also offers traditional spa treatments, wellness classes and three membership options: RE:TREAT Wellness, RE:TREAT Spa or RE:TREAT Gym for locals. Even if you’re not a member or staying in the hotel, you can book onto a yoga class or book in for a one off treatment or session. There are nail and brow treatments among other classic beauty packages as well as the usual range of massages. The spa has also teamed up with Assure Health, The Complete Health Clinic, and Inspirit to provide guests with a some really game changing health treatments from IV drips, to diagnostic health ultrasound scans, to weight loss coaching and even a special menopause session which can help address those pesky symptoms.
A virtual reality meditation is an affordable treat when your holidays seem a long way off though, and the range of different virtual locations to choose from means you can go back again and again. Why not book yourself in for a meal at the hotel's beautiful River Restaurant for after your session.