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How Osmosis Day Spa’s Authentic Approach to Rejuvenation Helps Guests Find Vitality Through a Connection to Nature & Community

Re-Posted: 3.28.18 • LEISURE & TRAVEL

By: Jessica Sommerfield

The Crunch: The spa industry has grown as consumers become more focused on natural health and wellness. But, by marketing themselves as places for pampering and emphasizing beauty over wellness, many spas have strayed from their original purpose. Osmosis Day Spa offers guests an authentic experience that incorporates the meditation-inspiring traditions of Japanese gardening with the health benefits of the cedar enzyme bath to deliver total rejuvenation. Through its community involvement and sustainability efforts, Osmosis Day Spa strives to educate and restore the connection between personal and environmental wellness.

Spas are known as places for relaxation and escape from the stresses of modern life, practices that have become scarce in both consumer and corporate culture.

Over the last several years, Americans have become more conscientious about taking better care of their bodies through natural foods and products, exercise, and holistic health care. And the day spa industry has grown in response. In 2017, Americans made 184 million visits to spas — up from 176 million the previous year.

Photo of Michael Stusser, Founder of the Osmosis Day Spa

Michael Stusser founded Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary to create a place of nurturing services in resonance with nature.

But, as spa businesses seek to attract more clients with an array of youth-preserving and beautification services, the predominant marketing message consumers hear is that spas are more about vanity and luxury than a quest for fundamental vitality.

Michael Stusser, Founder of the Osmosis Day Spa, believes that catering to a sense of vanity rather than a desire for well-being misconstrues the purpose of spas and fails to meet the true needs of their clientele.

“When you talk about what represents authenticity, one of the biggest disservices to our industry is the use of the word ‘pampering’ in advertising. It’s a term that doesn’t capture the sincerity and quality of the work that many people are committed to doing with massage,” Michael said. “We have a responsibility to step up and provide something much more substantial — and people want it.”

Located in the tranquil, historic town of Freestone, California, Osmosis Day Spa weaves together Michael’s studies in Zen gardening and traditional therapies to offer the wholly rejuvenating experience spa guests are looking for.

“What we’re about is the sincere act of giving from the heart — something that’s deep, profound, and makes a difference in people’s lives,” Michael said.

From its carefully landscaped gardens to the healing properties of its cedar enzyme baths to its gifted, dedicated staff to its sustainability efforts and community involvement, Osmosis Day Spa helps guests recenter and revitalize through simplicity and serenity.

Bringing the Healing Power of Nature and Japanese Culture to the US

During Michael’s time at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in the 1960s, he developed an interest in environmentalism and sustainable gardening. His later involvement in the horticultural community of Northern California laid the groundwork for an understanding of the role of nature in fostering wellness and vitality.

“I began to recognize that gardens were about more than soil-building, food, and diet leading to a healthy lifestyle. Gardens put people in connection with the rhythms of nature, and that has a healing property to it,” Michael said.

Another quality Michael recognized in gardens is their ability to feed the eyes — and the soul — with natural beauty. “Garden art lifts people’s eyes to the horizon, creating a sense of connection to distance and time, and a perspective of longevity, which is an aspect of what draws people to spas. Being attuned to nature brings vitality, a core component of wellness,” Michael said.

The lessons Michael learned from gardening played a significant role in the development of Osmosis Day Spa, and remain an important part of its core values.

In the early 1980s, Michael traveled to Japan, where he apprenticed in traditional Japanese gardening and became immersed in its history and its ties to Zen meditation. He also spent time in a Buddhist monastery, where he discovered the benefits of the cedar enzyme bath.

Michael returned to the US with a desire to share this knowledge with others, and he chose his former home of Freestone, California — a historic rural community with a rich artisan culture that sees thousands of tourists every year — to be the home of Osmosis Day Spa.

“When I thought about where I wanted to bring it, it seemed natural to come back here. It’s removed from the hustle and bustle, and the natural beauty is exquisite,” Michael said. “Quietude is an important element in the healing process.”

Since founding Osmosis Day Spa in 1985, Michael has seen massage and other spa therapies develop into professional art forms with growing receptivity and popularity, and his business has flourished along with the industry as a whole.

“People realize how important touch is to healing, stress reduction, and overall well-being,” Michael said.

Providing Guests with the Benefits of the Cedar Enzyme Bath & a Unified Spa Experience

Osmosis Day Spa’s menu of services includes massage, facials, and spa packages that combine garden views and tea service with aromatherapy and essential oil treatments. But the spa’s signature treatment is the cedar enzyme bath — for which Osmosis remains the exclusive North American destination.

The enzyme bath’s modern form dates to the 1940s — and it was popularized by Olympic athletes in 1972 — but it originates out of the centuries-old Japanese tradition of harvesting fruits, vegetables, and herbs in their prime and turning them into healing salves and tonics.

“When I first experienced the enzyme bath, I was healed from serious sciatica and felt my whole body transformed in a significant way,” Michael said. “It’s a very powerful cleansing and detoxification process.”

The bath combines three treatments into a singular experience: heat therapy, aromatherapy, and biologically active enzymes.

Michael had long been a fan of natural hot springs, and this heightened his appreciation for the therapeutic effects of heat — which include softening body tissue, dilating the cardiovascular system, opening pores, and inducing total-body relaxation.

But the cedar enzyme treatment doesn’t involve a tub of water. Instead, the medium is a powdery red substance comprised of ground-up evergreens.

“It’s fragrant with oils from the most aromatic cedar in the world, along with the other wood species we use,” Michael said. “Research on essential oils has shown cedar to be one of the most efficacious in aromatherapy, with benefits such as deep relaxation. When you lay in a cedar enzyme bath, your entire body receives these vapors released in the steam of the fermentation process.”

Photo of a cedar enzyme bath

The cedar enzyme bath provides a warm, familiar, rejuvenating experience for Osmosis Day Spa guests.

When guests enter the cedar enzyme bath, they find it familiar — yet hard to describe. “They say, ‘Oh, this is what it is.’ There’s something fundamentally familiar to it,” Michael said.

The cedar enzyme bath experience encourages whole-body relaxation and heightened awareness of one’s self and surroundings, and Osmosis Day Spa strives to evoke this response during the entirety of a guest’s stay.

“Our entire facility — the way we hire and train our staff, the way the parking lot is laid out, the way the walkways lead to the building, the way the gardens are built — is intended to bring people to that point from the minute they drive up,” Michael said.

Osmosis Day Spa’s five acres of Zen gardens — including the meditation garden by premier designer Robert Ketchell, the British horticulturist who interned with Michael in Kyoto, inspire communion with nature. The spa also features a Japanese tea garden, secluded pagodas, a Field of Hammocks, and intimate outdoor meeting spaces.

“The gardens have been designed to create a connection to a place that has a sense of unity and cohesion,” Michael said. “Our meditation garden is a huge conductor of quietude and tranquility that people are especially receptive to after they’ve had a spa treatment.”

Connecting to the Community to Foster Environmental Awareness

Connection is a core value of Osmosis Day Spa, and this inspires its involvement in the community of Freestone and beyond.

Osmosis Day Spa partners with local businesses to provide guests with access to lodging for overnight stays, restaurants, and area tourist activities. It also directly supports many community organizations and projects — especially those that teach the value of healthy living and environmental stewardship.

“Being a part of the community is an important aspect of our work and our story,” Michael said. “We’ve collaborated with our neighbors to improve the water system in our town, and we’ve also worked with some nonprofits to support them and create awareness.”

One of the ongoing projects Osmosis Day Spa supports is the Ceres Community Project, in which nutritionists and chefs teach teens about nutrition, cooking, and local sourcing. The food they make is distributed to families suffering life-threatening illnesses. Osmosis supports Ceres by donating the profits from the box lunches it offers to guests.

“A local farm-to-table restaurant provides the lunch at cost, and the markup is given to the Ceres Community Project,” Michael said.

Ten years, ago, Michael also played a key role in starting the Green Spa Network — a collection of businesses from around the US that work together to help the spa industry set an eco-friendly example.

“We’re trying to function as a nexus in our community to inform, educate, and provide experiences that will help awaken them to what it means to live a vital, earth-friendly lifestyle,” Michael said.

Creating an Experience that Awakens People to Care About Themselves & Their Surroundings

In an industry that often markets to consumers’ obsession with aesthetic beauty and youthfulness, Osmosis Day Spa stands out for its authentic approach and a focus on total-body wellness that awakens not only self-awareness but also consciousness of one’s world.

Spas are places where people make themselves vulnerable, and Michael believes the industry is in a position to have more than a superficial impact on people’s health and lifestyles.

“People are coming to spas looking to transcend a lifestyle that’s not sustainable and to align with something more substantial than these paradigms of excessive consumerism,” Michael said. “They’re opening themselves up and trusting they’ll be gifted something of tremendous value. There’s so much opportunity, given what we could be doing as an industry, to help influence the direction of our culture.”

Osmosis Day Spa provides a place where people can relax and rejuvenate, learn how to take care of themselves, and reconnect to the most important things in life.

“We’re more than just a day spa selling a menu of services — we’re recognized as a source for valuable information and guidance on how to improve the potential of one’s life,” Michael said. “We’re making that connection between vital people and vital planet. They go hand in hand.”

Jessica Sommerfield

Jessica Sommerfield is a contributing writer for DealCrunch with over seven years of experience with online publications in the personal finance sector and other consumer-focused niches. Her 13 years of experience in brick-and-mortar stores prior to her writing career have also given her an insider’s perspective on the unique challenges that the retail industry faces.

Former Olympic Champion Uses Cedar Enzyme Bath for Training Recovery

sports massage

Enjoy riding and training on the infamous roads of Sonoma County? Are you a resident or a visitor hoping to get more out of your training and riding on our beautiful roads? Wishing you could recover quicker, more completely and get more from each workout? Try a visit to Osmosis, conveniently located in Freestone. With a bike-friendly environment and its unique offering of Cedar Enzyme Baths, Osmosis is an ideal training tool for any cyclist.

An Enzyme bath is an ideal means to totally relax and revive after a vigorous workout. This Japanese heat treatment is a biologically induced process that removes lactic acid from your muscles, reduces inflammation, and increases mobility. Former National and World Champion and Sonoma County resident Giana Roberge, AKA the Speed Queen, became a true believer following a grueling 30 European tour when she was totally resurrected after one Cedar Enzyme Bath treatment.

The Cedar Enzyme Bath was an amazing experience. It made me feel clean, energized, revitalized, more flexible and the muscle soreness that had plagued me for weeks was gone after one treatment. It became part of my training regime for my most stressful training blocks.

Choose one of our packages combining a Cedar Bath with a 75-minute massage from one of our gifted body workers and you have a post cycling experience designed to maximize your  hard work by giving your body a complete and cleansing recovery. Fully restored, detoxed, and flexible means better blood flow in your muscles which will not only allow them to work harder but they will be less likely to incur injury. With flexible and clean muscles, fatigue will be less, power output will increase, and you will, literally, be able to pedal faster.

cedar bath 2for1

Our exceptional spa services and serene meditation garden add up to a fantastic enhancement to your Sonoma cycling experience. Osmosis is extending a special welcome mat to all cyclists. Ride in during the month of August 2018 and get a FREE Pagoda Upgrade!

*Pagoda subject to availability.

The Osmosis Cedar Enzyme Bath Deepens the Benefits of Massage

Osmosis Cedar Enzyme Bath

The heat in the Enzyme Bath is produced biologically by the activity of microorganisms, which also produce their own electrochemical environment.  When the largest organ of the body, the skin, comes in direct contact with this intense metabolic activity, the heat and energy benefit your body in many ways.  

The benefits of the Cedar Enzyme Bath not only support but deepen the benefits of massage.

Heat treatment, such as the Cedar Enzyme Bath, is well known to benefit muscle soreness and pain in a variety of ways:  
  • The blood vessels of the muscular system are dilated with heat therapy, which in turn, increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, helping to heal damaged tissue, such as muscle strains.
  • Heat stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, which means the Cedar Enzyme Bath may aid in decreasing the transmissions of pain signals to the brain, thus relieving discomfort associated with muscle pain.
  • If you are sore after an increased workout, the heat combined with the metabolic activity of the enzymes will help to move lactic acid build up, which creates that sensation of muscle soreness, out of the tissues.
  • Heat will help soften the muscular tissue for your massage.  This enables your massage therapist, working on stiff, tight or “knotted” areas to reach deeper layers of tissue enabling a deeper release of muscle tension.
  • Finally, because heat will decrease the transmission of pain signals to the brain, the Cedar Enzyme Bath can address the “hurt all over” pain or discomfort associated with fibromyalgia, the rheumatic diseases, drug side effects, vitamin D deficiency and sleep deprivation.

It is important to note that while heat therapy, such as the Cedar Enzyme Bath, can aid in the relief of many types of muscular soreness, pain or discomfort, there are certain types of pain for which heat is not suggested.  Never apply heat to an infected area. Never apply heat to a fresh injury characterized by inflammation. Ice is soothing to inflamed tissue. Lastly, heat is contraindicated for the flare-up certain arthritic conditions.

Heat is primarily for relaxation, comfort, and reassurance, taking the edge of several kinds of body pain, mostly duller persistent pains associated with muscle stiffness, soreness due to lactic acid, or muscular cramping or spasm. Heat is reassuring and this reassurance, through applied neurology, is analgesic.

The next time you book a Cedar Enzyme Bath at Osmosis, try one of our packages that couples the bath with a massage, and find out for yourself how much the bath deepens and enhances the benefits of your massage. The combination of services in our package offerings is no accident. Osmosis offers the Cedar Enzyme Bath in a variety of spa packages combining the bath with a massage.  These include the Rejuvenation Package, the Transformation package, the Specialty Package, the Ultimate Experience and our couple’s package called the Warmth of Love.

Raizelah Bayen, Spa Services Manager Osmosis Day SpaRaizelah Bayen is a California Certified Massage Therapist, currently employed as the Spa Services Manager at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone, California.  She has been practicing massage for over 25 years and teaching T’ui Na, Acupressure, Sports and Pregnancy Massage in massage certification programs for 15 years.  Raizelah is an approved CEU Instructor by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), offering training in Freestone, California and on-site training at your massage school or spa.  For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.

Please contact raizelah@osmosis.com for information on upcoming trainings in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, and Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers scheduled in Sebastopol, California.  Or book Raizelah for an on-site training in your massage school or spa in T’ui Na, Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology or Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers.

Spring Garden Journal 2018

japanese garden master pruner

By Michael Alliger

The clouds, cold and late rains seem to do what they can to stanch the onset of spring yet plums begin blooming on Valentine’s day as usual and cherries to flower by April with a host of magnolias in between. Our California natives join the fray in the form of pink-flowering currant and blue ceanothus. We meet again the urge of the world to become itself and we gardeners see to our preparations: tools are sharpened, irrigation supplies are inventoried, fertilizers applied and the weeding begins!   

Spring Pruning

magnolia at Osmosis

Spring pruning of deciduous trees like dogwood and Japanese maple usually begins around April 15th once the new leaves have come out and hardened up, that is, acclimated to sunand weather. The goal of Japanese garden pruning is to maintain an appropriate size (human scale) while instilling a look of age. This look is often a stylized version of much older trees that have been subjected to their environment’s gifts and trials: rain, snow, wind, heat, and drought. While much control and refinement is done in winter, spring follow up pruning is critical to maintaining this vision. While managing size by cutting back ends is paramount, inner foliage is thinned showing the intricacies of branching and the interplay of light and shadow.

Sheared Plants

pruning at OsmosisSheared plants are a staple in a Japanese style garden and proper shearing is an art. Along with stone, they are a fundamental grounding element bringing stasis amidst change.  While sometimes overlooked, low sheared plants, called tamamono (horizontal oval in shape) can be many. The hard-edged contour is an integral counterpoint to the more natural forms of other trees and shrubs. In Japan, azaleas largely fill this need. Here at Osmosis, for ecological reasons, we use replacements such as escallonia compacta,  dwarf berberis and euonymus microphylla. Once new growth emerges they look shaggy, blurring the crisp edge so important to their function.  Consequently, a round of shearing is necessary in spring addressing some individuals 2 or 3 times as needed.

Of all plants in our garden pines are the one group allowed to look somewhat unruly in spring.  Their new shoots emerge from buds beginning in

pruning at Osmosis

February and elongate into a tubular shape known as candles.  Though there are many approaches to pine pruning, at Osmosis we allow the candles to extend fully until needles unfold from them.  At this time they are removed (cut or snapped off by hand).  This technique controls size while the subsequent summer growth is used to develop foliage density and limited incremental extension.

The balance of plants such as nandina, pieris, flowering quince and juniper are pruned as their new growth arises.  These complementary shrubs are pruned in a more general way to add context and a natural feel to the garden.

Spring work can be busy here at Osmosis as in most gardens but the softening weather and vibrant life bring joy to every day!

All About the Cedar Enzyme Bath – And By the Way, What Are the Benefits?

CedarBath
The rejuvenating alchemy of the Cedar Enzyme Bath has become legendary for good reason.  The warm and fragrant treatment offers myriad health benefits.
This unique therapeutic body treatment from Japan is found nowhere else on this continent. It is a bathing ritual that involves immersing your entire body in a mixture of soft and fragrant ground cedar and rice bran with living enzymes.

The Cedar Enzyme Bath is four treatments in one:

1. Enzyme Herbal Tonic Benefits

The Cedar Enzyme Bath treatment begins with a hot enzyme tonic beverage. A highly active digestive enzyme product from Japan is mixed with an herbal tea blend comprised of nettle, peppermint, yarrow and red clover. The enzyme tonic is designed to work synergistically with the enzyme bath. Its purpose is to launch the process of invigoration by boosting your metabolism internally; this is further promoted externally by the enzyme bath itself.

2. Aromatherapy Benefits

Cedar has been used across centuries by diverse cultures—from Tibetans to Egyptians to Native Americans—for its cleansing and purifying properties.

Cedar oil vapors are released from the fragrant wood in the enzyme bath, and they flow into your body through your pores, which are dilated by the heat. It is like receiving a full-body cedar compress. Research on cedar has shown that it has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, all effective for cleansing and toning your tissues. Cedar oil also stimulates the brain’s limbic system, enhancing feelings of joy and satisfaction. It is known to be a sedative because its scent induces the release of serotonin, which can promote tranquility and encourage improved sleep.

3. Heat Therapy Benefits

Heat from the bath improves circulation as it dilates your blood vessels and augments blood flow into even the smallest capillaries, permeating the cellular environment and delivering the healing properties of blood.

Heat treatments calm muscle spasms, increase range of motion and relax muscle tension, which in turn relieves pressure on nerves inside the muscles.

4. Enzyme Benefits

The enzyme bath influences your metabolism by affecting enzymatic activity throughout the body. Enzymes are a special class of proteins that serve as catalysts for biochemical reactions. There are over 3,000 different enzymes in every cell of living tissue. Even just a small increase in available enzymes can make enormous changes in an organism.

The action of the enzyme bath strengthens physiological processes that are constantly being performed by the internal organs to produce both heat and enzyme activity inside the body. When your body is immersed in this bioactive medium, your metabolism is stimulated from the outside, supporting the internal organs that usually perform these functions on their own. This is one reason the bath is both relaxing and energizing at the same time!

The heat in the enzyme bath is produced biologically by the activity of microorganisms, which also produce their own electro-chemical environment. When the largest organ of the body, the skin, comes in direct contact with this intense metabolic activity, the heat and energy benefit your body in many ways.

In a biological process similar to fermentation, the enzyme bath helps break down metabolic waste in the subcutaneous layer of your skin. It also improves digestion and organ cleansing, breaks down lactic acid in sore muscles, and reduces inflammatory fluid build-up, which can provide relief from pain including arthritis and rheumatism.

An added benefit of the bath is that the enzymes decompose dead skin cells, resulting in full body exfoliation and lustrous skin as your epidermis, your pores, and even the cells themselves are thoroughly cleansed.

After the Cedar Enzyme Bath

Bathers feel significantly revitalized, with skin that is soft, velvety and glowing with warmth. People report a sensation of profound relaxation and rejuvenation. It is especially soothing for the digestive and nervous systems, excellent for detoxification, and highly beneficial for pain and fatigue.

This treatment is not recommended for pregnant women, for individuals with high blood pressure, known infections or uncontrolled diabetes, or for those who have recently consumed alcoholic beverages.

It is recommended for people seeking a powerful energetic shift, detoxification (it’s a great way to end a fast), relief from anxiety, stress, or soreness, or just a way back to feeling fantastic and fully alive!