Do one thing, do it well and do it affordably. That seems to be the thought behind the boutique studio boom that has given us Drybar for hairstyling, SoulCycle for indoor cycling, Skin Laundry for laser treatments, MNDFL for meditation.
And now we have WTHN — dropping vowels is not just for tech start-ups these days — which is trying to be the boutique studio version of acupuncture.
Michelle Larivee and Shari Auth, the founders, are calling it a modern reimagining of acupuncture. Ms. Larivee is a former investment banker who dislocated vertebrae in a ski accident and was referred to Ms. Auth for acupuncture treatments for pain and, later, for fertility.
The two women opened WTHN (pronounced “within”) in November in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, which may have the highest concentration of boutique concept studios anywhere on the planet. The modernization they’re going for comes partly in the form of the space itself. It’s a 2,200-square-foot retail-level space, which is unusual for acupuncturists, who more commonly practice out of small offices or clinics.
The design looks not unlike most other boutique studios, with blond wood, sans serif fonts and a planted wall. There is a reception area with a retail space selling things like digestive bitters and energizing bath salts.
Beyond that is a kind of mirrored vanity area for freshening up after a treatment, with organic face wipes and a jade roller and lockers to ensure you’re not tempted to check your phone. The 12 treatment rooms have heated tables, and a proprietary scent of bergamot and frankincense wafts in the air.
WTHN has deliberately set prices, which begin at $65 for the initial visit, somewhere between those of a private high-end acupuncturist and what you’d expect to pay for community acupuncture. (Although it may save you from getting into an argument with someone for not shutting off her phone during community hours, as one friend of mine recently did recently. Talk about harshing a mellow!)
Treatments are broken down into three categories: Prevent, which includes Second Wind for fatigue and In the Clear for immunity; Heal, including House of Pain for, well, pain, and Ladies Room for women’s health like PMS; and Glow, which offers Face Time, a facial acupuncture treatment.
When I went to WTHN soon after it opened, I saw Ms. Auth, who is a licensed and board-certified (by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, as well as a massage therapist, a practitioner of Rolfing and Pilates, and an Ashtanga yoga instructor. A real potpourri of modalities, I thought.
This made sense when she told me that we shared an alma mater: the progressive, no grades, no majors Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. As I settled onto the table, she told me a story about seeing Nirvana play in the school library.
I asked for House of Pain from the menu, as I had recently gotten a cast off a broken ankle and was dealing with residual pain and swelling.
“What else is going on,” she asked in the soothing voice of someone who seems to enjoy hearing what ails people. I began a laundry list of complaints: My body feels out of alignment after being on crutches and in a cast. I have terrible insomnia, and I get heartburn all the time. I’m stressed out and anxious on a good day.
She nodded and began inserting dozens of tiny needles around my body, which didn’t hurt at all. She even put a few ear seeds, which look like small round stickers with a little metal bump in the middle, on my ear to calm the mind and help with pain. Then she covered me with a thin silver blanket that looked like the kind that runners who just finished marathons wrap themselves in.
A little perk that defined the experience was sound therapy in the form of a pair of noise-canceling headphones that she slipped on before she left me alone. It played a guided meditation Ms. Auth recorded with Nate Martinez, who is known for holding sound baths all around the city.
Ms. Auth’s voice came on prompting me to breathe in and out for a count of seven, first concentrating on my feet, then all the way up to my head. After, it was just the sound of chimes and bowls as I drifted in and out of sleep.
About half an hour later, Ms. Auth came back with a mug of hot herbal tea for me and took the blanket off and the needles out. I felt the perfect combination of euphoric and spacey, and at checkout, bought three kinds of bath bombs.
The post-acupuncture feelings of energetic calm stayed with me for two days afterward, around the time the ear seeds came off in the shower. And now I feel the familiar stir of a new obsession. In February Ms. Auth will be selling her own blends of Chinese herbs for things like insomnia and to ease anxiety, which I’m sure I will be buying at my next appointment.
20 West 22nd Street; wthn.com
Concept: The founders, Michelle Larivee and Shari Auth, have big plans to make this the Drybar of acupuncture, with a service menu divided into three categories: Prevent, Heal and Glow.
Vibe: The space has a bright but slightly generic white-walled look. But the little things make the experience stand out, like sound therapy during treatments, mugs of warm tea and an area to freshen up stocked with products.
Cost: From $65 for an initial 60-minute session. Add-ons like cupping or LED light therapy are $20.
Published at Wed, 16 Jan 2019 15:55:17 +0000