Emma was strapped into what she calls a "hug suit" for 45 minutes of bliss. Photo / Supplied

The Test Drive: Flowpresso At Ata Bodywork

Hugs are healing — that’s the premise of Flowpresso’s innovative treatment, as Viva’s Emma Gleason discovers

With its unique combination of compression, pressure and heat, Flowpresso can help with relaxation and stress. I had a feeling it was perfect for me (I love weighted blankets, pressure and feeling swaddled) and hoped it would help me with my anxiety. 

The promise 
It was an Instagram post the piqued my interest — a friend was strapped inside what looked like a hug suit. Following some direct messaging with her and our beauty editor Ashleigh Commetti, we gleaned intel that the experience was called Flowpresso, run by Ata Bodywork in Mount Maunganui. 

Each Flowpresso suit contains 22 chambers, which puff up sequentially around the body. Photo / Supplied

The practice 
Essentially it is exactly what it looked like, a hug suit. Flowpresso is a restorative, non-invasive natural therapy that aims to support both physical and mental wellbeing. Hugs have proven to be healing; however, we don’t always want, or need, direct human contact. That's where Flowpresso provides an alternative approach.  

You’re strapped in, more or less, to padded velcro-fastening tubes — at your arms, abdomen, and legs — which inflate with air and can be warmed to a gentle heat. The Flowpresso name is pretty self-explanatory, describing the flowing, pressing motion of the machine. 

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It works by combining compression, infrared heat and deep pressure therapy, all performed by the high-tech suit that Ata Bodywork co-founder Jenni-Lee Reardon gently straps you in to. It's said to improve cellular environment and promote relaxation, repair and performance by stimulating the body to rid itself of toxins. Other flow-on effects include improved sport recovery and endurance, restore sleep, boost mobility, relieve tiredness or heaviness in limbs, and encourage weight loss. 

I was particularly interested in the compression aspect. Compression is believed to help with circulation, and can also assist with alleviating stress (both of which are issues of mine). Similarly, deep pressure therapy is often used to help calm people who are dealing with anxiety, soothing the senses and calming the mind. 

You undertake the treatment fully clothed. I wore what Jenni-Lee recommended, a cotton t-shirt and loose cotton trousers, so that I didn’t overheat. 

Jenni-Lee spent time talking me through the treatment and ensuring that the pressure and heat were at my comfort level. Then she placed a weighted lavender eye mask over my eyes, and gave me earphones with soothing music, and so began my 45-minute Flowpresso treatment. 

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The pressure comes in waves that flow up your body, a feat that is achieved by the suit’s inflatable chambers (22 of them) that puff up sequentially. 

The experience is hard to describe, and I found it all incredibly comforting. I enjoy being squeezed and swaddled, and find that calms me down when anxious or stress.

As with everything body-related, heat and compression are deeply personal, and Flowpresso can be tailored to individual preferences — with two modes, relaxation and sport, adjustable fit, and optional heat. 

Get in the zen zone with a lavender eye mask and noise-cancelling headphones. Photo / Supplied

The place 
My Flowpresso experience was provided by Jenni-Lee of Ata Bodywork, a Mount Maunganui-based wellbeing practice that specialises in healing body treatments like Flowpresso, as well as indigenous massage (a combination of Maori romiromi/mirimiri and Hawaiian Lomilomi). 

We arranged my appointment when Jenni-Lee was in Tamaki Makaurau, and I had my Flowpresso experience in the quiet, stylish surrounds of The Convent Hotel in Grey Lynn. 

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Jenni-Lee usually operates out of Mount Maunganui, however she is launching a monthly pop-up in Auckland at Oasis Wellness Centre in Mt Eden on April 15, May 13, and June 17. There are seven spots available on each of those days, during which you'll enjoy a 40-minute treatment and lymphatic cleanse. She can even do home visits for an extra cost (see below), which is good news for time-poor people who find even booking appointments adds extra stress to life — like me. 

The price 
For a 45-minute treatment, Flowpresso costs $80. Ata Bodywork can also do home visits for $100.

The verdict 
I found the whole experience deeply moving and incredibly restorative. It helped alleviate my physical tension, released emotional stress, and calmed my anxiety. I haven’t felt truly relaxed and “switched off” like that in a long, long time, and was brought to tears once it was over (in a good way).  

Jenni-Lee told me this visceral reaction was my body releasing stress, and we discussed the physical manifestations of anxiety, as well as inherited energy. 

I felt relaxed for the days that followed the treatment, and also spent time thinking about what I had discussed with Jenni-Lee around emotions, anxiety, and what an impact touch can have on us. She helped me look at stress differently, and inspired me to hug people more frequently.  

I can’t wait to do Flowpresso again, and with the news of Jenni-Lee's monthly pop-ups in Auckland, I’m eager to book another treatment.

For more information or to book, phone Jenni-Lee on 027 498 8857 or email hello@atabodywork.co.nz, or visit Atabodywork.co.nz

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