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In Pod We Trust?

Theresa Gonzalez | May 3, 2019 | Lifestyle Story Shopping

Finding your inner Zen takes a futuristic turn inside Somadome’s egg-shaped meditation dome. The concept automates wellness trends that an acupuncturist or a masseuse might use (microcrystalline tiles, color and light therapy, binaural beats) to help you achieve a state of meditation, or at least a restful nap—in 20 minutes or less. Time will tell where the early-stage startup takes its new-age capsule, but VIPs are certainly taking note.

Richard Branson showcased an early iteration of Somadome at Virgin Disruptors’ roundtable on corporate wellness in 2015, and Dr. Oz’s nonprofit, HealthCorps, partnered with the company in 2013 to give high-school kids in Harlem and Los Angeles a chance to try out the dome and embrace the stress-reducing benefits of meditation.

“The vision for Somadome came in a very profound, intense dream over 20 years ago,” says founder Sarah Attia, who, around that time, was studying philosophy, religion and rhetoric at UC Berkeley. She brushed aside her aha! moment and went on to become a lawyer defending social justice issues in California. Then, Attia says, “I literally fell to my knees one day, about [seven] years ago. I just felt like I was not on my path.” The Sacramento native returned home to work on a prototype with an L.A.-based design team. “We have so many inputs,” she says of her motivation to launch Somadome. “I think that unplugging and recharging are necessities.”

Sit back, relax—here’s how it works: As you recline in the cozy womblike seat, an illuminated dome descends over your body. Sound claustrophobic? The opposite, actually. There’s a sense of infinite space, save your feet, which are in view. “That's an important element,” says Attia, noting that Somadome was designed with the fear of small spaces in mind. “There’s airflow; there are optional fans; your feet are sticking out; and you have full control so you can lift up the dome at any time.” Noise-canceling headphones offer a guided meditation—options are Relax, Succeed, Overcome or Focus, among others.

No word yet on testing, but Attia reports that a qualitative research study with HealthCorps indicated reduced reactive behavior and symptoms associated with stress, as well as improved mood and sense of well-being. There’s also evidence that binaural beats, which mix two sound frequencies to create the perception of a whole new one, can slow brainwave activity, helping stimulate relaxation and better sleep.

“The idea is to provide a space that is comfortable and private, and noise-canceling can be in any environment: an airport lobby, a retail space, hotels or waiting areas,” says Attia. Of the 40 domes that are now in market, one is at SenSpa in San Francisco, where sessions run $25 for 20 minutes (a personal pod runs a cool $14,500). Adobe headquarters in Silicon Valley was an early corporate adopter of the Somadome, and the company’s San Francisco office recently scored one.

“It's very exciting what's happening in wellness right now,” say Attia. “So many different healing modalities with energy medicine—so many things where people are taking their health back. We see Somadome as being a part of that whole lifestyle.”

Originally published in the May issue of San Francisco

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