Your first Cedar Enzyme Bath: A Self-love Story

You listen to your body

Stress fogs your mind and creeps into corners of your body. Joints and muscles ache from the burdens of life. Some nights you have trouble sleeping. Digestion issues are emerging. Your body is communicating imbalances to you. Finally, you listen. You need treatment. Searching for “Health Spa In Northern California,” you come across Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary and the Cedar Enzyme Bath. “Enzymes,” you wonder, “like the enzymes you take to help your digestive organs?” It seems strange but intriguing. The reviews sound positive, almost too good to be true. The photos of beautiful Zen gardens draw you in. What the heck, it’s worth a try. You book an appointment online.

Arriving at Osmosis

Driving into Freestone, CA, you marvel that these quaint little townships still exist. When you get out of your car at the spa, you feel a clean moisture on your skin and in your lungs.  Ahhhh, the ocean isn’t far. Every square inch of this part of the world is lush and seems to have received a special blessing from mother nature. You walk into stunningly architected gardens, like a layered sculpture of the elements. The terrace has the glow of lush Northern California landscape but the restraint and precision of a meticulously pruned Zen garden.

Walking into the spa, the aroma of wood and herbs strike you. The receptionist welcomes you and details how you will be guided through the bath experience. She seems to answer all of your questions before you’ve had the chance to ask them: how you’ll know when it’s time to go into the bath, what your options for clothing in the bath are, what you should do if you feel uncomfortable or have questions at any time, and what the steps are following the bath. This is a safe place, you can relax. Attendants will guide you.

Tea Ceremony

You’re guided by a kind woman named Shelley down a clean hallway. There’s a monk-like quality about her and this whole place feels like a temple. Peaceful. Meditative. Shelley leads you to a small room that opens up to an stunning courtyard garden and pond. It looks like you’re gazing at a framed picture, it is one of the most pristine gardens you’ve ever seen. “Am I still in the US?” you question for a moment. Shelley serves you tea and offers you a cushion to relax on. The tea is mellow and fragrant. The attendant tells you that the tea has enzymes in it that will heal your body from the inside out. That sounds wonderful! Healing from the inside out. You hadn’t quite thought of a trip to a spa in those terms before. While you knew that your body needed some love and attention—some deep relaxation—you’re starting to think that this enzyme bath experience might be more transformative than you’d anticipated. You take a deep breath and imagine the enzymes in the tea entering your organs. You hope that they’re combating the less-than-ideal foods that you’ve been indulging on lately.

The Cedar Enzyme Bath

Your told that it’s time for the bath and Shelley guides you from the tea room to the tub room. It’s warm and steamy. You’re struck by the size of these beautiful, wooden tubs. Their design reminds you of a Japanese architecture. A wall of windows to your right looks out to another incredible garden. This garden is more expansive and airy. You can see the steam rising off of the auburn-colored mixture in the tub. It’s hard to believe that it’s contents are finely ground cedar and rice bran! You dip your hand in to feel it out, the way one dips their toes in a pool to test the water before jumping in. The bath feels fluffy and soft, you spread the mixture across the back of your hand and you already sense the oils seeping into your skin.  Immediately you want to make the plunge.

Getting into the tub is easy. The mindful attendant has already explained to you how to climb into the nice little canal that’s been dug for you. Then Shelley covers your body with the mixture. As the soft, heavy mixture encapsulates you, a layer of tension escapes. The mixture is pillowy but supportive. Like the best kind of mattress only this supportively shapes to the most comfortable posture for your body. Once you’ve found your ideal position, the attendant piles more of the mixture over the top of you and makes a small mound just behind your neck to provide perfect support for your head and spine. Another layer of tension evaporates from between your shoulder blades and down the middle of your back. You want to burrow yourself inside this bath and never get out. Your whole body is pulsing with warm energy. You notice it in your toes, then in your knees and ankles. Your joints actually feel good. The warmth of the bath is permeating your entire being in a way that is gentle yet very powerful. Now you understand what “warm to the bones” really feels like. Your attention broadens and your entire body feels weightless and balanced and you drift in and out of consciousness. Dreamy.

Shelley asks if your comfortable and tells you that she’ll be back in five minutes. When she returns, she lays a cool, wet cloth on your forehead. It smells like lavender. This is the life of the gods. Then she offers you a sip of water. She asks if you’re too hot or need any of the cedar adjusted or if you’d like to get out. This process repeats every five minutes until you’ve completed the maximum time of 20 minutes in the bath. You to sit up and drink some more water. A thin coating of the moss-like mixture covers your ams. She helps you emerge from the bath. Your skin feels deeply moisturized. Your body feels more alive, more flexible, more capable. Though you just emerged from a dream-like state, you don’t feel groggy or cloudy. Rather, you notice that the fog of stress in your mind and body that led you here in the first place has lifted, like a cloudy morning in San Francisco suddenly transforming into a warm, sunny afternoon. Energized.

Following the Bath

You’re led to a private patio. Shelley uses a soft brush to sweep the cedar off of your back and then hands you the brush to continue sweeping the mixture off. Next to the patio is a shower that will rinse all of the remaining mixture from your body. You rub your hands over your body feel a heightened awareness. The feeling of your own touch is elevated. Your skin is supple in a way that it hasn’t felt in years. And you feel clean. Incredibly clean. You didn’t predict this sensation. Warm bath in cedar and rice bran: relaxing, yes. Moisturizing, possibly. But clean? Yes! Like all of the skin is fresh. Impurities on the surface removed. Sparkling.

After you turn off the shower, a mist turns on in the shower that sprays gently across your body. The mist has Vitamin C and other healthy supplements for your skin.

As you step out of the shower and put your robe on, you feel alive and clear-headed. There’s a sense of deep peace and love toward your body.

You’d be content and satisfied to go home at this point. But you will be guided further to other transcendental treatments of Sound Therapy, a facial and massage followed by a walk through the Zen gardens. On your meditative walk you’ll notice yourself slowing down and appreciating each moment with a calm, clear mind.

You leave Osmosis with a soft smile on your face that doesn’t seem to shake. You feel good inside. Your tummy feels calm and you notice the marked absence of muscle spasms in your back. You’re recharged, refreshed, rejuvenated.

This place truly did serve as a sanctuary and brought rejuvenation to your mind and body.

30-year Anniversary of Osmosis

We are both honored and humbled to be celebrating our 30th anniversary of the Cedar Enzyme Bath.

In the three decades since we first introduced to the Cedar Enzyme Bath to the United States, over 300,000 people have enjoyed its many benefits. Thousands of guests have shared with us their experiences of healing: improved sleep, increased mobility, reduced arthritic pain, improved digestion… the list goes on and on. We foresee this therapy becoming a recognized treatment for a wide range of health issues as the scientific community continues to expand their research on the connections between enzymes, probiotics, and human health.

Enzyme Baths and Spa Treatments in Freestone, CA

Published on About.com

By Betsy Malloy

Osmosis Spa

Osmosis Day Spa is a Japanese-style spa, opened in 1985 by Michael Stusser, who discovered enzyme baths in Japan, where he studied landscape gardening and Zen. For Stusser, the experience was life-changing and he resolved to bring the treatment to the United States.

Osmosis offers massage and facial treatments, but the Cedar Enzyme Bath is their signature treatment. It works like this: finely ground cedar-shavings, rice bran and Japanese plant enzymes are mixed, and the natural fermentation generates heat.

Clients sit covered in the mixture, absorbing the relaxing warmth. Besides the obvious benefits from the heat, some people also report improved digestion or a feeling of elation, attributed to the action of the enzymes.

Osmosis is a medium-sized facility, small enough to feel comfortable give individual attention. The main building is surrounded by a beautiful Japanese-style garden. If your treatment ends before dark, you can spend some time relaxing in the garden afterward.

Osmosis also takes great pride in being environmentally responsible, using natural products.

Review of Osmosis Spa

On my visit, I had a cedar enzyme bath and a Zen Harmony facial, skipping a massage because I’d just had one a few days before. However, after seeing their beautiful outdoor massage pagodas, private and heated yet open to nature, I wished I’d scheduled a massage as well.

The enzyme bath began with a cup of tea, blended specially blended to enhance the bath’s effect. My attendant served me the tea, told me about the steps we’d be going through and left me to enjoy a view of the gardens while she prepared my bath.

In a few minutes, I climbed in and she covered me with the cedar mixture. It felt a little like being buried in sand on the beach. I spent about 20 minutes in it, with the attendant coming in frequently to offer water and cooling towels. After emerging from the bath, I showered to remove all the shavings. If the enzyme bath is a client’s only treatment, they’ll be wrapped in a blanket and taken to a resting area afterward, but went on to my next treatment, a Zen Harmony facial.

In general, I’m not a big fan of facials. I find only minimal improvement immediately afterward and most of that is gone within a day or two. However, the Zen Harmony facial at Osmosis is something different, a combination of skin care treatments, a delicate Japanese facial massage and arm/leg massages. Owner Michael Stusser says having a client get so relaxed that they fall asleep is a therapist’s highest compliment, one that my esthetician Amy received as I drifted off about half way through.

Even better than the relaxing aspects of the treatment, my skin looked better for more than two weeks, smoother and with tighter pores, and I’m now regretting not having purchased the products Amy recommended to take home. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can order some of their products online.

What You Need to Know About Osmosis

Osmosis gets fully booked on most weekends and holidays. Reserve at least two weeks ahead to avoid disappointment. They have a 48-hour cancellation policy. Arrive for your appointment at least fifteen minutes ahead of time.

Gratuities are optional, but 15 to 20 percent of the price of the service is typical. As you check out, you’ll receive envelopes that allow you to tip each attendant you individually.

You will be provided with lockers, robes, and towels. You may also find it easier to get all the cedar shavings off after the enzyme bath if you wear a swimsuit. However, the best way to receive a massage is with the body completely unclothed. The therapist is sensitive to the need for privacy and will keep your body draped at all times with a sheet, except for the area being massaged. If this arrangement is not comfortable for you, you may wear underwear or a swimsuit.

Anyone who is under a doctor’s care should check with them before taking any treatments. High-temperature treatments like the enzyme baths are not recommended for pregnant women.

You will be buried up to your neck in the cedar shavings for about 20 minutes. If you’re claustrophobic, you may want to choose a different treatment instead.

Getting to Osmosis

Osmosis Spa
209 Bohemian Hwy
Freestone CA
(707) 823-8231
Osmosis website

Osmosis is located in Freestone, west of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, about 1.5 hours’ drive north of San Francisco. You can find directions from anywhere in California at their website.