The inspiration for Osmosis was born in Japan the day I took my first enzyme bath in the spring of 1984. As the healing warmth of the bath enveloped my entire body, I was relieved of a crushing nerve pain that had plagued my body for months. At the same time, I dropped into an indescribable experience of sensing the entire universe like never before. As a minuscule part of this journey, a vivid picture of a healing sanctuary with the enzyme bath at the core surrounded by meditative Japanese style gardens and gracious hospitality flashed before my minds eye. From this remarkable moment, I knew it was my calling to bring the Japanese enzyme bath back to West County.
Largest Enzyme bath in Japan
I knew nothing about spas or business. I found a partner in Calistoga who helped me learn about how spas work in exchange for providing the enzyme bath to his mud bath spa. On November 11th, 1984, the foundation was poured for a 400 Sq. ft. prototype which was built out of wood from a recycled chicken coop in Theresa Beldon’s back yard west of Sebastopol. I worked with my friend Steve Stucky from Zen center to create a garden with a stream and beautiful stones to greet guests when they arrived on their way to the small building on the hillside setting.
Prototype Foundation pour 11/11 1984 with Bruce, Evan and Chris Fortin, Ruho Yamada, Allison Dykstra, Eileen and Fay Mulligan
The first baths were offered in May of 1985. My tools were a snow shovel, wheelbarrow, sifting screens and a 1950 Chevy pick up truck with a long bed and tall sides. For years I shoveled, sifted and hauled tons of sawdust as I searched different sources, trying different wood species and delivering the mix to the spa in Calistoga every week. It was a slow start and building interest took time. It was a hand to mouth time and I lived in the same room that I received guests, managing to store my bedding and keep a basic kitchen in a 4-x4 storage area.
First day to offer the enzyme bath May 25th 1985
Photo by Linda Solomon
In the fall of 1987, an article about the enzyme bath was published in the Sunday section of the San Francisco Chronicle. The phone went crazy for months! There were far more people wanting to come than either the Calistoga outlet or the Sebastopol prototype could handle. It was time to start looking for a larger place. I saw an ad in the classifieds for commercial property in the bucolic village of Freestone. When I went to see the place, it was really hard to visualize how it could be nice. The property was very run down with an enormous amount of junk stacked up on the 5 acres. The back of the property along the creek was an undisturbed wilderness paradise that called out for love and protection.
After lots of soul searching, I decided to go for it. It took an arduous 18-month process of fundraising, design work and working through 18 governmental agencies to find out if it could really even happen. In the end, permits were issued and investment money came in, 400 cubic yards of debris was removed, and a complete renovation of the property was completed for a grand opening on November 11th, 1989. My cousin Susan Stein with an extensive background in hotel management soon arrived as Osmosis’s 1st hospitality manager and applied her exceptional expertise and talent to help shape the emerging company culture.
As the boom of the ’90s unfolded, things really took off and the business grew. Outdoor massage areas were added and the main building was repeatedly expanded. Osmosis was one of the only spas in the area for years outside of Calistoga. We were featured in the New York Times several times and as well as a favorite local television show, Bay Area Back Roads, that aired following the Super Bowl Sunday in 1997 which packed the house for months.
First Pagoda Massage 1993
We began the construction of a Kyoto style meditation garden designed by a world expert on Japanese gardens and built by Zen priest Steve Stucky and his landscape crew in 2000. Taking time to view the garden adds an enormous aura of tranquility to the Osmosis experience. It has since been meticulously curated by two dedicated garden artists and has become recognized as one of the most authentic Japanese style gardens in the US.
Meditation Garden 2003
In 2006, we doubled down on our commitment to sustainability and conducted a total eco renovation of the property and our operations including building a constructed wetland to recycle all the gray water from the spa. At that time, I also founded the Green Spa Network which has become a national organization supporting environmental consciousness and practices within the spa industry.
Constructed Wetlands 2006
As a cornerstone of our business our remarkable staff formed the following vision and mission for Osmosis:
Introduce and establish the enzyme bath as a genuinely beneficial form of heat therapy.
Build a profitable, sustainable business enterprise that conveys a right-livelihood opportunity/situation for owners, managers, and employees.
Create a restful sanctuary conducive to effective relaxation and therapy that contributes a sense of well-being to this world.
As we arrive at our 30th anniversary in Freestone on November 11th, 2019, we celebrate how the “Osmosis Experience” has touched so many people. This experience, in its totality, resonates at a deep level with our guests and creates a feeling of being at home, comfortable and very well taken care of. The whole gestalt of Osmosis; the services, the place and the people are like a magic balm that soothes one’s soul. We now have a dedicated following that holds Osmosis with a sense of reverence and gratitude as well as a staff that is committed to creating a “zone of peace” while fulfilling their needs and expectations.
Watch our video where Michael Stusser, founder and owner of Osmosis Day Spa, shares the story of how he discovered the Cedar Enzyme Bath in Kyoto, Japan over thirty years ago and brought it back to the States HERE!
You are invited to join our anniversary event on Monday, November 11th from 6 to 8 pm.
There will be plenty of good company on this festive evening with a wonderful spread of food provided by Goatlandia and wine compliments of Woodenhead Vineyards.
Be the first to receive the healing vibes of our NEW mini massage spot treatments, see and hear stories of our colorful history including the premiere of the 3 minute Osmosis 11/11 anniversary video and soak your feet in a healing Cedar Enzyme Footbath.
Sign up for our 30 Years in Freestone Celebration HERE!
No matter where you go these days, you hear about CBD. It’s in massage oils, tinctures, gummies, even lotion at the grocery store. In just a few short years, the CBD market has exploded, with an overwhelming range of products available. Yet many of us do not understand what CBD is, how it works, or how to choose a product. Read on to have these questions answered and learn about our exciting new Osmosis CBD enhancement.
What is CBD?
CBD, Cannabidiol, is one of over 100 different plant cannabinoids found in the Cannabis Sativa L. plant species. The most commonly known cannabinoid from this plant is THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, is not psychoactive, and has been found to have a wide range of potential health benefits. Since most marijuana plants have a relatively low amount of CBD, usually owing to their high THC content, most CBD on the market today comes from hemp plants, which are now federally legal to grow as per the 2018 Farm Bill.
How Does CBD Work?
In the early 1990’s scientists discovered a system of receptors and naturally occurring molecules in the human body that mimics the molecular shape of plant cannabinoids, and named it the endocannabinoid system. Moreover, they discovered that the presence of plant cannabinoids, such as CBD, trigger our body’s natural endocannabinoid production and essentially help to “turn on” the endocannabinoid system to its full effect.
The main function of the endocannabinoid system is to maintain homeostasis within our various body systems. In other words, it exists to return us to biological harmony when we have gotten out of balance. Further study revealed that endocannabinoid receptors are present all over the body: in the brain and nerves, skin, immune system, bone, fat tissue, liver, pancreas, muscles, heart, blood vessels, kidneys, reproductive organs and intestinal tract. In each of these areas, the endocannabinoid system works to return the body to homeostasis and optimum functioning.
CBD, by stimulating our own endocannabinoid system, has been found to have an effect on a wide variety of biological functions, such as pain, memory, mood, appetite, stress, sleep, metabolism, immune function, and reproductive function.
How can CBD increase the Benefits of Massage?
Many of the benefits of CBD are to be gained from taking an internal CBD product, such as a tincture or edible. Due to CBD’s interaction with certain medications, a consultation with a doctor is recommended before internal use. A CBD massage, on the other hand, is safe for everyone, making the benefits of CBD accessible for all, while enjoying the gifts of touch.
When considering a topical CBD product, such as an oil or cream, it is important to look at the ingredients. Many oils, such as almond or coconut oil, are not able to penetrate the many layers of the skin, so CBD blended in these oils are not effective in carrying the CBD into the deeper layers of tissue. There are, however, specific carrier oils, as well as several essential oils, that are able to permeate the skin layers and into the tissues below, entering the muscles, connective tissue, and blood vessels. When CBD is blended with these specific oils, it is able to deliver the CBD into deeper tissue layers optimizing its benefit to the body.
Eight Benefits of a CBD Massage:
Reduces post-workout soreness and muscle fatigue
Decreases back, shoulder and neck pain
Assists with arthritis pain and joint inflammation
Reduces inflammation due to strain or injury
Helps with sore feet, plantar fasciitis, or bunions
Decreases discomfort associated with peripheral neuropathy
Helps with fibromyalgia pain
Addresses skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, acne mosquito bites
Osmosis is excited to launch our CBD Massage Enhancement, using products from Colorado-based company, Lacuna Botanicals! After months of testing and vetting various CBD products, we havefound a product that we find highly effective, and feel great about sharing it with our guests.
Combining thoughtfully sourced ingredients with a potent dose of CBD, Lacuna Botanicals has created an effective line of products that are capable of addressing a variety of physical ailments. Using over 10 different essential oils with plant terpenes to help direct the action of CBD into deeper layers of muscles and connective tissue, Lacuna Botanicals offers a CBD product highly effective in the relief of pain and inflammation.
What we Love about Lacuna Botanicals:
Farm to massage table supplier. Lacuna Botanicals grows their own hemp.
Isolated CBD used in their products mean they are 100% THC free, while still being naturally sourced from homegrown full-spectrum hemp oil.
Carrier oils help to deliver CBD to muscle and connective tissue where it is most needed.
Pain reducing essential oils help to direct the action of CBD for maximum relief.
Earth friendly farming practices are combined with sustainably sourced all-natural ingredients.
Our CBD Massage Enhancement utilizes both the Lacuna Botanical Deep Tissue Cream and the Lacuna Blue Pain Relief Lotion to provide over 180 mg of CBD in a full body massage with spot treatment on the areas you need it most.
The formulators of Lacuna Botanicals products carefully selected ingredients to complement and enhance the benefits of pure CBD isolate. Some of these include:
Beeswax: Beeswax carries antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties that are essential in fighting chapped skin and bacterial infections that tend to affect us most in the dry, winter months. It forms a protective wall by sealing in moisture in our skin without smothering and clogging up the pores.
Basil Oil: Basil oil contains vitamin C that boosts skin cells metabolism, improves blood circulation and helps increase and optimize various metabolic functions of the body.
Borage Seed Oil: Borage Seed oil is rich in gamma-linoleic acid, or GLA, an omega-6 type of essential fatty acid. Oils high in GLA (like borage oil) could help reduce inflammation associated with acne and support fuller hair growth.
Tea Tree Oil: This seemingly simple oil contains around 100 different components, including molecules called terpenes that seem to exhibit antimicrobial properties. Specifically one active ingredient called terpinen-4-ol has gained attention because of its antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inﬂammatory and antifungal properties.
Wintergreen Oil: Wintergreen oil is readily absorbed through the skin and the presence of methyl salicylate causes an anesthetic effect. It also increases the circulation of the blood and brings warmth to the area in which it is applied.
Heather Bishop is the Massage Therapy Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. She has been practicing massage and bodywork for over 17 years and performs a wide variety of modalities, specializing in deep tissue and east west fusion massage. In addition to massage, Heather is also a Registered Yoga Teacher of 15 years and teaches at Soulstice in Santa Rosa. She loves having daily opportunities to help others and is a proud member of the Osmosis team.
Thirty-four years ago, when Michael Stusser bought the picturesque farmhouse on the Bohemian Highway in Freestone, California, that is now Osmosis Day Spa, the building had been through a foreclosure and was surrounded by piles of junk. The adjacent Salmon Creek was devoid of salmon, the local community was short of water, and the last thing the local zoning officers would permit was a spa, where water usage is typically exorbitant and which would likely overrun the small septic system and pollute the creek. Stusser, however, never intended to create an extravagant spa. The former organic gardener and Zen practitioner was on a mission to create a sanctuary for healing the earth, as well as the minds, bodies, and spirits of his guests.
Stusser’s mission began in 1980 when he traveled to Kyoto. There, he experienced the beautiful Zen gardens as the manifestation of the deep peace and tranquility he found in his meditation practice. Entranced, he apprenticed to a local landscape gardener, which he describes as an almost medieval practice, living and working with gardeners seven days a week. After six months he left to join a Zen monastery in Kyoto, where he spent two and a half years of intense meditation while continuing to learn about Zen gardens. But then, he was forced off his cushion by sciatica. Crippled by pain, he spent months searching for a cure, and that’s how he found himself buried to his neck in a n enormous vat filled with hot wood shavings mixed with rice bran and fermenting with a tea of special enzymes.
Says Stusser, “It was unbearably hot. I thought I was going to be burned and there was no way to get out. ‘Be the cold!’ I told myself. ‘Accept rather than resist.’ And suddenly, I was cast into the experience of cascading through the universe at the speed of light. Everything I had been working toward in my practice was suddenly happening. And I knew in a millisecond what I was going to do with my life.”
Stusser spent the next four and a half years learning to create and to tend the living organism that is the enzyme bath. Then he had to raise money and find a building, clear the junk, and create a spa and organic Zen garden that uses no more water or energy than a typical American home. Along the way, he realized that the standard treatment schedule of many spas tends to burn out the therapists, so he created a treatment schedule to allow time for the practitioners to recover and to be fully present for each new guest. Not surprisingly, the therapists tend to stay for years.
Lately, Stusser has been building wetlands to clean the water he does use and has been working with a local salmon restoration team to improve the riparian areas along the creek. Meanwhile, Osmosis has become a place for community gatherings and small concerts.
When You Go
You leave your shoes on the front porch and enter through the small reception area into a simple locker room. You change into a robe and are ushered by your therapist into a small tearoom that opens to a small meditation garden. After a cup of herbal tea, your therapist escorts you to the treatment room, which overlooks another garden of raked pebbles. The signature treatment of the spa looks something like a giant hot tub filled with moist Lawson cypress shavings mixed with rice bran and fermenting with a tea of special enzymes. The enzyme bath has been scooped out for your body. You lie down, and the therapist gently covers you in the soft cypress shavings. You realize this stuff is warm — or you can wriggle down to where the soft shavings are seriously hot. For the next 20 minutes or so, you will quietly compost in this bed of cypress. Then you are gently exhumed, escorted to an outdoor shower, and ushered along a path to one of the small pagodas near the Salmon Creek.
There, you will spend the next 75 minutes receiving a truly delightful massage. Finally, you make your way to the main meditation garden, a place reminiscent of the Zen gardens in Kyoto. Like any serious Zen garden, the stones and plantings tell a story — the classic Zen parable of ox and the ox herder — but you don’t need to follow the story to absorb the quiet beauty of the place.
Stephen Kiesling is the editor in chief of Spirituality & Health magazine. He was the youngest member of the 1980 US Olympic Rowing Team and the oldest competitor at the 2008 Olympic Rowing Trials. A Scholar of the House in Philosophy at Yale, he was a founding editor of American Health and Spirituality & Health magazines. Stephen is the author of several books, including The Shell Game and The Nike Cross Training System, and has written for The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, and Outside. He has been featured in The New York Times and The Boston Globe and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows, including Today and All Things Considered.
FREESTONE, CA– Senior Massage Supervisor at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, Raizelah Bayen, is now approved by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) to offer CEUs in massage and aromatherapy. Ms. Bayen’s NCBTMB Board certification is the highest voluntary credential available in the massage profession.
Ms. Bayen has lead Osmosis’s team of 35 massage therapists for over three years and has over 15 years of teaching experience in a state approved massage certification programs. Ms. Bayen has offered classes in Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers, Table Thai Massage, Table Shiatsu, Pregnancy Massage, Sports Massage, and Lymphatic Drainage Massage. Of recent merit was her leadership in the development of the Osmosis Essential Meridian Massage, which combines T’ui Na Chinese Meridian Massage with Essential Acupressure, and the Osmosis Fusion Massage.
Osmosis is excited to announce that Raizelah Bayen’s massage modality trainings are now open to the public, providing massage therapists the opportunity to enhance their skills while receiving continuing education credits. Upcoming trainings include Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers on May 10, and Foot Reflexology for Everyone on June 5 and 6. Trainings will be held at the Sebastopol Community Center. Class descriptions and registration are available at www.osmosis.com/events.
About Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary Inspired by a vision of healing, beauty, and inner peace, Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuarywas founded in Sonoma County in 1985 by Michael Stusser. A leader in the day spa industry, Osmosis has established a reputation as a landmark hospitality destination in Northern California. The Cedar Enzyme Bath, a rejuvenating heat treatment from Japan is offered exclusively in the U.S. by Osmosis. Located on five secluded acres in a scenic valley 1.5 hours north of San Francisco, Osmosis is an Asian-style retreat with authentic Japanese gardens. Just minutes from the breathtaking Sonoma Coast, wine country and redwoods. For more information, visit osmosis.com or call Jennifer Klein at 707.827.1203 Link to High Res Photos: Press Kit
At the base of the Bohemian Highway, within a stone’s throw of California’s best coastal vineyards, is the tiny town of Freestone, tucked between the redwoods and the ocean. Blink your eyes and you’ll miss it—but consider it a destination for deep relaxation. Osmosis Day Spa & Sanctuary, founded by Michael Stusser in 1985, is a Zen meditation retreat here, at the center of which is a cedar enzyme bath experience.
A day at Osmosis begins with a welcoming cup of hot tea and a walk through the Kyoto-style meditation garden, whose labyrinthine paths are designed to bring you into the present moment. Based on the Zen parable of The Ox and the Herder, a metaphor for the experience of enlightenment, the ten-stage journey carries you through various elements of earth and water with opportunities to stop and reflect for as long as you’d like.
Zen Garden meditation space at Osmosis Day Spa. Photo by Kim Westerman
Designed by British horticulturist Robert Ketchell and built by the late Steve Stucky, once the Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, the garden is lovingly tended by unobtrusive staff who will come find you if you lose track of time. After all, that’s the point.
The lovingly tended rock garden at Osmosis Day Spa. Photo by Kim Westerman
When it’s time, you’ll be led back to the main building for a tea service in a private room overlooking a beautiful tea garden that you’re also welcome to stroll in. The tea is infused with enzymes designed to aid digestion and mirror the experience your skin will have in the forthcoming cedar enzyme bath.
Next, we had massages in the couples room, a quiet space where two therapists work in harmony on your respective sore muscles, tailoring the treatment to your specific needs. There are also outdoor pagodas available for massage therapy, a good option on warmer days. Our massage therapists were especially attuned not only to what we reported our bodies needed, but also what they sensed through their own intuitive assessment.
After the deeply relaxing massage, we took a break for lunch, which was a generous salad of local greens and an egg, served at a picnic table by the creek.
Lunch by the creek at Osmosis Day Spa. Photo by Kim Westerman
At last, the main event: the cedar enzyme bath, a therapeutic treatment from Japan that is the only one of its kind in North America. Wooden boxes hold the deeply aromatic mixture of ground cedar and rice bran, infused with enzymes created by a biological catalyst imported from Japan that triggers fermentation, hence the steam rising from the “bath,” which is, actually, not wet, but rather humid from perpetual fermentation. And warm. Perfectly, relaxingly warm.
The cedar enzyme bath is the only one of its kind in North America. Photo by Kim Westerman
The cedar enzyme bath takes about 30 minutes, all told, and an attendant walks you through the process, coming in periodically to wipe your face with a cool cloth and give you a sip of water (as your hands are buried in the mixture). Then, she brushes your skin off with a little broom—yes, a broom!—before leading you into the adjacent shower.
So relaxing was our time at Osmosis that it seemed like a crime to get in the car and drive back to reality. But it’s a comfort to know that this sanctuary is always there.