My weekly manicures and monthly pedicures had always been a chore. I looked forward to them about as much as getting my eyebrows waxed or my hair colored.
That all changed this spring when I tried a meditation manicure and pedicure at Sundays, a “wellness-inspired” nail salon with three locations in Manhattan. For the first time, my appointment didn’t feel like a routine beauty treatment. Instead, it was a full-on self-care session.
While a technician worked on my nails, I listened to two 15-minute meditations on a headset plugged into an MP3 player. Between sips of organic peppermint tea, I followed cues from a hypnotic female voice: take deep breaths, release tension from my body and simply let go.
Yes, I was meditating in a nail salon when I could have easily downloaded a guided-meditation app on my phone and done so at home. But I lacked the motivation and told myself that I didn’t have the time. And anyway, what else would I do while having my nails painted a pinkish-red hue?
During a typical appointment, zoning out with my eyes closed may have seemed weird, or even rude, but at Sundays I fit right in. Around me, other customers were having similar moments of Zen. This kind of scene is becoming more common, as a number of salons and spas across the country have begun coupling meditation with manicures and pedicures.
Given the increasing popularity of meditation, perhaps this evolution of the traditional file, buff and polish shouldn’t be a surprise. According to a report released in November by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of meditation more than tripled between 2012 and 2017. Also, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit organization for the wellness industry, meditation is one of the fastest growing categories of the $4.2 trillion wellness market.
“Meditation is everywhere these days and a buzzword, and it’s now finding its way into nail services,” said Beth McGroarty, the group’s research director. “Salons need to make a minimal financial investment in order to offer it, and clients don’t have to take any extra time to try it.”
But isn’t the point of meditation to focus and not be distracted by anything else? Not necessarily, said Matthew Hepburn, an editor of mobile content for the meditation app Ten Percent Happier and a meditation teacher. “If someone’s goal is to relax, having an external voice cuing you to do can be incredibly helpful even if you’re doing something else and especially if getting a manicure is relaxing to you,” he said. “You get two good things at once.”
The owner of Sundays, Amy Ling Lin, said that she got the idea for adding meditation to their offerings after clients repeatedly told her that coming to a nail salon was the only time they had for themselves. “It dawned on me that I could give them a chance to not only look good but also feel serene through meditation,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to meditate more but say, like so many of us, that I’m too busy. These services make the time for you.”
Lin said nail treatments, particularly manicures, are well suited to multitasking with meditation. “You’re sitting up straight, which is the perfect position to meditate, and if you move too much, your nails will get messed up so you’re forced to be still,” she said.
The recordings at Sundays were created by meditation teacher Valerie Oula; there are six in all, ranging from 10 to 16 minutes each and on different themes such as gratitude and focus. The manicures cost $30, and pedicures are $50, both $5 above the cost of the salon’s standard treatments. They’ve been so popular since launching in April, Lin said, that customers started asking if they could listen to the guided meditations even if they weren’t getting a nail service. As of May, they can (this meditation-only option is $10).
Liz Miersch, a Hudson Yards resident and vice president of content and partnerships at Equinox, has gotten the meditation manicures three times, and said that they’ve helped her feel calmer in her life in general, especially when she’s aggravated. “When I usually get my nails done, I’m trying to go on Instagram or read a magazine,” she said. “This felt less transactional and more like a treat.”
Namaste Nail Sanctuary, which has seven locations around the country including in Greenville, South Carolina, and Studio City, California, offers meditations led by Deepak Chopra during nail treatments. There are 88 in all, in various lengths and themes, and they’re accessible via Chopra’s Dream Master, an iPod-like device with headphones and glasses that uses light pulses to help listeners relax. The devices are free to use, and if clients are left wanting more after their services, the salons have a dedicated meditation space called a Cocoon Room.
Allison Moore, who lives in Woodland Hills, California, and works in marketing, is a regular at Namaste Nail Sanctuary’s Studio City location, where she enjoys manicures, along with Chopra’s meditation called “Virtual Trip to the Forest,” a nearly 22-minute session that takes listeners through a soothing walk in a forest, complete with the sounds of chirping birds and cues to smell the fresh dew of morning rain. “I used to not be able to relax or sit still, but this meditation has drastically reduced my daily stress level,” she said. “Whenever I feel myself going into overdrive, I think of Deepak’s voice and immediately calm down.”
Some hotel spas, too, are incorporating meditation with nail treatments, although these tend to be pricey, compared with the ones offered at free-standing salons.
Kohler Water Spa, which has three locations including a flagship in Kohler, Wisconsin, recently introduced a 50-minute pedicure with guided meditation using a virtual reality headset that’s meant to deepen relaxation; the price ranges from $90 to $125, depending on the location.
Vanessa Crilly, who lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and works for Sephora, is hooked on the treatments at the Four Seasons New York Downtown, which provides iPads loaded with apps like Calm and Headspace at no additional cost. “I’ve been working on meditating more, and this manicure gives me the chance to hit my goal,” Crilly said. “It lets me truly unplug.”