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'Not Your Typical Spa:' Old-School Bathhouses Making A Comeback

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Imagine soaking your troubles away or sweating your way to better health.

There are people doing just that, CBS2's Kristine Johnson reports. The centuries-old tradition of bathhouses is back in a big way, as more people are turning to the immersive therapy.

"It's not your typical spa where you're shushed you put cucumbers on your eyes," said Dimitry Shapiro, general manager of the Russian and Turkish Baths on East 10th Street.

That's for sure. The bathhouse has been a no-frills destination for therapeutic sweats for more than 120 years.

"People understand the old ways of healing are smart," Shapiro said.

He said old-school is part of the attraction.

"The traumas of daily life get sweated out right here, get released," customer Patrick Dillon said.

"The heat is transformative," another customer added.

That heat is 200 degrees.

There are traditional saunas and steams, too, plus the body shock of a 45-degree plunge pool – all in the name of feeling better.

"I have rheumatoid arthritis, which affects the joints. The Russian bath just allows everything to relax," said customer Randi Gar.

Dr. Albert Ahn, internal medicine specialist at NYU Langone at Trinity Center, agrees.

"People with inflammatory joint diseases might find some decreases in pain," he said. "Certain people with pulmonary diseases, like asthma or chronic bronchitis, actually do find that some of their symptoms do improve when they go do saunas and bathhouses regularly," he said.

Spa 88 on Fulton Street has been around for two decades and has extreme hot and cold offerings.

"I've lost 25 pounds from coming here," customer Julian Thorn said.

"It's really powerful. It's unusual, it's both refreshing and relaxing," said customer Robert Gehorsam.

Now, new boutique bathhouses are looking to older traditions and remaking them for a new generation.

Liz Tortolani is the owner of Citywell in Brooklyn.

"I love the idea of bringing back the bathhouse," she said.

Their outdoor space with sauna and hot tub is used year round.

"It makes us feel better when we soak in water," Tortolani said.

"I feel healthier coming here. I feel more relaxed and that I'm less scrunched up walking around in the cold," said customer Catherine Lea.

Experts say just about anyone can benefit from these bathhouse therapies. If you're pregnant or have a heart or respirator condition, you should talk to your doctor first.

As for the cost, it starts around $25 for a day pass, with different plans available.

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