I am not one for spa’s and massages but when I heard about Banya No.1 Russian traditional bathhouse who gives guests a treatment like no other of slapping you with leaves I just had to go along and check out their signature treatment parenie.
I attended on a complimentary experience along with some other community members of Love Pop Ups London in exchange for a blog.
Banya No.1 is the first of it’s kind to open up within the UK back in 2013 and brings to London Russia’s oldest and most popular wellness traditional treatments to the capital.
Banya No.1 though is not your typical spa experience, it features authentic Russian steam sauna, plunge pool, hot stone and treatment rooms and an R & R area with traditional food & drinks.
They offer a selection of wellness and spa treatments, with ingredients strictly natural and organic and prepared on the premises from organic treatments such as Honey & Salt Scrub, Coffee Scrub, Body Wash, Aloe Vera Body Mask, Mud Wraps and Russian Healing Massage. Their key signature treatment is the parenie.
Experiencing Banya No.1
Banya No.1 is located in the basement of an apartment building. Stepping down to the basement of where Banya No.1 resides I was immediately hit by the lovely smell of fresh eucalyptus and welcomed by a friendly receptionist who then went onto tell us about the facilities within Banya No.1.
Ana, Me (Joanne), Ashley and Geeta
I learned along with the other community members of Love Pop Ups London who joined me that day within Banya No.1 you can enjoy a:
Steam Room which is unlike conventional saunas, a Russian Banya generates superheated steam as water is splashed onto a tonne of cast iron heated to 700°C inside an authentic brick furnace.
Plunge Pool which is a chilling 7-10°C which counteracts the heat of the steam room.
Bucket Showers which are wall mounted and plumbed-in oak buckets full of fresh cold water.
Massage Room where you can enjoy a variety of treatments from Russian, Deep Tissue, Remedial or Reflexology.
Rest & Relaxation area to sit back, relax and enjoy a cup or two of herbal teas and food during your time at Banya No.1.
We was then given an explanatory of the parenie treatment which we were going to be experiencing.
Firstly we were given a hat, which made me think immediately of a gnome’s hat however even though the hat looked silly it is very important to wear as the receptionist explained it will help protect our heads and hair from overheating during our sauna session and it will enable us to be able to enjoy the therapeutic effects of sauna for longer periods.
She then went onto explain more and parenie and it’s amazing affects.
What is Parenie?
It is an invigorating thermal massage, which uses leafy and fragrant bundles of birch, oak or eucalyptus twigs (called Venik). The process is quite intense and it’s not about slapping you with oak and birch leaves, but rather working the steam around you to warm you up so deep that you feel the need to plunge into the chilled water afterwards.
Why is parenie good for your body and soul?
Parenie is a great way to release adrenaline and stress hormones and immense invigoration that follows. It boosts your blood circulation and relieves tension and stress.
The birch leaves will release essential oils as well as vitamins A and C, which are absorbed by the skin. This is believed to help heal rheumatism, asthma, arthritis and other conditions.
The eucalyptus is used for inhalation. Eucalyptus is also well known for the relief of nasal congestion and coughs associated with a cold.
Parenie is particularly good for oily skin, as it has an anti-inflammatory effect, which calms nervous system and helps reduce high-blood pressure.
It is said that after having a parenie treatment your skin will be left feeling soft and giving it a youthful and glowing appearance.
For a 10 minute treatment it will cost £30.
Time to change
We were then led to the changing room and given a towel and an electronic locking wrist band for locker usage.
The changing room is more like a gym locker room than a hotel spa as it has no private cubicles.
Once changed into my swimsuit and storing my belongings into a locker it was time for me to head on into the sauna area.
Relaxation within Banya No.1
We were advised before having our treatment parenie to enjoy the sauna first to unwind. It is advised to stay in the sauna for no more than 10 minutes.
Russian saunas are apparently not as hot as their Nordic or Western counterparts, but are much more humid, which makes the heat significantly more bearable. This humidity is also better for the skin, which is why the proper way to relax in Russia is to roast, rinse and repeat, over and over. The high humidity in a traditional Banya is created by splashing water on to a tonne of cast iron which is heated to 700°C.
After it is then advised to step upon under one of the buckets which are full of cold water and pull the cord to release the water over yourself, it made me think about the ice bucket challenge that spread over social media few years back.
Anyway I was not brave enough so I stepped away when I pulled the buckets cord.
Time for some tea and food
After a nice relaxing sauna we then enjoyed the R & R area. It felt slightly of a club room bar with it’s racing green leatherette seats and booths.
Some booths had shutters / doors so you could shut yourself in and make it feel more private.
We enjoyed two herbal teas. One was the Herbal tea mix No.1 and the other was Seaberry tea which was my favourite. It tasted a bit like warm orange juice. It was so refreshing.
The food we was presented with an assortment of meat, fish and potatoes plus some fruit and vegetables. Most of the food was salty but the reason is to help store the salt from your body which you would have lost from your sauna experience.
After a cup or two of herbal tea it was now time for me to get slapped with leaves.
We were provided herbal tea and food on a complimentary basis. To see the full menu click here.
Slapped with leaves
Full of excitement and fear I headed on into the sauna for my parenie treatment.
I was told to lay down on the bed within the sauna room on my stomach and place my face down within a bundle of sweet smelling leaves then a bunch of leaves were place over my head, so if you are quite claustrophobic you might want to advise them.
Feeling now a little more nervous of the beating I might I encounter with the venlik my fear was soon blown away when my male banshik for my 10 minute treatment explained to me how I will be gently thrashed with the fragrant bunches of oak, birch and eucalyptus leaves. You might think 10 minutes is short but trust me with the heat of the sauna and the slapping of the leaves you will find that this is enough time.
If you are self-conscious about getting scrubbed down by a man banshik you can ask for a lady one instead however it is usually done by a male as it is so physically demanding.
My banshik held the venlik within his hands and started to wave the bundles of leaves above me helping pull the rising heat down onto my body which helps clear the pores and ease up muscles. This method created a relaxing hot breeze. The scent of the fragranced fresh leaves was a delight, plus the roar of water of the sauna’s hot coals drifted my mind into thinking about tropical rainforests. After a few minutes of wafting the wet venlik in the air with the water dripping over me he then started to gently slap the leaves up and down me working up to a more vigorous slapping all over my entire body. This helps to increase blood circulation and bring the blood and toxins up to the surface of your skin.
After a few minutes it was then time to sit up and I noticed that I now had a different male banshik, so they must of changed half way through. He proceeded to sweep the leaves across my arms at which point I started to feel claustrophobically hot, so this was not my favourite part.
Once the 10 minutes was up it was then time to take that fearful leap into the icy pool.
I though was too scared to take the plunge and I tried to gradually to take it step by step from the ladder into the icy 7°C wooden pool tub but it was a little too much for me. So I headed on over to the bucket but still I was too scared but this time I managed to pull the cord but I stood just out of reach from the water so it did not go over my head.
However if you can do the pool or bucket apparently it is very good for the heart and apparently if you do this regularly it will prevent heart attacks and strokes.
I’m usually always unrelaxed and stressed but the parenie treatment made me feel calmer, feeling fresh, fully regenerated, my skin felt silky smooth and I felt like a goddess. This massage technique was so much better than a normal massage and I was not aching at all after.
Looking for something that extra special?
Within Banya No.1 you can hire a private area called the Taiga which you can seat up to 9 of your other friends, families or colleagues.
Combining authenticity and luxury, Private Banya Taiga offers a Russian steam room, a hot stone room, a massage room for two and a private lounge area. The steam room is unique with a traditional constructed log cabin (srub) which are used in Russian countryside banyas for centuries. A srub is a cabin which is built of interlocking wood logs, requiring no other bolts or fixings to maintain its form.
Banya No.1 srub is made of Kelo timber logs which are imported from Russia’s taiga in the northern region of Karelia and it is built on site by highly skilled craftsmen using age-old traditional methods. The Kelo logs, also known as suhostoy, is a 150–200-year-old Karelian pine which remains standing upright for a further 50–60 years after it has stopped growing. It dehydrates in the arid, cold climate, giving the timber a unique silvery grey hue. Utilising the sawn edge of the wood enhances its natural splendour and the aromatic pine scent, creating a unique and amazing ambience.
The private Banya Taiga is ideal for corporate and private clients and is available to both members and non-members. Seats up to 10 people and is perfect for special occasions, corporate entertainment, unique spa experiences, hen parties, corporate events or staff days out.
Within the Taiga guests can still enjoy the variety of thermal and exfoliating organic treatments, holistic massages including a traditional Russian massage, and their signature paernie treatment within the srub.
It can be hired out for up to 10 guests 7 days a week, 10am – 11pm from £125 (Mon-Fri from 10am – 4pm) off peak and £200 (Mon-Fri 6pm – 10pm & Sat-Sun 10am – 10pm) peak times.
Treatments range from a 3-hour private session for any 8 treatments and two pots of herbal tea at £585.
For 15 treatments and two pots of herbal teas costs from £780.
Sneaky private tour
I had the pleasure of having a special private tour of the Taiga and I was impressed.
The lounge area was large and had an area to have a lie down for a quick nap. There was also some games and books within the area to enjoy.
The sauna was set within a nice authentic Russian looking srub.
Within outside the srub was the icy pool and buckets on the wall.
There was also two separate rooms to enjoy the other treatments within.
I would certainly book this private area with friends, family or colleagues if I was looking for something that extra special or different as it is luxurious.
Plus I learnt that such celebrities as Kate Moss, Renee Zellweger, and Justin Bieber book and use the Taiga in Banya No.1 on regular occasions.
Treatments which can be had at Banya No.1
Invigorating thermal treatment using leafy and fragrant bundles of birch, oak and eucalyptus twigs.
£30 – 10 minutes
Honey & Salt or Coffee Scrub
Nourishing and detoxifying organic treatment that improves skin texture, tones and gives it a fresh look
£22 – 10 minutes
Traditional Siberian treatment with naturally fragrant and exfoliating birch venik on the Hot Stone
£22 – 10 minutes
Aloe Vera Full Body & Hair Mask
Well known for cooling, moisturizing and nourishing the skin. Improves collagen level and heals from UV rays damage
£28 – 15 minutes
Mud Decolletage or Full Body Mud Wrap
Anti-Ageing treament, famous for purifying, toning and tightening skin
£22 – 10 minutes
£40 – 30 minutes
Russian, Deep Tissue, Shiatsu, Remedial and Reflexology
£35 – 25 minutes
£70 – 50 minutes
£110 – 80 minutes
Feeling new and energised
After my treatment of parenie at Banya No.1 I felt so good, my skin felt silky smooth, I felt youthful and fresh, new born perhaps.
Banya No.1 really did provide an amazing experience and it was great to know that all their beauty products are natural, organic where possible, and made on the premises.
There was only one criticism I had with Banya No.1 which they need to improve on is communication as some of their staff seemed to struggle to understand what we were saying sometimes but they were still very welcoming and friendly. However one of the staff members within the sauna area was a bit pushy and made me feel uneasy and pressured at times.
So if you are looking for that something a little different from your usual massage then I highly recommend Banya No.1 where you can enjoy a variety of different traditional Russian treatments and their signature treatment parenie.
I certainly will be returning in the future for the parenie experience again and to some of their other treatments.
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