Future tech is here, folks, and that means that your health path may very well lead to a CRYOTANK! OK, so the technical term is a cryosauna or a cyrochamber, but what you really need to know is that our m-effin’ “Star Trek,” super sci-fi lives are starting.
I’m a total nerd and the only reason I even know about cryogenic tanks is because I heard self-help guru Tony Robbins getting all glowy about them on a podcast. When I learned that Assertive Wellness, a naturopathy clinic in Durango, had cryotherapy, I was like, “MUST. TRY. FREEZYTHING.” So yeah, I recently shucked off my duds to stand au naturel in subzero temps to tell you about it.
If you’re lucky, and it ain’t her day off, when you walk into Assertive Wellness, you’ll meet Doris. She’s an elegant, silver-haired, secretarial Mae West. Come to think of it, everyone at Assertive Wellness was strikingly personable. My interactions were with Dr. John Partenope, certified naturopath and doctor of medicine, and T.J. Leeder, personal trainer and cryotherapy technician.
When you check in, you’ll sign a three-page release form that yaps on dos, don’ts, and the process – like how you’ll be in the tank for no more than three minutes and your surface skin temperature will drop to 34 degrees via NITROGEN!
You’re led from the lobby to a small changing room. Ladies, you can strip down to nips and nothing else, but dudes, you gotta protect the D and B and keep underpants on (or a sock). The goal here is to have as much uncovered skin as is safe and possible. No, no one is going to see you naked, unless you walk outta the changing room lewdly and rudely without putting on the provided robe, socks, and stretchy shoes.
From there, you go directly from the warmly lit changing room into the cryotherapy room. There’s a soft indigo light that makes it feel like a future-scape. Before you step into the sleek, black cryosauna, your cryo-tech will go over a few rules. They are:
- - - BREATHE! Keep your chin up and take deep breaths.
- - - March in place while lightly clapping your gloved hands together. If you can, turn in a circle, too.
- - - Communicate with your cryo-tech. They will be there the whole three minutes. They have to be to press an I’m-still-here-not-checking-Facebook-safety button every 30-seconds.
Other tips before you get in the machine: Subdermal metal is fine (like copper IUDs, pins in your hip, etc.) but all jewelry should be taken off. Also, don’t come to cryotherapy straight from a shower or having slathered yourself in lotion. Any moisture on your skin can crystalize and become extremely uncomfortable.
You step into the tank, your cryo-tech shuts the door, they hand you gloves, and you pass back your robe. The nitrogen party starts and it gets colder than a cast iron shitter on the shady side of an iceberg. Some folks swear, some try to meditate, I (somewhat uncontrollably) laughed my ass off and talked to T.J. the cry-tech to try and pass the freakin’ time.
The first minute went fast. The second started to last. The third, I was mega doing the stomping, rotisserie-chicken spinning thing trying to Just Get It Over With. Why had I done this to myself?
Cryotherapy tricks your body into thinking it will freeze. Because of this, the fight-or-flight response takes over. Blood goes to your core to protect vital organs. “You step out of the chamber at the end of three minutes and your body is like, ‘Great, I’m not freezing to death,’ and it shoots all that blood back out. Anywhere you have stagnant healing, swollen joints, chronic pain, etc., that new blood stimulates the healing process,” said Dr. Partenope.
To put it simply, supercharged blood floods your system and then, “Even after you leave here, after a day or two, that new blood is circulating and that’s where people get relief. Mentally, physically, emotionally, a lot of people use this for depression, migraines, and headaches because a lot of endorphins get released.”
Cryotherapy has been shown to help athletes and individuals with reducing inflammation, pain relief, reducing anxiety and depression, and other ailments for people who want to avoid or limit their pharmaceutical use. Big hella bonus: Cryotherapy can also burn up to 800 CALORIES in one session and may have anti-aging benefits due to helping to produce collagen.
When I got out of the machine, my elbows were tingling. I asked Dr. Partenope about it, and he asked if I typed a lot. That was a big ol’ yep. Apparently, my elbows are an inflammation spot and the blood was rushing to them.
After I was clothed, T.J., the doc, and I went to the personal training room. I stood on what I will scientifically name the Shaky Machine for a few minutes. This further helped circulate my blood for maximum healing impact.
By the time I got to my car, I was EUPHORIC. I had the energy of six espresso shots with none of the shaky-ew side effects.
I’m not an effing doctor. I’m not saying cryotherapy is for everyone or a cure-all. I’m just a gal who would absolutely do it again for the blissed-out endorphin heaven it put me in all day long.