Tuesday, May 6, 2008
What could be more New York than a PowerNap—and a trademarked one at that? Nestled in the heart of Midtown, just west of Columbus Circle, is Yelo, a “wellness sanctuary” offering naps and reflexology massage treatments: multisensory experiences designed to relax and renew in the time it would take to drink a venti latte. “Yelo is about time-efficient, results-oriented relaxation,” the Web site promises. And one Friday, with an hour to spare between an art show and a dinner party, this was exactly what I needed.
Inside the lobby tea lights flickered and pillows beckoned bearing the slogan NAP YOUR WAY TO THE TOP. A Yelo representative greeted me and handed me a multipage questionnaire on my health history and napping preferences. He then led me to the back of the room, where a uniformed “nap butler” of sorts guarded the entrances to the nap pods, or YeloCabs. These “patented treatment cabins” are maroon and yellow cubicles arranged in a sort of honeycomb, a red strip of carpet leading to each numbered door.
The Yelo representative settled me into what looked like a high-tech leather dental chair bolted to the floor in the center of the cabin. The room, purportedly filled with purified air, felt as sterile as an airplane cabin, and was constructed of similar material. The only accoutrements were a pyramid of rolled towels, two small trash cans (for what? I wondered), a revolving stool (for visitors?), and a pair of lit display shelves showcasing lotions and teas available for post-nap purchase. He left me to settle myself, assuring me, “I’ll be right back to tuck you in.” I found the intimacy of that prospect slightly unsettling. But when he returned he gave me the most businesslike tuck-in imaginable, arranging a beige cashmere blanket over me, adjusting the 500-thread-count pillow, and kneeling by the side of the chair to recline it into a “zero-gravity” position, to put my feet slightly higher than my head, which he told me was an optimal position for relaxation. Then he dimmed the lights, closed the door, and left me to my twenty minutes of high-powered slumber.
I had trouble getting to sleep because I couldn’t help myself from trying to optimize my level of relaxation. I fiddled with the recline position on the chair. I adjusted the blanket and pillow to achieve maximum softness against my skin. I squinted through the darkness at the beauty product offerings. I tried to dissect a faint whirring sound and regretted that I had chosen silence rather than a relaxation sound track (options include whale song, medieval chant, and “inner voyage”). With more deluxe nap packages, you can have a scent—such as fig or wild blackberry—piped into the room, but since I’d opted for the basic YeloNap, the room just smelled like vacuumed carpet. In twenty minutes, a “sunrise” gradually filled the pod with a pink-orange light that spread up the walls and ceiling, a lovely way to awaken, had I been asleep.
On my way out, as I sat in the lobby drinking a cup of water, I realized I did feel mysteriously refreshed. A guy in a windbreaker and big sneakers burst in clutching a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. Glancing around nervously, as if afraid of being seen, he asked which nap package would give him the highest-value relaxation for his time. Nap your way to the top, I thought, pushing through the glass doors into rush hour.