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High with Hannes
At just over 16,400 feet (5,000 meters), I’m up between the summit of Mont Blanc and Everest Base Camp. Exercise Physiologist Hannes Wallin is checking my oxygen levels and heart rate. I’m feeling floaty and sleepy. What I’m experiencing is what scientists call mild hypoxia.
The Cellgym machine uses intermittent hypoxia hyperoxia therapy to decrease and then increase the oxygen percentage of the air I’m breathing through the mask. “Athletes use it a few times a week over eight weeks to improve endurance while optimizing their aerobic and anaerobic capacity. Climbers use it to acclimatize to high altitudes before stepping foot on the mountain. Anyone can use it to boost their respiratory system and metabolism. After the session, you’ll feel very energized and focused. You’ll also sleep well later,” promises Hannes, which I do.
Over five cycles of three to five minutes, I climb up and down the mountain, all without crampons and while lying comfortably on the bed. With Hannes controlling the percentage of oxygen in each breath, the adaptive response in my body kicks in with no ill effects. Coming from Finland, and with his passion for winter sports and background in competitive sport, performance training and CrossFit, Hannes is a trusted guide on any mountain.
We’ve already discussed my data from the Cosmed BOD POD and VO2 max test. The BOD POD wouldn’t look out of place in a 70s sci-fi movie. However, when it comes to my body composition, it delivers facts not fiction: no hiding from my fat mass, fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate. Hannes recommends a session every three months, with a first check-up after a few weeks to see if the lifestyle changes that he recommends have made a difference.
Hannes debunks the common misconception that mass is all about fat. “Increasing muscle mass is vital for supporting your core, spine, and knees, which become more injury prone as you age,” he ventures delicately. “It will also boost your resting metabolic rate; you want to get yours up to around 1,600 calories a day.”
The VO2 max test is considered the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance. It involves exercising on a treadmill at an intensity that increases every few minutes until you reach maximum exertion. Hannes uses the data obtained, which includes my maximal and resting heart rate, to develop a personalized plan to improve my fitness, incorporating HIIT and Tabata style workouts with weights and stretching, to increase flexibility and promote muscle recovery.
As the flagship Six Senses wellness facility, Six Senses Kaplankaya’s fitness facilities are stand-out impressive. This is not your usual hotel gym added as an afterthought in the bowls of the building. Along with a huge cardio studio, cycle studio, Pilates/yoga studio and aquatic center, there are separate consultation rooms for each different test plus a fully equipped TRX area, weights and movement room, and racquetball court.
Activating the shakti
Banu Alagoz greets me for Kundalini yoga. The energy she exudes is making the sea sparkle brighter in front of the sensational yoga pavilion. Kundalini – a combination of fluid movements, breath, inward focus and mantra – derives from the Sanskrit word kundal or “coiled energy”, which lies like a snake at the base of your spine. Over the next hour, we bring the energy up the spine through the chakras and out through the crown of our heads, rousing our divine feminine energy. There are many upsides to Kundalini. The physical: strengthening your core and increasing blood flow. The mental: the sound waves from chanting mantras cut through the negative chatter in our minds. The emotional: regular practice reduces stress-induced cortisol and releases stuck emotions.
An energy healer and aquatic bodywork specialist, Banu’s magic touch continues in the beautiful womb of the Watsu pool, floating on my back with inflatables attached to my legs and arms.
“I can feel your energy. You’re still in fight or flight mode. Let’s get you down off the ceiling,” she says. “While in deep relaxation, and with gentle stretches to align your head and base of your spine, any negativity or trauma you are suppressing can be released.” In fact, this is a subtle and gentle form of therapy where the body intuitively rebalances the mind. All thoughts leave my head. I emerge with a stronger sense of not letting the past continue to trip me up in the present.
Expand your mind, relax your body
With Banu, I feel safe, held, and cared for, which is why I agree to go on a psychedelic journey (all in the interest of research). Together with her husband Muayad Najemeddin, also a Holistic Practitioner at Six Senses Spa Kaplankaya, she has developed a menu of hypnotic meditative experiences to access parts of our psyche that are not easily accessible. This is a cheat’s way to enter a brain state that can take months of dedicated meditation to achieve.
“Deep Trance Light Therapy uses 12 LED flickering lights projected to the face. With your eyes closed, it offers a fast and safe way to reach altered states of consciousness. We call it brain entrainment,” she says. “We can downshift your normal beta or alert state to alpha or relaxed consciousness, theta or meditative, and eventually delta, where your body’s chemistry changes. In the delta frequency, the human growth hormone starts to kick in, which enables cell regeneration, youthfulness, and vitality. It’s where healing can occur.”
“Alter your state in minutes, change your life forever”
The machine was designed by researchers trained in trauma and hypnotherapy and the programs are being used in clinics and research centers to help treat a whole range of conditions, from ADHT to Alzheimer’s. There are four broad themes, Sleep & Wellbeing, Mind & Meditation, Creativity, and Lifestyle, which can help with habits and addictions. Some induce relaxation, some inspiration, some empowerment, and some deeper wisdom.
I’m still a little fizzy so Banu recommends she first takes me down towards Delta and the twilight zone. Through closed eyes, I see kaleidoscope flashes of color and images. Blurring the boundaries of my conscious and unconscious will boost my natural serotonin and endorphins. I feel less hurried and more relaxed, like I have found some extra time in the day.
To end on an intense, yet drug-free psychedelic note, Banu changes the program to a creativity session. There is an explosion of color and shifting geometric patterns. There’s a whole universe of possibilities opening, and I have a strong urge to enter. I feel my mind lifting off the mat. I think what is actually happening is I’m reaching the higher Gamma brain state, where my body is wanting to check out to enter lucid dreaming, but it is hard to process any thoughts in the moment. I just feel like I want to play.
Some minutes later – I am not sure how long – the session ends. Emotionally I feel lighter, like I’ve shed some heavy stuff I’ve been hanging on to for way too long. I wonder how many kilograms this would equate to in the BOD POD!
Jessica Swales visited Six Senses Kaplankaya in October 2021, staying in a Superior Room.
For an unforgettable holiday, combine a stay at Six Senses Kocatas Mansions in Istanbul with Six Senses Kaplankaya on the Aegean Coast near Bodrum. Explore Turkey with Six Senses.