July 30, 2015 10:00 PM

Who Tried It: Alex Apatoff, Senior Style Editor
Why I Tried It: The only thing I love more than relaxation is minimal effort and financial outlay to achieve it. So I tried these free apps to cobble together one day of pampering.
What I Tried: Three apps: OMG I Can Meditate, ClassPass and MassageNow.
Level of Difficulty: Downloading the apps was a cinch. The actual activities varied in their level of commitment.


OMG I Can Meditate!: To kick off my at-home app-store spa day, I decided I’d give meditation a try. Every celebrity swears by it, and it had to be better than rolling over and reaching for my phone first thing in the morning. Well, I had to do that to start the app, choose the length of time and check the volume, but after that, I was ready to go. First order of business: Watch a video of meditation coach Lynne Goldberg, who explains the whole procedure (you can do some meditations to fall asleep, others at your desk at work and some you’re meant to do daily), then get into a comfortable chair for the 12 minutes she recommends for the day 1 intro and close your eyes.

I’m not great at turning off my brain, but I really wanted to do this right. So even though my inclination was to not take it seriously, I listened to Goldberg’s voice and followed all the instructions (from “scan your whole body, starting at your feet, to determine how everything is feeling” to “observe your breath, but don’t try to change it at all”) very carefully. I had a really hard time keeping focus for 12 minutes, but she adds some encouraging words at the end, saying that it’s a skill anyone can improve at with practice. And you know what? I was much more “zen” that morning than I would have been if I had opened up my email right away.


ClassPass: After a healthy breakfast, I decided to hit the gym. My coworkers have been obsessed with ClassPass (they all went to a Beyoncé dance class together which … is not for me) but I was hesitant to shell out the monthly fee (which was just raised to $125 in N.Y.C.), as I was worried about the availability of choices. And while there definitely is more demand (just like at any gym) for pre-work and post-work spots, I was pleasantly surprised at how much choice there was — and how many cool new workouts I learned about while scrolling through classes on the Upper West Side, where I live.

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My biggest challenge with the app was finding a class where I wouldn’t feel like a total beginner and embarrass myself. I opted for a mid-level Pilates class, and though it was more crowded than the studio really could accommodate, the instruction was very good and I left feeling like I more than got my money’s worth (since they estimate a class at about $19). I’d also definitely go back to that studio, which I know is the whole point of the app, so: another tech success.


MassageNow: If you’ve ever used HotelTonight or Hotwire, you know the concept behind this app: Spas with spots to fill agree on a lower-than-usual rate, the app provides them (without naming them) to the customer, and the customer can tap on the most appealing-sounding one within a certain distance. Within minutes, you get the name and location of the spa at the time of your choice; at 6:00 p.m. in N.Y.C., a one-hour Swedish massage at a “Luxe” spa is $85, which is definitely a bargain compared to even mid-rate spa prices in the city.

However, you have to take your chances with what constitutes “luxe,” and because you’re going to an unfamiliar spa, you have very little say in the massage therapist you’ll end up with, which can be risky (and non-refundable). That was my experience; my guy was friendly and very professional, but despite my repeated requests to ease up on the pressure, I winced through the whole thing and felt back pain for a week. I suggested that they have an option where you can choose to not repeat therapists, and was told that’s in the works, so as soon as they work out some of the kinks (pun intended) I’d try the app again.

Have you tried any of these apps? Any others you recommend for increasing my relaxation?

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