Our Indoor Air Technology Produces Healthier Air

As we prepare to reopen indoors, Osmosis would like to ensure our community of guests and staff understand the extensive measures we have taken to treat the inside air at Osmosis.

Breathe Easy

We installed a state-of-the-art air cleaning system in July, called Atmosair, at Osmosis. We feel it is imperative to do everything in our power to protect you and our guests. This system in combination with the 4-stage HEPA filters in every room provides a high level of hygienic indoor air quality.

The system we have installed in our HVAC equipment is called bipolar ionization. It energizes the air to form bipolar — positive and negative — air ions that flows into all of the spaces in our building.

AtmosAir’s technology proactively emits bi-polar ions that attack and neutralize bacteria, mold and virus in a continuous way. Unlike many unverified products, AtmosAir Solutions is backed by science. Bi-Polar Ions emitted to ambient air by the AtmosAir System continuously disinfect both the breathing space and surfaces. It is the most effective system for continuously cleaning and decontaminating indoor air. AtmosAir has shown significant reduction of bacteria and viruses in both laboratory and in situ testing. AtmosAir is over 99.9 percent effective in reducing the coronavirus on surfaces.

This excerpt from a paper written by Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., Professor of Microbiology and Pathology, New York University School of Medicine in April 2017 provides details on the air purification system that has been installed in the Osmosis HVAC system.

Cleaning Indoor Air using Bi-Polar Ionization Technology

Bipolar ionization is created when an alternating voltage source (AC) is applied to a special tube with two electrodes. When voltage is applied to the tubes electrodes (like electricity is applied to a light bulb’s filament) an ionization field is produced around the tube (just as light is produced from the light bulb). However, the ionization cannot be seen but its presence will result in “mountain air” freshness. Such ions occur naturally especially on mountain tops and waterfalls, where the production of both positive and negative ions purify the air.

The airflow distributes the energized ions into all spaces served by the duct system in an in-duct installation.

Unlike most air purification systems AtmosAir seeks out particulates and contaminants, including germs and does not wait for pollutants to find their way into the filter within the air handler. Instead charged ions go to the contaminants in the space where you breathe, just as in nature, and do so in a continuous fashion and with continuous disinfection.

These positively and negatively charged ions have an effect on dust particles, allergen VOC’s, odors, and bacteria, viruses, molds and mold spores. For example, regarding particles—oppositely charged ions cause particles to attract to other particles and become bigger and heavier, by a process called “agglomeration”. These bigger heavier particles can now be better trapped by HVAC system filters so the filters operate more efficiently. Also the many small particles that are generated within a space by people and their activities may never get to system filters and ordinarily stay suspended in air for long periods and can be breathed in, increasing the chance of illness and respiratory distress. The bi-polar ion process will drop these to the floor quickly taking them away from where we breathe. VOC’s or gaseous chemical off gasses typically cause odors and irritations. These are also a major source of “Sick Building Syndrome” complaints, where people feel ill at work but feel better when they leave the building. Bi-Polar ions break down hydrocarbon chains that make up these complex compounds into immeasurable levels of carbon dioxide and water vapor.

On micro-organisms like bacteria, virus and molds, bi-polar ions will interrupt the reproductive ability of these organisms so rather than colony forming units (cfu) increasing and spreading and expanding, they shrink away and lessen the chance of infection. The Effect of Bipolar Ionization generators on microorganisms: The negative and positive ions that are generated by BPI are designed to treat and allow energy imparted by the ions to transform ordinary oxygen into Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), Superoxides, Peroxides, and Hydroxyls. These ions have the property of clustering around micro-particles, and thus, they surround harmful substances such as airborne mold, viruses, bacteria and allergens. At that point, a chemical reaction occurs on the cell membrane surface, and they are transformed into OH radicals, which are powerfully active (Standard Oxidation Potential [V] = 2.81 for OH vs H2O2 = 1.78 and OO2 = 1.23) and because they are unstable, they rob the harmful substance of a hydrogen atom (H). The result is that they are inactivated by severing the protein on cell membrane, which causes the opening of holes, thusly destroying the entity. The OH radicals instantly bond with the removed hydrogen(H), forming water vapor (H2O) which returns to the air. It is most important to note that bipolar ionization kills microbes without damaging DNA (therefore it does not cause cancer) in the interior of cells and unlike other physical and chemical agents, such as UV light, radioactivity and use of caustic chemicals, BPI is totally GREEN and it does NOT adversely affect the environment in any way.

The Right Cut – A Master Pruner’s Journey

japanese garden master pruner

By Abby Bard

Sonoma Discoveries Magazine

Aesthetic pruning is a living art form combining the skill of the pruner, the science of horticulture, and the essence of a tree. While the emphasis is on beauty, maintaining the vitality of the tree is just as important; aesthetic pruners make the right cuts for the right reasons. For Master Pruner Michael Alliger, this art is a balance between the present and the future.

In the 1980s, Alliger was eager for change from a career in retail; he felt an inner calling to work outside. “I thought you had to be a gardener to do that,” he explained, so he enrolled in a plant identification class at Merritt College in Oakland. “I found I had a facility for it. My passion just exploded! I had never been happier.”

He had grown up in the suburbs, surrounded by lawns. “I hated mowing the lawn, so it was such a surprise to me. I found a whole new world to walk into. Suddenly the streets of Oakland came alive as I got to know the plants—the world went from two dimensions to three dimensions, from black and white to color.”

In 1986, while studying horticulture at Merritt, Alliger met Dennis Makishima, a Japanese-American student from El Cerrito. Wanting to connect with his Japanese heritage, Makishima went to bonsai clubs to learn that art, and realized that he could take elements of bonsai and apply them to landscape pruning. One day, Alliger watched Makishima prune a Japanese maple. “I was transfixed. I knew that was what I wanted to do. It felt like home. I asked if I could follow him around and watch him work.” Their relationship evolved into a formal apprenticeship.

“Dennis is brilliant,” Alliger said. “He’s a visionary, a brilliant organizer and strategist and leader.”  Makishima suggested to Merritt College that they offer classes in aesthetic pruning and asked Alliger if he would like to teach. “I taught an Introduction to Aesthetic Pruning for a half-day each month, and Dennis unfurled this whole series of classes.” The classes that Makishima organized and taught explored plant material, pruning for the focal point, pruning for the big picture, Japanese maples, pines and conifers, flowering trees, pruning as a career, and finding the essence of the tree. A year later, Makishima offered those classes to Alliger, who would teach most of them for the next 20 years.

The two men organized an informal pruning club that continues to this day at Merritt. “People could drop in or drop out any time. We would volunteer at schools, churches or parks. It was mutually beneficial. The students would get experience and the trees were cared for,” Alliger said.

Makishima also envisioned a professional organization for aesthetic pruning, similar to the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA); and he and Alliger were among the founders of the Aesthetic Pruners Association (APA), a non-profit that promotes the craft of aesthetic pruning and supports professional pruners in their work. This group sets the standards for aesthetic pruning.

Alliger explained the focus of the APA. “Our school of pruning is in the lineage of Japanese garden pruning, which is distinct from European pruning. Principles of the Japanese lineage are pruning to the human scale, size control and containment. The artistic model is based on nature as you see it, nature in essence. We seek both containment and natural expression.  The overarching factor is garden design: to have the tree or shrub fit the garden design and still honor the natural form. Our approach works on fruit trees, too, but it’s different from pruning skyline trees, like redwoods and oaks.

“Unlike most animals, plants and trees have the ability to regenerate lost parts. Follow-up pruning requires consistency and has the potential to give the tree longer life. In order for pruning to be structurally sound, it needs to be continually applied—you can’t just do it once.” Some bonsai trees in Japan are 500 to 600 years old. Because these trees outlive human beings, their care has been handed down from generation to generation. For Alliger, “It’s all about love and all about care.

“While the school of thought comes from Japanese pruning, we are not pruning Japanese gardens—we are pruning California gardens, American gardens. But the principles are universally applied,” said Alliger, who is exploring working with native materials to find their potential. The idea of containment and structural pruning has not happened before with our native woody plants.

“I’m experimenting at home with buckeye—how old do they have to be before they flower? How small can they be and still flower? It’s so exciting to think about! The Japanese have been working with landscape plant material in their gardens for 1,100 years. Here, we’ve been doing it for only 75 years, and we’re in the baby stage of realizing the possibilities and finding out which ones are going to be functional in gardens from the point of view of beauty and containment. The more we use our own plant material, the more comfortable we feel. That sense of context is salubrious.”

A powerful part of Alliger’s exploration is in joining the stream of people who have been doing this work for centuries; now he is able to pass it forward. After moving to Sebastopol in 1992, he took on the aesthetic pruning of the Japanese-style gardens at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary in Freestone. While he continues to maintain those trees, most of his work is done in private gardens around Sonoma County. Retiring from teaching at Merritt in 2011, he currently offers an annual one-day, hands-on class in Aesthetic Pruning for the Master Gardeners of Marin County. He also writes a garden blog for the Osmosis Newsletter which you can sign up for here.

The following link has a brief video demonstrating “Aesthetic Pruning of Maples” on YouTube. A more extensive tutorial on that subject is available for purchase from GardenTribe.com.
You can contact Michael Alliger by email at twigchaser@earthlink.net. Learn more about the APA by visiting their website AestheticPrunersAssociation.org.

Osmosis represented at International Japanese Garden Conference

garden bird

by Michael Stusser

Over 150 delegates from around the world gathered the National Japanese Garden Association Conference at the Morikami Gardens in West Palm Beach Florida March 7th and 8th. Leading experts from Japan and Europe along with US counterparts provided two days of inspiring content at the home of one of the most celebrated Japanese Gardens in the United States.

The conference theme was: Towards a Healthier World – Japanese Gardens As Places For Wellness and Transformation.  The healing effects of this beloved landscape garden art form was presented from many perspectives ranging from public settings, studies of gardens built in the WWII Japanese internment camps, therapeutic settings and Zen Buddhist temples. In several fascinating presentations researchers presented their findings of scientific data on the effects of Japanese gardens on Alzheimer patients, hospice patience and community members with various handicaps. It was a profound confirmation of this fine tradition.

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The Osmosis garden fit right into this program.

Meditation garden designer Robert Ketchell came from England to join Osmosis founder Michael Stusser and pruning expert Michael Alliger to present the story of the spa’s unique meditation garden, how it cultivates awareness, tells a story beyond words, and nurtures a mood of repose. 

The 90-minute Osmosis session highlighted the founding intentions and collegial collaboration that seeded the success of the project. From the perspective of pruning it was shown how: anticipation and patience play out over time in ways that remind us of humility available to us in everyday life; the use of native plants reinforces a sense of place and human context in nature; the equanimity of empty space is shaped by pruning and design. The intimacy of detailed pruning techniques leads to a recognition of the unseen world of spirit.

The designer explained his use of narrative to engage garden viewers with his use of the Ox-herding parable from Zen as a way to guide on the journey to liberation. It was shown how spa programs use the garden for ritual; meditation, classes, and relaxation serve the deeper purpose of Osmosis  to synergize the renaissance in the healing arts taking place in our culture along with the distinct healing properties that have been identified in horticultural therapy. These elements along with the quest for awakening seeded by the arrival of Buddhism in America reflected in the Zen parable make for a potent combination.

The Ox herding story is cast in stone in the landscape garden. This parable is both the physical and physic heart of Osmosis. We cannot avoid being reminded of it each time we visit the garden. Every day the alchemy of this ancient tale works its magic on the hearts and souls of guests and workers alike.

Osmosis presence at this prestigious international gathering allowed us to join into the growing association among builders and curators of Japanese gardens who are focused on the healing aspects of this treasured art form.

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Left to right: Robert Ketchell, Michael Alliger, Michael Stusser and Martin Mosko

The Season of Renewal

Primed by the barrenness of winter, the renewal of spring inspires awe at the site of the smallest sprout emerging from the soil. Witnessing a tree glow with color again encourages hope for our own renewal. If we want to find inspiration in the blossoming tree and the sprouting seedling, we must also recognize the ecosystem supporting their growth and the often ignored interdependence of nature. Our society has lionized the rugged individual and forgotten the nourishing collective.

There is a revitalization that comes through connection. Our species thrives in an ecosystem of relationships and community. Vital gatherings catalyze the transformation and growth that we hope to experience as individuals and as a collective. 

The modern culture of consumption has eroded fundamental aspects of connection. Some aspects of community have been tragically absent since the demise of tribal and village culture. But our interdependent nature remains part of us; if unfulfilled, it is replaced with grief.

During this season of renewal, take cue from the soil teaming with myriad organisms that support one another in bringing forth new growth. Let yourself be nourished by the exquisite ecosystem of life. Partake in inspired gatherings.

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.