Soaking in a bathtub is an unfamiliar experience. I’ve lived in condominiums almost all my life, so having enough space just to shower was a treat – let alone space for a decadent bathtub. Yet here I am, having a dip in lovely Goldilocks water (not too hot, not too cold, just right), in a tub that surprisingly yet comfortably fits my 1.78m body. The lights are configured just enough so that I can either use my phone or have a power nap (just in case my boss is reading this, I chose the former, to catch-up on work emails). Oh, lest I forget, the bathtub water also contains more than double the oxygen in the atmosphere and at least five times the oxygen in my body tissue. That means all that oxygen is being passively diffused into my cells, with the objective of revitalising my body from the inside out, so that I’ll step out of here feeling fresher, better and younger. So, did I?
A Safe Space
The Apollo Men’s Wellness Center covers 2,239 square feet of prime retail space in The Starhill, Kuala Lumpur. It features the latest and greatest technology and services, the best menswear and grooming products, as well as a panel of professionals and experts, all with the singular goal of providing men with their very own one-stop destination to fulfil all of their needs (and wants). As the health and wellness juggernaut grows year after year, the founders of the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center noticed a significant opportunity to target and cater to men. “There was a gap in the market for men’s health and wellness. I’d say around three quarters of my clients are women, and the rest are men,” says Dr. Nadzri Mokhtar, the Medical Director of and one of the co-founders of the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center. He also runs the NARA Clinic, which has been specialising in anti-aging, aesthetics and functional medicine since 2006. “Men are now more conscious of their health. They’ve already accumulated their wealth, so now they want to regain their health. They have a lot of issues with their health and well-being, but they don’t have a safe space for anyone to talk to.”
“So, Daniel Beltsos and I, as well as a few others, sat down a couple of years ago and asked, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to open a place for men that’s also a safe haven, like a men’s den, where they can get all their needs met?’,” Dr. Mokhtar continues. “It could be like a convenient, one-stop shop providing grooming, lifestyle, health and wellness choices to men.” And so, the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center was born, providing a range of health and wellness options, including made-to-measure outfits from Santoni or Figure (by celebrated Malaysian designer Bernard Chandran); coffee from French brand DASI Frères; specially curated barber services from Rusty Blades Barber; and, of course, a smorgasbord of cutting-edge treatments such as Personalised Oxygenation Delivery System, EMSCULPT NEO, and ED Ultrasound Shock Wave Therapy, all of which will be administered by a team of seasoned doctors and experienced healthcare professionals.
Ironically, though, a visit to the doctor is the last thing the founders of the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center want for all of its clients. In fact, I myself was a bit unsure when I first visited; I initially thought it was a café-atelier-salon boutique. Thankfully, Zakwan, the attending nurse, confirmed that I was in the right place and that my appointment would begin shortly. Time to go for a dip.
Refuel, Refresh, Revitalise
Unless medical journals and research papers are part of your nightly reading materials, the word ‘hypoxia’ or the phrase “reversal of tissue hypoxia” most likely reads like gibberish. To explain simply, hypoxia is when your body’s tissues don’t have enough oxygen. Those who have heart or lung diseases are at risk of hypoxia, while infections such as influenza, pneumonia and, you guessed it, COVID-19, can also increase one’s risk of getting hypoxia. (For inquisitive minds: ‘hypoxemia’ is when you have low oxygen levels in your blood.)
The Personalised Oxygenation Delivery System, or PODS, is designed to help fight the effects of aging by reversing hypoxia. “Reversing hypoxia is the beginning of your curative and wellness journey,” Dr. Mokhtar explains. “Having low oxygenation in your tissue and cells causes them to be dysfunctional and thus won’t be optimised. Oxygen is a key ingredient of life. It’s the basis of the generation of energy and cellular health. That’s why we made PODS one of our main treatments here in Apollo.” (More on the other key treatments soon.)
Hidden away behind the stylish cafe, mini fashion boutique and men’s barber in the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center are several treatment rooms, one of which contains the PODS bathtub. While Zakwan prepares my PODS session and briefs me about the process, I can’t help but feel like I’m in a trendy spa with upmarket amenities – a far cry from the treatment rooms of clinics or hospitals, which are very often cold (both literally and metaphorically) and intimidating. If the goal is to improve one’s health and wellness, I think I’m on the right track here rather than a GP’s office.
Soon after, the water is ready, and Zakwan tells me he’ll come back to get me in about 45 minutes (my session today is only for 30 minutes; but they’re usually for 50 minutes). I ask him if there’s anything I need to do or prepare before I dive in – his only instruction is “to enjoy yourself!”. Remember, I’m more of a showers kinda guy. So, clothes off and timer set, I gradually lower myself into what looks like a very normal, albeit long, bathtub. It doesn’t look, sound or feel like alien technology. I don’t need to strap on a breathing mask; there aren’t tubes or wires stuck on me; this all feels so … normal. Unlike a jacuzzi’s high-powered jetstreams, this PODS bathtub’s bursts of air into the water are far more gentle. I barely notice it after a few minutes, and it isn’t long before I’ve gotten used to the feeling of being almost completely submerged in bathtub water.
During the first 15 minutes, I try to distract myself with emails and newsfeeds. But somewhere around the halfway point, I decide to put down my phone and to be present in the moment. Not only because I try to practise mindfulness as often as I can, but also because I just feel so relaxed. I remember taking short dips in hotel jacuzzis while on vacations; I also recall experiencing onsen in Hokkaido – although both were enjoyable dips, I never felt completely at ease or that I wanted to stay longer than necessary. But here, in the PODS bathtub, I feel calm, present and, there’s no other word for it, well. When we were all kids, we’d laugh at each others’ fingers pruning up during our shenanigans at the pool. But not only does that not happen in this bathtub, my skin also feels great. What’s going on here?
“The Personalised Oxygenation Delivery System is a one-of-a-kind, revolutionary product,” Dr. Mokhtar explains. “It has a very high concentration of oxygen in that water – 360 ml per mmHg. To compare, the atmosphere has 160 ml per mmHg, and our body tissue has around 40 to 60 ml per mmHg. So the difference in the partial pressure of oxygen drives oxygen directly into the body through the skin and into our tissues, our interstitial fluids and our cells via passive diffusion, which means there’s no need for additional energy on your part. This reverses tissue hypoxia and in so doing optimises your cellular health and regains organ function and vitality.” But before our conversion gets too technical and flies over my head, both Dr. Mokhtar and Zakwan usher me into the next room, so that we can get to work on my bulging belly.
No offence taken.
Twenty Thousand Sit-ups in 30 Minutes
The sedentary lifestyle enforced upon us during the dark days of the MCOs meant that I also packed on one too many kilos than I’d liked. The journey back to optimum health and physique has been going well, but it’s now about to get a high-tech boost far beyond what I can imagine. I just have to be able to endure it.
The EMSCULPT NEO, developed by BTL Industries from the UK, is non-invasive technology that uses radiofrequency (RF) and high-intensity focused electromagnetic (HIFEM) waves simultaneously to eliminate fat and to build muscle. According to BTL’s data, clients lose on average 30 per cent fat and gain 25 per cent muscle when applied to any of these body areas: the abdomen, buttocks, arms, calves or thighs. At the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center, the most popular area treated is the abdomen. Zakwan explains that the first step in each EMSCULPT NEO session is a 360-degree measurement of the client’s abdomen area. This is so that both the client and the team can keep track of progress. Then, the client lies down, a couple of straps are placed on top of the abdomen area, and the applicator (which looks like a souped-up emergency defibrillator) is strapped on. As I’m being prepared, Zakwan also explains that clients usually can take up to 50 per cent of the EMSCULPT NEO’s intensity during their first few sessions, while experienced clients can go all the way to the maximum; he recommends that I also aim for 50 per cent today, and to gradually build-up towards it. I nod in agreement.
“You’re about to do 20,000 situps in the next 30 minutes,” Zakwan says, as he switches on the EMSCULPT NEO machine. I barely have time to react before I feel my belly heating up from the RF waves. Soon, I feel my abdominal muscles (yes, they exist, just hidden behind layers of subcutaneous fat) contract. Zakwan checks on me every few minutes to ensure that I’m not in any pain or discomfort; every time I give a thumbs-up, he cranks up the intensity by five per cent. Ten minutes in, the rapid pulses get pretty intense, resulting in equally pronounced muscle contractions. At the 20 minute mark, I reach the 50 per cent intensity level, but I request to dial it back to 45, which is just enough for it to feel like a ‘workout’ but not excessive enough to feel like torture. The process proceeds in waves: rapid pulses for a few minutes, then rest for a few minutes, and so on. It all feels like an army of mini-masseuses trying to break down my spare tire, in hopes of unveiling a six-pack.
The 30 minutes fly by, and as I stand up and look in the mirror, I look and feel … skinnier. Maybe not to the extent that I’m cover model material, but there’s undoubtedly a difference. And as the days go by and my regular gym workouts continue, I continue to look and feel slimmer in the torso. Who needs crunches, really?
Before I take my leave, Dr. Mokhtar hands me a bottle of Langkawi Pure mineral water, harvested from the aquifers in the rainforests of our very own UNESCO Global Geopark, and showcases the third most popular and important wellness service provided at the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center. The Erectile Dysfunction-Ultrasound Shock Wave Therapy room uses an FDA-approved device to treat ED and clients’ sexual health. “The program takes 15 minutes per session, once a week, for six sessions. It has shown clinically proven benefits,” Dr. Mokhtar says. “Sexual health plays a big role in confidence. Men try to look tough on the outside, but inside they could be going through struggles, doubt or a lack of confidence. I feel that the treatment of ED and sexual health is truly lacking, and men could also be reluctant to talk about that. So that’s why we have this treatment available, and so that men can come here, talk about it and feel safe.”
In Greek mythology, Apollo is the god of, among other things, the sun, healing, medicine, knowledge, art and music. He was always depicted as young and handsome, and was probably one of the most loved gods. It’s no accident that his name was chosen for this Apollo Men’s Wellness Center, as Dr. Nadzri explains that we “should use knowledge to benefit our health and to improve yourself.” Our knowledge, science, research, engineering and technology up till now has led us to inventions like the Personalised Oxygenation Delivery System (RM8,000 for 20 sessions), EMSCULPT NEO (RM1,500 for six sessions) and Erectile Dysfunction-Ultrasound Shock Wave Therapy (RM6,000 for six sessions). The pursuit of the very best life, health and well-being has and will go hand-in-hand with advancements in science and technology; and the newer and rarer these wellness products and services are, the higher their costs will inevitably be.
But perhaps they’re all worth the investment. As I say my farewells and leave the Apollo Men’s Wellness Center, there’s an extra bounce in my step. I feel fresher, more alert, sharper and, dare I say it, younger. Arriving home, I look at myself in the mirror again and notice that I look considerably slimmer. My skin feels smoother than it has ever been. I clear work and complete tasks more efficiently than I have all week. Maybe not quite a god, but I do feel like an Olympian. And, you know what, that makes me feel pretty damn good – or well – about myself.