Nothing Quite Like A Hot Sweaty Therapeutic Russian Beating


I am a self-proclaimed spa junkie. Whether I’m fortunate enough to be in a plush terry robe at a fancy resort or jumping into cold plunges at a Korean Spa in a stripmall or simply relaxing in my own bathtub with essential oils and salt in the water and clay on my face – I am a happy girl. I love to soak, sweat, get scrubbed and rubbed and shined ’til my skin glows and my muscles feel like jello. I would rather a spa visit in my birthday suit than a fancy dress and party any day.

One of my absolute favorite discoveries here in Denver is a place called Izba Spa. It is a traditional Russian banya spa located conveniently walking distance from my house. The massage therapists there, mostly Russian men, do deep sports massage and therapeutic bodywork. It can feel like a bit of a butt-kicking, but the effects are worth it. Apparently Izba therapists are the official team masseurs for the Avalanche hockey team.

In honor of my husband’s half-birthday (every couple has their quirky thing, one of ours is being very celebratory and silly over half-birthdays), we went to Izba for an hour and a half of serious heat and beatings.

photoIt starts like this….ย 

You go down into the basement of a regular building to find yourself in a dark area with wooden walls, traditional Russian art and, this time, a documentary about Leo Tosltoy playing (last time it was Best of SNL: Will Farrell, so who knows). You are escorted back to a room covered with beautiful murals and told to disrobe for 15 minutes of soaking. There is a hot tub full of very hot, pure and non-chemically water. The music is distinctly Slavic, no pan pipes and zen waterfalls here.

You soak and sweat and then drink a little water before moving onto the massage tables. An hour long deep-tissue massage awaits you. Your body is already warm, relaxed and receptive so the therapists make little courtesy with gentle opening strokes – they go right in for the heavy stuff.

Immediately after your rub down, you are led into the banya sauna. The humidity is just right, the heat is not too dry. You lay face down in a wooden sauna of 170 degrees. For the next 15 minutes or so, one of the therapists will pop in occasionally (wearing a felted grey cap for some reason) to douse the hot sauna rocks with water infused with essential oils. Peppermint, pine, eucalyptus and lavender. Your sinuses blow open, you sweat like crazy, your lungs are expanding with the heat and oils and you feel like you are turning into toast but it’s not done yet.

photo-1Then the beatings begin.

Your therapist comes into the sauna with bundles of dried oak branches. They dip the branches in a bucket of water, quickly warm them above the rocks and then begin to rhythmically and vigorously beat your body starting with your legs and moving up. It’s a bit shocking, but rather exhilarating. Once when I was there the therapist jokingly said, “It costs extra for me to say, You’ve been a naughty naughty girl.” which left my mother and I in absolute hysterics.

After a solid beating, your skin tingly and alive, you get a layer of unfiltered honey spread on your entire backside to moisturize and draw out toxins (another great quote, better in a Russian accent of course, “You get very hot and now you get sweet.”). The finale to the ritual is a cold bucket of water splashed all over your body which feels absolutely incredible after that amount of heat you’re experiencing.

A warm shower awaits you before you return to the welcoming area for a cup of herbal tea and cold crisp slices of apple. It is so divine.

This experience, as well as reading Tolstoy of course, makes me want to go to Russia ASAP.

Of course, as a spa junkie, I love experiencing the different therapeutic treatments and bathing rituals of different cultures. I’ve been to Korean spas, Japanese baths, Ayurvedic clinics, Turkish style baths, European mineral water springs, Southwestern hot springs, good old fashioned Swedish saunas and beyond. All of which are fantastic of course, but right now, I am so a Banya girl!

Have you ever been to a Russian banya? What’s your favorite type of spa treatment (diy or otherwise)?

Love and blessings,


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11 thoughts on “Nothing Quite Like A Hot Sweaty Therapeutic Russian Beating

  1. Oh, WOW. When my business coach asked me to list things I’m really great at, soaking was on the list. I take bubble/oil baths almost every day. I LOVE hot springs and spas. like, seriously, love.

    The beatings sound… a little scary. is it?



    Lilli Black Owner, Bella Calla 303.995.2867

    Visit Bella Calla at: *735 W. 6th Ave* *Denver, 80204* *Office is on the NE corner of 6th and Inca* *By appointment only.*

    • This place is pretty amazing, and not very expensive. You should definitely check it out. The beating isn’t scary. I normally laugh a little during it honestly. It feels great and it makes my skin feel so soft afterwards.

  2. My friend goes to the a banya all of the time. However, he always attends with his Russian friend, as the ones around us don’t typically have English speaking staff members. As soon as our interpreter is ready, I’m definitely tagging along. It sounds awesome and invigorating. However, when I heard you get beaten with branches I laughed for at least an hour. But I would be down with some skin tingling.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. You should totally go, English speaking or not! I used to go to this Korean Spa with my mother and we were often the only English speaking white ladies there and that was part of the fun. The beating makes me laugh too. Now I’m used to it…but the first 2 times I was there I was literally biting my tongue to keep from laughing out loud when they began the oak leaf beatings. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I’m coming ti visit you just for this spa. Do not feel used. I’ll go visit my friend Ben after we have spa fun and introduce you all, then he will take us to this amazing vegan restaurant his friend owns. The next morning, we all hike and do yoga in the mountains. IDEAL WEEKEND!

    • Deal. Let’s do it. ๐Ÿ™‚
      There’s some pretty good veg restaurants here. What’s the name of the one you are talking about? I’m always looking for new tasty healthy restaurants to try.

      • I actually don’t know! I’m rarely in Denver and haven’t talked to Ben for awhile because in Ranfurly, Jamaica- working at an orphanage this summer. He teaches music for two elementary schools. If you have a single sister- he’s also gorgeous and one of my best buds. ;P

      • I do have a very cute photographer friend who is single ๐Ÿ™‚
        Definitely get me the name when you have the chance. Since we are still new here, still discovering fun new places.

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