Wellness Trend Alert: ASMR

Do you know that feeling you get when you hear a really good song whose sounds send shivers down your spine and goose bumps all over your body? It’s unintentional and unexpected, and it feels great. Similar to that, some people get a tingling sensation when they hear certain sounds and/or receive other stimuli, be it visually or through gentle touch.

The feeling is described by many as a ‘head orgasm’ that starts at the crown of your head and slowly travels down your spine making you feel all warm and fuzzy. This sensation is called autonomous sensory meridian response, or ‘ASMR’ for short, and has sparked a sub-culture-like fandom of ASMR videos.

Youtube shows over 13 million results for the search term ‘ASMR’ with some vloggers doing nothing but come up with new sensorial sensation videos on their channels. By using two microphones and an endless array of props, such as brushes, fabrics, food, or simply their own voice, making whispering sounds, many viewers reach a state of deep relaxation and spine tingling.

While ASMR hasn’t been scientifically explained just yet, it’s known that not everyone is able to feel the sensation, but those who do recorded a much slower heartbeat than those who didn’t ‘tingle’ during a study in the UK. Those who experienced ‘head orgasms’ reported the highest levels of positive emotions and lowest levels of negative emotions, which could explain why some people say ASMR videos help them cope with anxiety and even depression.

What does this have to do with spa treatments, you ask? A whole lot. In fact, New York was home to the world’s first ASMR spa, Whisperlodge, last year. An “immersive theatre performance”, Whisperlodge invited people to escape the hustle and bustle of New York and “relax the body and mind, expand awareness, and heighten the senses.”

Guests were guided through different sensorial experiences, such as getting their hair brushed, listening to clinking drinking glasses and lots of whispering sounds. Most guests found the experience soothing and deeply relaxing – kind of like clients should ideally feel after a good massage or facial.

While Whisperlodge started as a piece of performance art, its success has prompted the creators to look for new locations in order to re-open the ASMR spa once more.

It goes to show the deep impact a little bit of one-on-one attention combined with simple things like sounds can have on an individual, so why not incorporate a few ASMR techniques into your beauty services? I recently had a wonderful 90-minute facial that started with the therapist using soft brushes to lightly stroke my face and chest with for a couple of minutes – it was my favourite part of the facial.

The brush strokes set me up for the facial, relaxing me and making me forget about the world outside for the time I was on the treatment bed – so simple, yet so impactful. Another idea to incorporate ASMR techniques is to choose the right background music. What about thinking outside the box and playing sounds instead of music, such as rain falling on a tin roof, birds chirping in a forest, or waves crashing onto a beach?

Certain treatments might even allow the client to wear headphones playing ASMR sounds – this allows for a binaural sound experience, i.e. the listener hears different sounds on the right and left ear, making it much more realistic. This, combined with light touches, brushing, and stroking can transform a simple massage or facial into a meditative experience for clients.

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