It has happened! You'll pay for O2

Updated: Dec 15, 2019, 08:55 IST | Phorum Dalal | Mumbai

Test driver: An oxygen bar in Delhi is offering respite from spiralling levels of air pollution. We paid for a long whiff and here's how it went

Pics/Nishad Alam
Pics/Nishad Alam

November was a bad month for Dilliwalas. Stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab sent the smoke into the city, and like a meme said: Instagram created a filter just for users in the Capital called the hazy filter. Protests were held at India Gate, schools remained closed on "very bad" days. Masks were distributed. It is my first year in the 'gas chamber', and so, a friend texted me this message: Add fresh turmeric, avla and probiotic to your daily meals. It will keep the immunity going.

Friends from Mumbai texted: try not to breathe. Aryavir Kumar, a professional golfer and businessman, decided he was going to help the helpless. Five months ago, he launched Oxy Pure, an oxygen bar that offers 15-minutes sessions that cost anything from R299 to R499, depending on the essential oils used.

"I had tried it while travelling across the US and Europe and realised it would be a perfect to introduce in Delhi. It is not a medication, and we don't claim to cure disease. In fact, we don't allow the sick to avail the service. Only healthy 18-year-olds and above," he says, claiming the treatment helps with headaches, stress, and muscle recovery for athletes.

Pics/Nishad Alam

Explaining the technology involved, he says the cylinders that are part of the set up require an oxygen concentrating machine. "It's not like the oxygen tank at hospitals. We don't use medical oxygen. The air that comes out of the tank purifies the air around us." Usually, while breathing, we inhale 21 per cent oxygen. The tank, he claims, has the capacity to release 95 per cent. The customer ends up inhaling 50 to 60 per cent, since the nasal vents are not vacuum sealed. "The essentials oils, which are diffused in water, are mainly for fragrance and rejuvenation.

I settle into the "bar chair" in the compact four-seater space, and stare at four cannisters bubbling in yellow, purple, green and red light respectively. Four tubes dangle from these, and I take a whiff of the air flowing out, smelling of lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus and orange.

Nursing a headache, I decide to go with eucalyptus. While the lavender is fragrant, it is a strong smell for a first timer, the attendant explains. He hands me a disposable nose vent to wear and ties the tube around my neck. "What do I do?" I ask, sitting up straight. He laughs, "Madam, you can relax. Use your phone if you like. But we suggest closing the eyes and concentrating on your breathing. Take a few deep breaths once in a while."

I shut my eyes and concentrate on the sound of the water in a fountain running down from a glass. It reminds me of taking "naas" with a spoonful of mentholated ointment in a hot vessel and towel over the head. Five to seven minutes into the session, I sit back, reply to text messages, wave at a few window shoppers looking at me curiously and go through a promotion leaflet placed on the table: There have been a 17 per cent rise in death and disability due to diseases caused by air pollution across the country, it says.

Breathing polluted air is equal to smoking 45 cigarettes. In November 2017, pollution levels reached 999. The fact that I will step into this same pollution in a couple of minutes is a kill joy.

15
Number of minutes the session lasts

Verdict

The idea is to relieve the body for a couple of minutes. We'd do it occasionally if we are in the area but wouldn't visit the bar especially for the session. After the session, we notice that the pressure points around our temples are not throbbing anymore. But we are deep breathing regular air again, which brings us back to square one. Doesn't it?
Rating: 3/5
At: A-3, Saket District Centre, District Centre, Sector 6, Pushp Vihar, New Delhi

The expert says

While the session may be a good idea for short rejuvenation and quick relief from a headache, it can't override a bad nutrition plan and unhealthy lifestyle. It's like going for local skin facials rather than first focusing on eating the right foods to reduce inflammation, prevent hormonal imbalance and most importantly boost gut health. A good digestion and stabilised hormones are fundamental to optimal health. An oxygen bar is an add-on. Oxygen bars and air purifiers help with a healthy life but can't replace diet and exercise.

Karishma Chawla, nutritionist and lifestyle educator coach

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