Creative Community Issue #9: Alter Wellness

Creative Community Issue #9: Alter Wellness

Alter is the latest, but arguably most approachable, Sauna and Ice Bath Studios in the city. The space was founded by a group of four friends, Ujwal, Aleya, Melissa, and Tyler, whose wellness journeys were brought together by the powerful practice of hot and cold exposure therapy.

To celebrate their launch (and our Forage line finding a new home in their space!), we chatted with one of the co-founders, Melissa Donato, about, and how to take the plunge (sorry!) when you're intimidated.


LOHN: Tell us about Alter!

MELISSA: Alter is a sauna and ice bath studio located in College West, Toronto. Our mission is to make hot and cold exposure a more approachable and consistent practice by creating an atmosphere that is warm, welcoming, and community-oriented and an experience that pays homage to this centuries-old modality. Guests can use our space in two ways!
(1) We offer flexible drop-in sessions that allow guests to shape their own experience by enjoying the spacious sauna, ice baths, lounge spaces, and other amenities.
(2) We also offer signature classes that are led by some of Toronto's most tenured yoga, meditation, and breathwork instructors – all of which have 10+ years of experience.

LOHN: What would you say to anyone who might be intimidated by cold plunging (or even wellness spaces in general!)?

MELISSA: I'd say it's OK to be nervous! The most important thing is to listen to your body and not let ego get in the way. If you just dip your toe in, that's still an achievement.
For me, guidance through the plunge helps a lot. That's why we have expert Facilitators and experienced Instructors in the space at all times. Whether you come in for a drop-in or class, you'll have someone there to support you and make the experience as encouraging and positive as possible.

LOHN: How does scent play into the experience? 

MELISSA: Scent is one of the most loved parts of the experience. In every session, we place water and ice mixed with essential oils on the sauna heater, which creates a wonderful burst of steam and scent. We tailor the essential oil blends based on the time of day or type of class. For example, in the morning, we might lean toward spearmint or citrus oils, whereas in our Unwind classes, we love to use oils like lavender and cedarwood.
Also wanted to give LOHN a little shout-out here. Kat was SO helpful when I first dove into the world of aromatherapy. I was so overwhelmed and in times of doubt, I'd turn to her! No matter what questions I asked – What should I look out for in an essential oil supplier? What essential oils are best for X, Y, Z benefit? – she'd have the answers, and I'm forever grateful.

LOHN: Do you have any transformative wellness tips for community members who may not be able to unwind at the studio itself?

MELISSA: There are many elements of our experience that you can take home with you! First, aromatherapy. Light a candle, turn your diffuser on, or burn some incense, and I think you'll be surprised that such a small act can make you feel so present and grounded. Second, breathwork. And for me, it doesn't need to be fancy. It's as simple as being aware of my breath. For example, when I'm cuddled up on the couch with my sleepy dog, I like to be aware of my breath, his breath, and try to synchronize it! Third, movement. In our classes, we use the power of heat to deepen stretches, but I've incorporated these same movements into my nighttime routine and it's been a game changer even without the heat. Some neck and shoulder rolls, hip releases, and twists, and I feel like a new person. It helps me relieve muscle pain, reduce tension, and have a great sleep. 

The takeaway here: keep it simple. I know I've put pressure on myself in the past to do the most when it came to wellness. But it's these incremental changes to your routine that will have the most impact!
You can check out Alter at their College Street studio, or on their website here

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