If you’re like many of us, it can be difficult to break away from the daily grind and give yourself the attention you deserve. We are all familiar with what happens when life gets busy — we see our friends a little less, maybe drop that extra yoga class we love so much. Often one of the most intimate and enjoyable ways to reconnect with one’s self and good friends is through a relaxing spa day experience. This is where we come in.
Tea for two (and you and you)
Begin the morning with the girls by slipping into an authentic cotton Japanese robe, and settling into a private room overlooking the Japanese Tea Garden. Take some time to chat with your friends about setting intentions for the day. Hoping to reconnect with your bestie? Let her know! Enjoy some light conversation over a cup of tea crafted to work in tandem with your warming cedar enzyme bath.
Fermenting with Friends
Why experience our warming cedar enzyme bath in good company? Because it is just that — an experience! As the only day spa in North America with such a service, our cedar enzyme bath is quite unique and many agree is best enjoyed in pairs or with friends. Enjoy yet another curated garden view from the cedar baths, and settle into the warmth around you. Because it is a heat treatment, this service lasts 20 minutes with cooling lavender towels and cold water refreshments periodically in between. Chat with friends or ease into the moment and take some time for you.
After your cedar baths, enjoy an electrolyte drink and carry on with the transformative journey by heading to your organic facials. Getting a facial with friends often feels like the ultimate self-care and treat yourself experience. Why? A little less intimate than a massage, our organic facials, in tandem with the cedar enzyme bath leaves you feeling as if your body just got a bit of a makeover. Smooth and glowing, your skin (and friends) will thank you for arranging a full day of self-love at the spa, in the loving hands of Osmosis.
After your services have completed and if the weather is fair, head to the Field of Hammocks with your flock for some Hemi-Sync® sound therapy. These unique recordings, based on research into how sound waves influence the mind, help optimize your brain’s activity and promote deep relaxation and creativity. A perfect reset for active minds!
A favorite activity for many who find themselves at Osmosis for a spa day is the time spent in the meditation gardens. Walking the changing path, opening the gate and discovering the magic of the tranquility the gardens have is something special, especially with company. Enjoy a few moments of stillness on the meditation cushions overlooking the pond; notice the buzzing life abound.
One of the most wonderful parts about a spa day with the girls is that it is both beneficial to you as an individual as well as enjoyable with a small group. A spa day with others gives you a chance to reflect inward as well as a time to enjoy outwardly with the ones you love the most – choosing an environment that brings you closer will generate memories that can last a lifetime.
Massage is often viewed as a luxury, a pampering or self-indulgent extravagance. Research shows that while massage is definitely a “feel good” experience, it has numerous mental and emotional benefits linked to neurotransmitters and hormones released through therapeutic touch. Yes, we all know massage can increase muscle flexibility, blood circulation and our joints’ range of motion. But massage can do more than that. Massage can reduce stress, elevate our mood, help with depression and anxiety, improve our sleep and increase our sociability.
Five Neurochemical Benefits of Massage, all Improving Your Mental-Emotional Well-Being
Seratonin and Dopamine
While anyone who has experienced massage knows that it is a relaxing experience, few understand the neurochemical changes produced by therapeutic touch, all of which can increase our feelings of emotional well-being. One study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience found that massage recipients measure a 28% averaged increase of serotonin and a 31% averaged increase in of dopamine in the bloodstream, following massage therapy. Serotonin helps to regulate mood, appetite and digestion. Synthesized in the brain and intestines, it is theorized that low serotonin levels contribute to depression and anxiety. Its close relative, dopamine, is associated with the reward centers of the brain. Low dopamine levels are associated with lack of motivation, low energy and the inability to focus, all symptoms linked to depression. The increased levels of these neurotransmitters produced by massage can regulate, even elevate your mood, energy, motivation and mental focus, all improving your emotional state.
Research also shows an increase in endorphins resulting from massage, as much as 16% more found in volunteers tested after connective tissue massage. Endorphins are the neurotransmitters produced to relieve pain and improve mood. They are your body’s natural narcotic. In fact, the chemical structure of endorphins resembles that of opiate pain-relieving drugs that are derived from the poppy plant. Most people associate elevated endorphins with exercise, such as the “runner’s high,” but endorphins are also produced by laughter, dark chocolate (yes!) and of course, massage.
Additionally, massage and other forms of touch, such as a hug or embrace, have been shown through numerous studies to increase the neurotransmitter and hormone of oxytocin. Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone.” It increases feelings of bonding and belonging, a sense of stability and trust, and enhances our sociability. Research has shown that this hormone can relieve social anxiety, depression and stress, while increasing empathy, generosity, self-esteem, and optimism.
Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous System
While we see that massage can increase our “feel good” neurotransmitters and hormones, it also helps to reduce those that produce unpleasant experiences associated with the stress hormones. Understand that the autonomic nervous system has two divisions: the parasympathetic and the sympathetic. The latter activates the “fight or flight” response. It can help you respond to a perceived threat and will accelerate the heart rate, contract muscles and increase the rate of your breath, readying your body for action. The parasympathetic, by contrast, is seen as the “rest and digest” mode, characterized by relaxed breathing.
Humans are complex beings. Our sympathetic nervous system isn’t just activated by life-threatening events, but also memories of past traumas or threats, and daily stressors, such as work demands, family dysfunctions or traffic congestion. We can get thrown into, or even stuck in, flight-or-flight mode, resulting in feelings of stress, worry or overwhelm. Any time the sympathetic nervous system is activated, we see an increase in the hormones of adrenaline and norepinephrine, the hormones that enable the body to spring into action. This may have been helpful to our ancestors who perceived the threat of tiger hunting the village. But if your brain is constantly interpreting chronic financial or relationship distress, the physiological response will probably result in continual stress and anxiety.
Massage can be an antidote to an overactive sympathetic nervous system. It can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus reducing levels of adrenaline and norepinephrine, and helping the body to return to it “rest and digest” state.
Stress produces another hormone called cortisol. If chronic stressors in life result in cortisol release over a long amount of time, immune system suppression, increased blood pressure and weight gain can be the results. Research again shows massage as a potential antidote. A study in 2010 found that Swedish massage recipients had lower levels of cortisol and higher counts in white blood cells, after receiving massage.
Human contact, or the touch therapies, are clearly critical to maintaining mental-emotional wellness in our often pace-paced, stressful lives. Not only does massage provide the much-needed relaxation throughout the treatment process, but its neurochemical effects can enhance your mood, relationships, and engagement in life. Schedule a massage today to experience the profound healing massage can provide if you are feeling down, anxious, having difficulty sleeping, feel isolated or just stressed-out.
Osmosis Vital Health Club
As we move into 2019, and you set your goals for better health and self-care, massage can be a profound addition to your regime. Consider the many benefits already proven by neuroscientific medical research on the deep impact massage has on our body-mind connection and health. Sign up for our Vital Health Club membership to build massage into your ongoing health care regime.
Raizelah Bayen is the Spa Services Manager at Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary. She has 25 years in the field of massage, 15 years as a massage and yoga instructor, and is additionally certified in acupressure, herbology and aromatherapy. Her teaching specialties include Eastern Massage Modalities and Acupressure, Body Mechanics for Bodyworkers, and Integrative Wellness workshops, weaving herbs, aromatherapy, self-massage and yoga into a cohesive themed workshop, such as the one above. If you are interested in hosting a workshop, please contact Raizelah at email@example.com. For more information, connect with Raizelah Bayen on LinkedIn.
It was 30 years ago, October 31, 1988, when I first walked onto the property in Freestone that has become Osmosis. I had been looking for over a year to find a place in west Sonoma County to relocate after operating the original prototype version of the enzyme bath out of a 400-square-foot building I built with wood recycled from a chicken coop. I had looked at many possible places to move, but they were all in commercial environments and just not suitable for the ambiance I knew was needed.
What It Looked Like
It was a beautiful fall day when I went over to meet my real estate agent Cary Fargo in Freestone. The building was cold and dark with very few windows, and a funky gas heater was mounted on the wall. The floor was covered with a red carpet that was thin, tacky and stained. Paint was chipping off everywhere, and a vibe of abandonment hung in the air. A flimsy bathroom had been tacked onto the back of the building. A half-way decent two-bedroom apartment was on the second floor, but we had to climb a rickety outdoor staircase to get there.
Dozens of realtors’ cards were strewn about, evidencing that many had been to look but there had been no takers; the place had been on the market for a long time. Outside several dilapidated railway cars lined the side and back of the building. A large flat area that had been graded along the creek was strewn with dead cars and lots of junk. Apparently, the owner had died after consolidating his lifetime collection of railway equipment and antique cars on this, the last of many properties he had owned at one time. Walking through all of this was overwhelming and depressing. At first, it seemed impossible to envision anything beautiful or healing ever happening here.
Then I walked to the back of the 5.5-acre property. As I climbed the hillside and gained the ridge, a whole 360-degree panorama of the Freestone Valley opened up. The view in every direction was stunning, the valley floor, farms, and redwood-lined ridges shimmering in the low-angle light of this magical fall day. It was very quiet, and the natural environment felt undisturbed and vibrant. Wandering down into the riparian thicket, I found my way into the bed of Salmon Creek. I felt enchanted by the quality of the air, the beauty of nature, and the good feeling arising in my being. It reminded me of the many sacred spots in the northern California terra that had captivated my soul again and again. I felt I had arrived at a long-sought-after destination, peaceful, calm, and invited.
The Trees Spoke
It was as if the land and the trees were calling to me— “stay, breath in this place—heal your soul.” An unmistakable component of the message was – “How wonderful it would be to bring people here?” It became clear to me that whatever it would take to clean up the mess up in front and make that building into a spa would be worth it, because at some point, I would be able to get people to come into this magical riparian realm and share with them the vital spirit of nature I was feeling.
The video is designed to support the Green Spa Network with their Tree Planting Initiative, a campaign to create action and awareness in the spa and wellness industry around reforestation. Green Spa Network founder and activist, Michael Stusser alongside United Nations award-winning rapper/filmmaker, Aaron Ableman, have collaborated on an urgent “call to action” film, “The Treetment”, about the role everyday people can play in reversing climate change.
“We chose to partner with Aaron because he understands that we need to use music, humor, and art to mainstream this movement. For the last 12 years, he has been working to create motivating music, books, and videos for school-age children about the healing power of nature and how to reconnect by simple actions like planting trees. His talent, passion, and energy is irresistible,” said Stusser.
The musical comedy short film brings forward GSN’s invitation to the spa community and beyond to heal the broken connection between human beings and the earth. The story tells the tale of a stressed-out CEO who is urged to visit a healing spa, where he is transformed in a cedar enzyme bath experience featuring renowned Native-American activist, Lyla June. This awakening to personal healing for planetary action mirrors what GSN’s Tree Planting Initiative hopes to inspire in thousands of others. Can we reverse climate change by engaging in a global effort to restore our verdant planet? It has been scientifically validated and demonstrated with many projects that restoration of our planet’s health is entirely possible through regenerative forestry.
Regenerative tree planting addresses numerous issues to help make climate action easy for everyone. The following short video from our partner WeForest lays the groundwork for our initiative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qhYo… “Healthy and growing forests remain the best technology for removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” https://www.weforest.org/ Green Spa Network’s Tree Planting Initiative is premised on the critical and urgent need to regenerate the earth using trees’ natural abilities to reverse climate change. GSN is raising funds for the WeForest organization because of the science-based methodology used to support the ground operations, planting, and the survival of the trees. WeForest’s mission is to leverage business and scientific partnerships and empower communities to sustainably advance and implement innovative, high-standard, scalable, and lasting solutions to restore forest landscapes. Tree planting donations can be made at the GSN Tree Planting Initiative website: GreenSpaNetwork.org/GSNPlantsTrees. GSN is also using the hashtag #GSNPlantsTrees to follow the industry’s progress and stories.
About Green Spa Network
GSN is a nonprofit trade association serving the spa industry in support of action for a regenerative post-carbon era. Their mission is to promote the vital connections between personal wellbeing, economic sustainability and the health of our planet. Through networking, education, and best practices developed with a membership of the nation’s most innovative green spas, GSN is a resource for vital people building a vital planet. https://greenspanetwork.org/
Media Contact: Joanna Roche Executive Director firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.”
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 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.