Enjoy the Silence, Abhyanga Massage at Blue Heaven Spa

Enjoy the Silence, Abhyanga Massage at Blue Heaven Spa.

Grapefruit Brulee Ritz-Carlton Grand Lakes Orlando

Pretty Please with sugar ON TOP

Spa food taken to a new level at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida. Fresh Florida Grapefruit is topped with a tablespoon of sugar and caramelized! Look for Grapefruit Brûlée on the menu or at home, break out that seldom used kitchen torch for an easy and impressive breakfast. I chose this simple recipe to share as it is so easy to duplicate. I called down to the kitchen and the staff told me they just used a tablespoon of plain white sugar. I think this is a perfect example of fresh ingredients used in the peak of season need little to no alteration. Florida grapefruit are in season from November through May of each year. Thanksgiving through Christmas is generally concidered the peak of citrus season. The PNC Father Son golf Tournament is held during the second weekend in December.

An awesome spa breakfast to start my day during the PNC Father Son Challenge.
An awesome spa breakfast to start my day during the PNC Father Son Challenge.

Directions to a Different Spa Experience

Blue Heaven Spa

Boone, North Caroline

Street signs let you know you have entered a different state of mind.
Street signs let you know you have entered an enlightened area.

The philosophy of Ayurvedic treatments is that the mind, breath, intellect, and emotion are all connected with the body, and all need to be brought into a rhythm. This ideology pervades each treatment at the Blue Heaven Spa in Boone, North Carolina. It is important to reflect on ourself in this natural harmony. Once we are tuned into our own balance, we can then look to others and see that we are all connected as people. I found my connection to Heather, my therapist, very genuine. I could tell that she cared for me and my health. Heather is extremely well-trained in Ayurvedic treatments. Her life is also in alignment with these beliefs. During my consultation prior to my treatment, I got to know a little bit about Heather. She lives what she teaches, not only to other therapists, but to anyone she meets. I can tell she is living in harmony.

Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.
Indian inspired art is in all the architecture on this property.

Katti Basit is a Ayurvedic lumbo-sacral rejuvenation. I booked this treatment to follow the Abyyanga massage that started my morning in the Blue Heaven Spa. The goal of this treatment is to ease any tension in the back. My therapist, Heather, positioned me on the table face down and placed some folded towels under my abdomen to flatten the surface of my lower back. Heather made several passes on my back massaging my muscles with long, smooth strokes. She then placed long, wide, cloth strips on my back. Heather then spooned a drizzle of hot oil over the strips in a slow, methodical fashion. It was important for me lay still so that the oil would stay in the dough reservoir she created for me. She continued to check on my comfort and that the temperature of the oil was at a suitable temperature for my comfort. Once positioned so that the dough dam could hold oil, the ring of dough was placed on my lower back. The dam was positioned in the small of my back and right above the sacrum. Several passes of oil were made within the dam in directional patterns. The dam was then filled with warm oil and hot oil to the desired temperature of myself and the therapist. Once the damn was full, I was instructed to lie still. I was again left in complete silence to contemplate.

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At the end of the treatment, I was super relaxed. My lower back felt more mobile and less sore. I was also drenched in sesame oil from both my treatments. Heather gave me the most excellent tip on how to get oil out of your hair. If you apply the shampoo first and lather, before adding any water, you have the best chance of getting the oil out of your hair. She said I might need to do this twice. She also recommended that I relax for the rest of the afternoon, as the treatment continues after completion. I did have to shower and hit the road, but she was right on both accounts. All the oil was out of my hair with little effort due to her tip. And, I really did feel an overwhelming sense of peace as I travelled home.

On my next visit, I plan to book the Shila Abhyanga (it is like a hot stone massage) and the Shirodhara, one of my favorite Ayurvedic treatments. Shirodhara uses a continuous pouring of warm oil in a slow steady stream on the forehead that helps promote relaxation, and improves mental clarity and concentration. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Do you find it helpful to do healing treatments in a spa or do you prefer a clinical setting?

“Health and happiness is related to our connection to our mind and body” – H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

 

Enjoy the Silence, Abhyanga Massage at Blue Heaven Spa

Blue Heaven Spa uses Ayurevedic techniques as a holistic approch to help balance your body, soul, and mind. The staff helped me determine what my goals for treatment were prior to my arrival in the spa. In my case, stress relief and treatment of a sore lower back were at the top of my list. I booked the Abhyanga and the Katti Basti treatments back to back, based on that phone consultation.

Abhyanga Massage is an ancient massage technique within the Ayuredic method of healing. Prior to my one hour massage, I met with Heather, my knowlegable Ayurvedic therapist. We discussed my current health. This consoletation was much longer and more indepth than previous spa consulations I have encountered. We discussed my body, mental wellness, and diet. She was not rushed and she spend a good deal of time talking with me about the treatments while I enjoyed some tea in the pretty relaxation room.

Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.
Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.

Heather began my treatment with a rhythmic massage of my scalp in an upright, seated position at the end of the massage table, facing her. The treatment is quite intimate due to the silence in the room. I was also not use to having eye to eye contact with a therapist. Heather instructed me not to talk during my massage during my consultation, and that she would remain silent as well. I found this silence a little uneasy for me at first. My conversation with Heather prior to my treatment helped answer the many questions I had. The information she shared with me, allowed me to ease into a peaceful state and enjoy the treatment. The silence was part of the philisophy of the treatment. I was repositioned, face down and warm sesame oil was massaged into my body to help release toxins and relax the nervous system. The strokes were not unlike a Swedish massage, long, slow, and a light to medium pressure.

I have had hundreds of massages over the years but this was my first one done in complete silence. Because of my meditation practice, I was comfortable with silence, but I can imagine that is might seem odd to someone who has only visited a typical Western spa with the usual sounds of nature or light music playing in the back ground. It is in this silence that we can look inward and reflect.This treatment was ment to treat the mind as well. Many thoughts came to my mind about my body, spirituality, and my idea of what massage is, and can be. It was amazing to receive authentic Ayuvedic treatments in such an beautiful setting. In Boone of all places!

Mindfulness sets the tone at this spa.
Mindfulness sets the tone at this spa.

At the conclusion of my first treatment I was covered with a warm blanket and left to rest while my therapist  prepared the dough dam to be used in my next treatment for my back. This time on the table in silence provided me a profound meditation. I felt a sense of equinimity with other spiritual practitioners and a deep sense of respect for thier practices. I sank into my setting and enjoyed the serenity. I could see the beautiful mountains through the window. I was in a very peaceful state.

 

Have you every experienced an Ayurvedic spa treatment and what was your thoughts on it?

 

No special consideration was given to me other than being a paid guest at the Blue Heaven Spa. This is my life.

 

Eat, Love, Pray in the USA

Thankfully, I found my way to the Blue Heaven Spa under no duress what so ever. I was not seeking the meaning of life, ending a relationship, or beginning a new one. However, if I was seeking a place to find balance, this would be it. No need to update your passport to get that world away feeling. This retreat is now open to the public as a hotel and spa. It is truly a sanctuary to rest, regroup, and imagine.

Ayurveda Wellness Spa
Ayurveda Wellness Spa

This hotel is not like many others you will find in the United States. It is a massive collection of Indian inspired buildings that had functioned in the past as a huge ashram for the followers of transcendental meditation. It still functions as a retreat for thousands of followers of the Art of Living, a non governmental organization that focuses on humanitarian projects. Main areas of interest are education and elimination of stress.

The purpose for my visit was to take our youngest daughter on a tour of Appalachian State University in Boone North Carolina. I booked this hotel over some other  area spa resorts for a few reasons. I really wanted our daughter to get a feel for Boone and I knew this would give her some of that flavor that I was looking for. She loves yoga and I thought it would be great for her to stay where people come to study yoga. She is also a health nut, so I knew the vegetarian meals would be right up her alley. And, it is just minutes from the Appalachian State Campus. Ok. I have to admit, my inner spa junkie had a little bit to do with the choice as well.

Meals can also be included in your stay. Due to the quick trip down for just an overnight, we were not able to get the full scope of what this retreat offers. We did eat in one the two massive dining halls in the morning. It was a modest meal, but definitely kept me full and ready for a big day at the spa. Whole grain hot oats, breads, various spreads , and coffee were ready to enjoy in a self-service dining a hall. Early Sunday morning, guests of a weekend yoga retreat were already in the hall enjoying some fellowship and food before their first yoga class.

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I would recommend checking this place out if you are a spa junkie, like myself or have a love of yoga. If meditation is what you are looking for then this place is incredible. It appeared to me as a perfect place to get back to peak health and enjoy some physical activity, clean eating, and reconnect with the beautiful mountains. This is the perfect place to unplug. Wi-Fi services is available, but cell phone service is spotty at best.

This is not a lavish spa by American standards, but it is a serious spa when it comes to treatments. What the spa lacks in typical western comforts like saunas, pools, and whirlpools, it makes up for in the level of attention and knowledge of the staff when it comes to treatments.  Personally, I think this would be heaven for a massage therapist or esthetician to visit. It is affordable enough for any budget and the treatments are truly therapeutic and inspirational.

Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.
Relaxation Room with a beautiful mountain view.

This resort is what you make of it.  Various trainings on meditation, yoga are offered. Silent retreats can also be booked.  You will find very comfortable accommodations (minus air-conditioning and alcohol). I am happy to report that my husband and I made it through the weekend without either. The mountain top setting is gorgeous. Rooms are freshly remodeled, spacious and supplied with fluffy robes, spa slippers as well as  Ayurvedic bath products. Downtown Boone is just a ten minute drive and offers some amazing local restaurants.

Accommodations for guest of the spa are located in the same building.
Accommodations for guests of the spa are located in the same building.

We left this hotel with many more questions than answers. I picked up a couple of Art of Living books while I was there and I have enjoyed the wisdom in them.  An overnight was just too short in my opinion.  I cannot wait to return and explore more of the trainings offered at this spa. I did accomplish my goal of giving our daughter a taste of Boone. She fell in love with the area and has decided to attend ASU. Fortunately, I will be able to return again very soon.

On my next visit, I will pack more workout clothes to take advantage of the gym and the daily  meditation and yoga classes. I will also bring along my hiking shoes to take advantage of all the trails on the property. No fancy dress code here! My next post will explain the treatments I received.

What is the most far out spa you have visited?

Blue Heaven Spa
Blue Heaven Spa

 

I was not given any special consideration other than being a paying guest to this spa. This is my life.

Art of Living Blue Heaven Spa in Boone, NC

A beautiful video of the Art of Living retreat center in the highlands of North Carolina.

Have you ever visited an Ashram in India? What was your experience?

How to have a Ritz shower experience at home

Body Treatments of your choice with the Apothecary Bar. Select herbs and essential oils to create either a scrub or an exfoliating wrap to produce a glow and relief tension.
Body Treatments of your choice with the Apothecary Bar. Select herbs and essential oils to create either a scrub or an exfoliating wrap to produce a glow and relieve tension.

 

I am a little shameless when it comes to stealing great spa ideas and repeating them at home. One of the cool luxury perks that was unique to the Ritz-Carlton in New Orléans, was a custom scrub in the shower area.  I’m sure most of us have bought or been gifted a sugar or salt scrub at some time. Why not? They make excellent and affordable gifts. We can even make some pretty fancy ones at home. The genius in this lil perk was in its simplicity.  The staff set out a tray near the showers. You could help yourself to a small cup, and fill it with your choice of a sugar or coffee. They provided a large bottle of body wash as well. The idea is to start with a bodywash you normally use, and add and exfoliant to it to help slough off dead skin and increase circulation. The pleasant scent takes your shower to the next level.

A sweet little perk for guests of The Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans. An assortment of sugars and coffee to add to your shower gel.
Mini Apothecary Bar. A sweet little perk for guests of The Ritz-Carlton Spa, New Orleans. An assortment of sugars and coffee to add to your shower gel.

I happened to have a bunch of apothecary jars at home and not in use. I filled the jars with turbinado sugar, kosher salt, and coffee. I then mixed one of  those ingredients with some odds and ends bodywashes to clean out my bathroom closet. Canning jars or other bowls would look just as nice for a more traditional home or cabin. I included a spoon in the jar to make it easy to use and mix.

Myscrubs
I made this tray for use in my master bathroom. This tray would be a unexpected surprise in a guest bathroom as well.
Myscrubs2
I used what I had on hand including sugar, salt, and coffee.
Apothecary jars
If you want to get super fancy, the Ritz-Carlton included more exotic ingredients for their body wraps. Dried flowers (lavender and roses petals), powdered algae, powdered honey, powdered clay, dried eucalyptus leaves, dried rosemary, sugars, salts, and essential oils.

 

Some additional thoughts:

Turn off  your phone 🙂

Set an intention to enjoy some quiet time and the process of self-care.

Take care not to use any bodywash products that you do not have an experience with before adding an exfoliant.

Try as a hand wash first, if you have any concerns about possible skin irritations.

This scrub would be a nice first step in a home manicure, as well.

If using an essential oil, be sure add just a few drops to a base or carrier oil. I like sesame, coconut, grape seed and almond oils for my base.

If using oils, be sure to take care exiting the shower or tub.

Raw Sugar used with the body wash, takes the shower up a notch.
Raw Sugar used with the body wash, takes the shower up a notch.

 

Let me know if you tried this and what your experience was!

 

 

Ritz-Carlton Signature facial in New Orleans

Guests of the Ritz-Carlton have a choice six facials in this spa, if you include the one that they offer for men.  I chose the Signature facial for the custom approach to this treatment.  In my heart, there is only one option when it comes to facials, the eighty minute facial. This spa offers fifty minute facials as well, but those are just a tease in my book. By the time your esthetician discusses any skin issues, gets you settled on the heated table, customizes the treatment, and gets the steam going, that would make a 50 minute facial only 45 minutes of goodness. I am not down with that! My esthetician today is Kathleen.

A beautiful reception area includes amazing fountain.
A beautiful reception area includes amazing fountain.

Kathleen was able to understand what I needed from this treatment. She knows I’m on vacation, because she asked. She also knew my skin would be dry from the long flight and a bit dehydrated from some delicious beverages that I have enjoyed while on Bourbon Street. My intention was to get a moisturizing facial and address any signs of aging appearing on my face.

Just around the corner is Bourbon Street, one of the most fun streets in the United States.
Just around the corner from the Ritz is Bourbon Street, one of the most fun streets in the United States.

Sometimes I am in a quiet, meditative mood while in the spa, but today, I was not. I booked this appointment at 11am. I had already been in the spa for a while and was able to enjoy some Champagne (straight, no orange juice for me)! Intuitive staff already knew my affinity for Champagne from the day before. I was able to meet some other ladies in the plush locker room, also into town for the same convention.  I was in a pretty chatty mood when I met up with my therapist. Beside being a knowledgeable esthetician, Kathleen was able to adjust to my mind-set and we had fun discussing other treatments and restaurants that I might like. She was professional, fun, and helped me my narrow down some of my many restaurant choices while in town. There are so many great restaurants to choose from!

I did not meet Mildred, or I would have asked her for a bite! An amazing spa for special occasions.
I did not meet Mildred, or I would have asked her for a bite! An amazing spa for special occasions.

About my treatment, I really like it when a spa is not tied to one product line. Multiple product lines means that I can get a truly custom facial. I can get products that I can’t find at home, find an old favorite, or just sampling something new. This spa has a serious arsenal of products so the options were amazing. After discussing my options, we quickly decide to continue on with the Dr. Gross product line. I was introduced to this line in January while at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes property in Orlando, and I really liked it. I also decided to add-on the alpha beta peel.

Large retail area includes all of the beauty arsenal and other carefully chosen spa products.
Large retail area includes all of the beauty arsenal and other carefully chosen spa products.

Here is the thing about add-ons. Usually, they do not add time to your service, and they will almost always cost additional money. But, it is a great way to try new treatments and products. Some of my favorite facials have had a scalp treatment add-on. Other popular add-ons are lip and eye treatments or hands and feet paraffin treatments.  Kathleen was not pushy, but just simply offered the Alpha Beta Peel as an answer to my issue with aging. This peel uses natural alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) to lightly remove dead skin. The goal of this peel is to reduce appearance of fine lines, address acne, rosacea, and oily skin. Excellent! I have all that, sans the rosacea. This natural product was applied nearing the end of the treatment and followed up with the application of many moisturizers. There is no downtime with this particular peel. It is not as harsh as a chemical peel or other higher potency natural peels. Due to it’s lower strength, there will be no redness, flaking, or peeling. Expect more downtime with products found in physicians offices, versus a spa environment.

When I bond with a therapist sometimes I take a photo to capture my crazy spa hair! Kathleen is amazing.
When I bond with a therapist I take a photo to capture my crazy spa hair! Kathleen is amazing.

I loved this facial. Great news, I did not need too many extractions, and if I did, I already had my champagne, so no worries there! Kathleen did a great job explaining the many steps in this facial and the products used. She pampered me with lots of massaging strokes, all while answering my many questions about this fun city. When she finished the service, I was definitely more relaxed, my skin felt more moisturized, and I had a bit of a glow. She reminded me to leave the products on as long as I could, and to take care if I was in the sun. She also gave me a note with the names of the products she used for my reference. I find this helpful, as really good treatment tends to give me “spa brain.” She walked me back over the relaxation room where I met up with two friendly, local ladies enjoying a spa day. They were enjoying very fancy, mini cheese burger sliders in their robes in between thier services. No judgement at this spa! It is an oasis in the heart of the French Quarter. 

Helpful tips:

Always discuss your current regimen with your esthetician, don’t forget to mention any peels, laser services, or other topical products that you use on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

If going to the beach or pool after a facial, be sure to wear a hat. Keep one in your spa bag along with sunscreen.

If you have not had a facial in a very long time, expect more extractions 🙁

Have you had any special add-ons to a facial you recieved? What was the add-on and was it worth it?

Marie Laveau Voodoo Love Bath & Massage

I applaud the Ritz-Carlton for making such a creative treatment for their spa in New Orleans. As a serious spa enthusiast, I generally book treatments that are the specialty of that spa. This treatment set a nice tone to start out my week in New Orleans. What makes this treatment a little different from just a soak and a massage is the tone set by the room, the whirlpool, and the staff.

Double chaise whirlpool tub used for the Voodoo Love treatment
Double chaise whirlpool tub used for the Voodoo Love treatment

A double lounge whirlpool tub that is  programmed for lighting, temperature, and time greeted me in a room that definitely had a New Orléans vibe. Red Drapes, red tub lights and a hot bubble bath set to 20 minutes was ready on my arrival. In the room incense was burning, and my therapist turned on some music featuring a drum vibe with a voodoo chat that set the tone nicely. Bubbles filled the tub and continued to build up during my soak. Lots of red candles surrounding my bath and tall stand candles operas in the room enhanced the bath. Ice cold towels within an arms reach were ready to cool off my neck, head, and wrists as I soaked. I also sipped Champagne which the helpful staff handed to me upon my arrival.

Bath Bubbles and Bubbly
Bath Bubbles and Bubbly

The most interesting  portion of the massage treatment was the oil they used. Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger, smelled great and had a warming effect and is the formula for the voodoo oil.  The therapist used a combination of long soothing strokes, heated wet towels,  a few hot stones, and of course the special voodoo oil. After my massage my skin felt soft and the aches from my flight were gone.

Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger a.k.a. Voodoo Love Oil
Kneipp warming massage oil with arnica and ginger a.k.a. Voodoo Love Oil

If I were to book this treatment again, I would. My tip would be to book it in the late afternoon or early evening, and if possible, with your significant other. The treatment had a very romantic vibe, thus the “love” in the treatment name. It would be more fun to experience as a couple. This would be a great treatment to have prior to a late night on the Quarter. This service would also pair nicely with a late dinner. End your evening after midnight with a bar crawl down Bourbon Street to The Dungeon. This local bar features lots of skulls on the wall, caskets hanging from the ceiling, and drinks served in chalices with dry ice that give the appearance of blood. Continuing your voodoo vibe will make for a fun night. We are in New Orleans after all! I booked this service  at 11am, as a solo with a pretty good hangover…but I was still thrilled to get into the spirit of the Quarter and still found it fun.

Roses: Champagne on arrival, ice bucket filled cold wash clothes, cool voodoo music, unusual theme, incense, very comfortable bath tub, probably the coolest treatment I have ever received

Thorns: Better as a couple

I have experienced many unusual treatments, but none really that had a “cool factor.” Please let me know if you have had a spa experience with a cool vibe!

This was not a paid visit. No special treatments were given other than being a guest of the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. This is my life.

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