Sweat Lodge Ceremony in Santa Fe Ancient healing in modern times

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom.

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Concha Garcia Allen MA, LMT, curandera, ceremonial leader, and Aztec dance leader. Photo courtesy of Sunrise Springs Resort

Native American spiritual guide, Concha Garcia Allen leads a sweat lodge ceremony twice weekly for the guests of Sunrise Springs Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is through the closeness of our relationship with the Earth, she believes, that we are better able to tap into our inner wisdom. When we are in harmony with nature, we can unlock the answers to our problems and better interpret and fulfill our dreams.

Concha reminds us before the ceremony that our close relationship with nature has been broken. It is her desire to help us better understand our place within this world and our interdependence with all that is nature. Through a guided journey we explore the four directions of the medicine wheel.

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A Native American medicine wheel is the physical center of Sunrise Springs Resort. The wheel represents the four physical directions North, South, East, and West. It is also in alignment with the calendar and represents the four seasons. Each quadrant is also used to reframe the four phases of life from birth, adolescence, parenthood, and ultimately, death. The circle represents the never ending cycle of life with no beginning and no end. Each quadrant can represent the four elements as well Air (mental), Fire (spiritual), Water (Emotional), and Earth (physical). Animals totems are also assigned to stages of the wheel of life.

Concha makes a smoke offering to the four directions as well as the universe above us and below us. Chanted prayers and requests for the spirits of this world and all of our present and past relations are brought to mind.  She brings an emotional power to the ceremony.

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Tobacco is burned as an offering

 

Participants are dressed comfortably. Some in spa robes, some in bathing suits, and some in traditional Native American attire. We will enter this journey together, and we are reminded of the interdependence on one another for a successful spiritual experience. Our guide functions not only in a shaman, or curanadera, role, but she is also in the experience with us. Concha is joined by two of her nephews who assist in the ceremony.  We are each smudged while chanted prayers are shared. A ceremonial flute and conch shell are also played.

Sweat Lodge  Ceremony at Sunrise Springs Resort

Outside of the traditional stone and timber sweat lodge we are given a description of the physical and mental aspects of this journey. We are told that it is a place of rebirth. Like the womb of a mother, it will be dark, cramped and hot. Birth is where we begin the journey. In the hot lodge, we move through the four cycles of life in fifteen minute intervals. Guests are offered the traditional Native American “Gatorade”, an icy salted water with lemon. We are instructed on ways to endure the heat. We are also instructed on what type of conversations and prayers will be offered once inside the sweat lodge.

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Sweat Lodge at Sunrise Springs Resort

Heated stones on a stove are basted with water, as in a sauna. Once Concha has said her prayers and opened the conversation, we are instructed to pass a talking stick and share, if we like, how this particular quadrant of the wheel or phase of our life is affecting us. We speak only when we are handed the stick and at the close of our shared thought, we offer up the words “All my relations.”

We on our own individual spiritual journeys, from various religious and non-religious backgrounds. What brings us closer together to our relationship with the earth and its living beings is an understanding that we are all in this cycle of life together. It is through this dark, hot journey that we gain insight to what is blocking us from our personal growth. By reframing our aspirations or problems in alignment with the four elements of air, water, earth and fire, and where we are within our life’s journey, we hope to better understand that we have the answers to all of life’s questions if we can just slow down long enough to think of them. From a practicing Buddhist’s perspective, I am amazed at the similarities between the Native American traditions and the Tibetan.

Emerging from the first session, we spent time sharing childhood experiences and reflect on that ability to naturally use our imagination without the typical constraints we place on those mental aspects as adults. It was hot. I mean really hot! Some of the guests took the opportunity to plunge into the cool natural spring between sessions. These four sessions have us emotionally travel through the various stages in life and to the point to how we understand our place in nature at this very moment.

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Guests can share as much or as little as they like.  We keep our water handy. We also know that if we can just endure one more phase of this circuit, a cool plunge awaits us. There is no shame if one needs to step out early.

We left this experience feeling much more connected to the Earth, our current phase of life, and better understanding the connection to all people physically and mentally.

This is not a treatment for the faint of heart. It will test the physical and mental strength of even fit people. If you have questions about your ability to endure this experience, there are many other helpful services available at the resort, including counselors, a physician specializing in wellness, and much more.

Medical Considerations

  • If you have any chronic medical conditions, please consult with your medical provider before attending the Sweat Lodge ceremony.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water during the day of the ceremony. It is recommended to have at least 6 glasses of water prior to the event.
  • The lodge is an enclosed circular space and the number of participants may vary. If you have a tendency to anxiety in small, dark spaces, you can be seated near the door.

 

I was a hosted guest of Sunrise Springs Resort, a sister property of Ojo Caliente . All opinions are my own.

Anam, a Buddhist Bar and Spa in Old San Juan

Anam Day Spa in  Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.
Anam Day Spa in Old San Juan is located next to Parque De Las Palomas park on the water.

I literally stumbled upon this little day spa while roaming the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. My husband and I decided to take a few suggestions from our concierge and Pinterest, and hit just one or two of the more than a dozen of recommended eateries and vistas recommended. What happened was pure serendipity. After a short walk up to Fort Cristobal, a little retail therapy at some local stores, and a great meal at a bean-to-bar chocolate cafe, (Casa Cortes ChocoBar restaurant that was on my hit list) we decided to ditch the list and just walk towards the water. We wanted to just see the city from a different perspective and allow it to open up to us in its own way. We literally happened upon a huge marble plaque that stated “home of the original pina colada.” So, of course we had to have a couple of those! Our bellies were still full from the chocolate cafe, or we would have eaten at Barrachina Restaurant, as well. The food coming out of the kitchen looked authentic and smelled amazing. We came to a a beautiful gate behind which was a small park with the most beautiful knotted and twisted shade trees. A plaque explained the park and a bronze pair of shoes. We sat on a bench and took in the view of the cruise ships, sailboats, and water. After some time resting our legs from the hilly climbs of the city we glanced over and noticed a day spa. This was no ordinary day spa. It was a Buddhist-themed bar in the front of the building and a day spa in the back. Was this a reverse mullet? Party in the front, business in the back? The sign outside posted modest prices, and spa services included cocktails. Are you kidding me!?! As a practicing Buddhist (I need a lot more practice) and a spa enthusiast and now, a mildly buzzed tourist…I thought my head was going to explode. Was this sheer luck or was it karma? I don’t know, but we had to go in. It was not a hard sell for my husband. We had no plans for the evening. He spied several very large flat screen tvs and and a full bar with beer taps. Of course I could use another spa treatment. My answer is always yes! YES!

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I chatted up the owner/bartender, Marcos Long, who had impeccable English, and was happy to round up a manicurist for me. My service would include a sangria. I explained my desire to stay on the rum vibe we had started and he was more than happy to make me a special frozen drink at no additional charge. Sometimes, my husband will join me for a pedicure, but the lure of the sports and the beer taps proved stronger than my pitch, and I happily took my seat in the manicure chair while he bellied up to the bar. Heidi was a fairly new technician, and her English was not as great as the owner’s, but she gave me a great manicure. She was so young and cute. She shared with me her time behind the chair and the name of her pet beta fish as she scrubbed, rubbed, washed and groomed my nails in preparation for the polish. While we were chatting, I noticed a rhythmic drumming sound.  As Heidi applies polish, I realized the drumming was not recorded music, but rather Thai massage.  I hadn’t noticed the two massage tables behind the heavy drapes! Another guest pulls back the drapes, hands a wad of money to the massage therapist, and thanks the owner’s wife for another awesome weekly massage. Turns out the owner’s wife is a Thai massage therapist, and he is a bar owner, so they just combined their businesses. Brilliant, in my humble opinion.

Later, not wanting my nails to smudge, my husband and I decide to sit outside watch the cruise ships leave port. It was a fantastic sight to take in as the sun set. Outdoor bar seating at this spa, next to a beautiful park, this was a great and unusual way to end the day.

My tips for visiting Anam?  I wish I had known Mrs. Long,  the owner was actually trained in Thai massage, in Thailand, if I go back to San Juan, I am totally booking massage with her!  If you are visiting from a cruise ship, this is a great late afternoon stop to end the day. Spa and nail appointments are not required but if you are in a large group, call ahead. The owners would be happy to get a cab for you to get back to the ship on time, as they know exactly when the ships depart. The last spa appointments are around 7 pm, so 3 or 4 pm would be perfect to see the park, get a treatment, have a drink, and catch a cab without stress. Tell them I sent you. Cheers!

The Salt Cave and Spa of White Sulpher Springs is a holistic place of healing

 

The Salt Cave and Spa in Lewisberg, WV
The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

This was not my first visit to a salt cave, but definitely my very favorite. I might even say this could be my favorite day spa to date! The facility is extremely well thought out, clean and beautiful. My curiosity was at an all-time high when I first found out about this new spa. Photos on the website confirmed that I would be making a trip to White Sulpher Springs as soon as possible. The Salt Cave and Spa was just completed and opened to guests in July. It builds on the American tradition of wellness in Greenbrier County, with a focus on preventive and restorative health. The treatments offered at this unique and enchanting spa resonate with those of us who believe spa services are part of our integrated health care.

 

Offering a mix of alternative healing therapies and an impressive salt cave, this day spa is unique and gorgeous. Salt caves found in nature have been used for centuries to help with various breathing issues such as allergies, cystic fibrosis and the common cold. Interest has reawakened for halotherapy (salt therapy) as a modern healing modality due to the lack of side effects. Salt has a natural ability to reduce inflammation and boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties.  Although the mechanism of action is not known, physicians and healers continue to prescribe the healing benefits of halotherapy. Personally, I love treatments that can be both soothing and restorative, particularly when received in such an inspiring natural environment. The cave itself is new, built with love and a passion for preventive health by the owners. The couple, both artists by trade, also live and farm on this one hundred acre property.

I enlisted an adventurous friend of mine, Denise, to daytrip with me to Lewisburg area in West Virgina. As a regular at the world renowned Greenbrier, I am very familiar with the scenic drive to the beautiful mountain town. After studying their treatment options and discussing Denise’s wishes for the day, I hatched my plot. We would leave at the crack of 9:30am. No need to get up super early for this road trip. I also “borrowed” my husband’s convertible for the day. I definitely think that helped give a cool vibe to our adventure. We enjoyed a warm, open air drive and arrived in downtown Lewisburg just in time for lunch. I suggested one of my favorite downtown restaurants from among the many excellent ones Lewisburg has to offer. Once we were properly fed and watered, we had some time to shop. We had to go to Yarid, an upscale shoe store downtown. Locals know that all the discounted stock from the  several other locations are sent to the downtown Lewisburg Yarid location. With full tummies and now a trunk full of discounted designer shoes and handbags, we were ready to embark on our spa portion of the day.

 

To say that this day spa is unique or special really does not do it justice. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Michelle and given a Mason jar of water that she had retrieved that morning from a natural mineral spring just down the road. This spa actually has sulfur water available for guests and treatments, but natual mineral water is better tasting for drinking.  This unusual greeting really set the tone for the day at the spa. The staff was eager to share their knowledge on the many healing therapies offered, and their own personal rituals for health.

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The Salt Cave and Spa in White Sulpher Springs, WV

I arranged the signature Edgar Cayce massage for both Denise and I. What makes an Edgar Cayce massage different from the popular Swedish massage is the philosophy, technique, and training involved. Edgar Cayce is known as the father of holistic healing. Michelle, our massage therapist, was trained at the famous Edgar Cayce holistic spa in Virginia Beach. Michelle uses a personal philosophy of being a channel for personal growth and wellness. She made her intentions clear on our arrival that restorative and healing therapeutic techniques would help soothe the mind and body. Her desire was to relax the body, and stimulate the nervous system, organs, and rotate our joints and limbs, in an effort to coordinate our mind and body for an overall feeling of wellness. So what does the Edgar Cayce massage looks like to the average non-new age trained client? The massage begins with special Edgar Cayce oil applied in long soothing strokes very much like a Swedish massage. During my 90 minutes on the table, Michelle would intermittently work on various body parts in a specific sequence as part of the Cayce method. She would pull and stretch our arm and leg joints alternately. Michelle also used Jin Sin Do techniques, which are a deep finger techniques applied to muscles and organs to as in acupressure. Done properly, this technique is known for inducing a trance-like state. She also took care to address my lymphatic system through massage. Her pressure was enough that the massage was therapeutic while still providing a relaxing experience. My experience was profound. I loved it!

While I was in with Michelle, Denise took advantage of an amethyst biomat and light therapy session. This heat treatment involved lying on a table on top of a special mat that has an amethyst core. Its infrared heat penetrates the body 6-8 times more deeply than a regular heating pad. The concept is to increase your core temperature and increase your negative ions, helping with cell turnover. The technology was developed for use in space. While reclined on a massage table with the biomat on top, Denise just reclined and let a second infrared light therapy shine down on her. This special infrared light was positioned above her . It also provided deep heat, but was not uncomfortably hot. Again, the treatment is intended to heat the body and speed up cell turnover for quicker healing. Denise enjoyed relaxing in the beautiful spa room.

My second treatment was the Sacred Journey–part mental health session, part meditation. Cari, my therapist, is also a psychic medium! This was a spa treatment so unique, it deserves a separate post, check back for part 2 of this journey. Denise and I catch up after our second treatments for our final treatment, a visit to the salt cave. This salt cave is absolutely gorgeous. A beautiful, tall, arching ceiling with embedded lights that simulate stars, and stalactites coated with Himalayan salt, support the overall design and function of this healing cave. I was mentally transported to a place that took me out of my normal routine. What a beautiful therapy to book following other spa services.

 

Salt cave time is booked in 45 minute sessions. Additional therapies can be booked in the salt cave as well, including guided meditation and yoga classes. This salt cave is large enough to accomodate a group of friends, yet has an intimate feel due to the stunning lighting and design. Micron-sized crushed Himalayan white salt is forced through a special air handling system in the cave to create a microclimate. The salt was not noticeable on our skin or clothing, but did make our throats a little dry. Denise and I were happy to rest post treatment and spend some girl time together chatting as we had the cave to ourselves.

What to know, before you go:

Regular visits to the salt cave achieve better results, but a single 45-minute session has the same healing effect as a three-day visit to the beach! Have you ever noticed how acne clears up on a beach trip??? Yup, antibactierial qualities in the salty air and water is duplicated in this cave.

It is advised that you bring your own clean white socks to wear in the cave. Walking on the crushed salt also provides a nice reflexology massage to your feet. Denise and I both wore comfortable street clothes, but yoga clothes would be a great option for added comfort.

The staff is well trained to book multiple guests with different treatments to maximize a full day at the spa. Call ahead and they can help take the stress out of a group outing.

Time in the salt cave is not recommended for people experiencing infections accompanied by a fever, patients with active tuberculosis, or people under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Children are welcome to visit the salt cave.

The cave is kept at a constant temperature and is truly a four-season spa. I would love to snuggle in at this cave in the winter, or escape the heat as we did on this trip in the summer. Fall is a perfect time to visit, with spectacular fall foliage and mountain views enjoyed en route.

 

 

No special consideration was given other than being a paying guest at this spa. This is my life.

 

 

 

 

 

The Spa at Crestwood Inn, a small resort provides huge value

A grand enterance, for a small resort.
A grand entrance, for a small resort.

 

As I continue to experience more spas in North Carolina, I can’t help feeling grateful for living in this part of the country. Boone, North Carolina is just a three-hour road trip from my home and makes for a perfect weekend road trip. This part of the country has so much to offer with a beautiful mountain setting year round. On this visit, I spent a gorgeous summer weekend with my family exploring more of what Boone has to offer. The high season for this area is definitely the fall and winter season. Falls changing of the leaves and area ski resorts in the winter get most of the attention, but summer is also spectacular with light cool breezes in the evening and warm sunny days.

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I booked the Inn at Crestwood to specifically to experience their spa. The mountain top setting is a wonderful natural escape from hot summer days. We arrived pretty late at night, and we were greeted with warm cookies at check in! I was not expecting such a thoughtful treat at such an economical resort. What a pleasant surprise!  Our youngest daughter stayed in a cottage, and my husband and I stayed in the main building. When we woke up in the morning we took in the spectacular mountain view from our room.

Breakfast was included and it was definitely worth getting up for. Hubby is a huge fan of biscuits and gravy and I have to say, I don’t usually eat stuff like that, but had to give it a try based on his review. Whoa! Those were some of the best biscuits I’ve ever had. Coffee, Juice, breads to toast, pastries, muffins and eggs rounded out a hearty buffet. I do need a good base for my day at the spa.

The first treatment I booked was a 90 Minutes Swedish massage. My massage therapist, Tammy, was excellent. We chatted briefly about my preference for medium pressure and she had excellent touch. Tammy made me feel very comfortable and relaxed. Half way through the massage, when the therapist asks you to turn over, I was like a limp noodle. At the end of the treatment I decided I felt way too relaxed to be leaving the spa any time soon, so I took the opportunity to lounge in the sunroom and read some magazines. After resting, I took a dip in the pool. It was amazing. While I was in the pool area, I also checked out the steam and sauna rooms, but took a pass on the fitness room. Sorry, I need to work out before my treatments, not after!

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Day two, I booked a facial, but due to a random eye infection that popped up unexpectedly, I spoke with the staff, and Diane easily arranged for a backfacial instead. It had been years since my last back facial. Earlier I had discussed my need to swap treatments with my husband. He had no clue that a back facial existed. He made some jokes about getting a “backside” facial. You can imagine the look on his face when I explain that is an option as some spas, but I would just have a upper back facial here at Crestwood.

Crestwood Spa therapist, Lori
Crestwood Spa therapist, Lori

Lori began my treatment by dry brushing my entire body. This technique uses a natural fiber brush to gently exfoliate the skin and increase circulation. Her brush would lightly remove dead skin followed immediately by and her soothing hands, providing a nice contrast to the course fiber bristles of the brush. It feels incredible. She then used warm towels to gently remove any dead skin, and used the steam, to help prepare my skin for the application of products.

She chose to use Priori Coffeeberry products on my back. Lori worked the revitalizing cleanser into a light lather on my back and again, removed it with warm wet towels.  Just like a facial, she checked my skin for any irritation, signs of aging, and any acne. She even described a mole on my lower back. A benefit of a true professional asestitician looking out for my over all health. Once she determined that I was aware of it, and might want to get it checked by a dermatologist, she moved on to the next step. She had my back, literally. It’s not like I look at the small of my back regularly and this could be a life saving check for many who spend too much time in the sun, live alone, or are fair-skinned like myself and prone to have freckles and moles.

Lori applied an invigorating body scrub to my back with her hands firmly scrubbing and sluffing off any dull skin. She removed the scrub with warm, wet towels. Next, she applied a thick mask to my back to replenish my skins moisture. Using the antioxidant rich coffeeberry products to hydrate and revitalize skin damaged by the environment. For next 10-15 minutes, I basically melted into the heated table while she continued to give me a hand and foot massage while waiting for the mask to work.

The mask was then removed via warm wet towels and my skin was ready for an additional application of a moisturizer. The final step of the backfacial was a very gentle, swedish back massage using a lotion that provides skin nutrients to strengthen and repair my skin. My skin felt great. It was much smoother, cleaner, and definitely much moister. It took me a while to get up off the table. I was so relaxed. I was also grateful that I was still face down.  I am pretty sure she did not witness me drooling 😉

This inn is adorable. It looks like Pinterest exploded into reality here. Many thoughtful details are throughout the property. I really liked the private picnic area and fire pit. It is in a gorgeous setting. Crestwood is very affordable, and a perfect place to host weddings. It is great for families, groups, couples, and even solo travelers. Room rates include a hot breakfast buffet. Lots of little loving details make this property very homey.

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If I visit this property again, I would book a cottage for maximum privacy. I would also bring a few snacks (ok, I will be honest…champagne) as there is no room service. They do have a full service restaurant and a very nice bar. I would book my treatments a few days in advance to insure I score the best therapists, as they have many to choose from.

 

I was given no special treatment other than being a paying guest at this Inn. This is my life.

Runaway Moms Hideout at Lakeview Fontana Resort

 

Lake View Fontana Spa
Lake View at Fontana, a boutique Mountain Inn

I am pretty sure that I am not the first mother who dreamt about running away from home, but I am one of only a few women I know that actually did it! Now, I don’t want to get into the wretched details of what would drive a mostly sane person into ditching the kids with the husband and taking off. It is in the past after all, and all is forgiven. Let’s just say that our base requirements involve an annual Mother’s Day card, and a meal that we didn’t have to prepare on that one day of the year. Our basic needs were not met! Woodrow Wilson saw the wisdom in celebrating mothers way back in 1910, and it is observed as a national holiday! Apparently, nobody sent a memo to our families!

I will say this, I was not alone in my pursuit of rest and relaxation, I had a partner in crime. *Fancy, (let’s not use name real names to protect the guilty) and I had come off a very long year of family medical illnesses, deaths, and teenager shenanigans. One afternoon we decided to run off, the day after Mother’s Day to be exact, and that is precisely what we did. We did not leave forwarding details, we did not ask permission, and we did not really have a plan. We headed off to parts unknown. I stashed her Blackberry, and I unplugged mine. With one quick phone call, we headed off to a budget friendly spa, the Lakeview Fontana, in Bryson City, North Carolina.

This may or may not have been my partner in crime!
This may or may not have been my partner in crime!

We felt every bit as adventurous as Thelma and Louise. We stopped at a random winery about halfway to the spa. We were living large. No kids, no husbands telling us what to do, and no time frame of when we might return home.

Our arrival to this hidden getaway was pretty late at night (Hello! Winery, we blame you!). We were left a note at the front desk. It told us where they had left the key and to help ourselves to the honor bar in the dining area. This spa was tucked away, just off of the main road. It was once an old school, road side motel. It has been lovingly restored. Rooms had new bamboo floors, fluffy beds with white bedding, and of course, a serious spa! My gamble had paid off! It was so cute! It was rated one of the top ten budget friendly spas by Travel and Leisure.

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We easily settled into the flow of the property. Each morning we enjoyed the beautiful and tasty offerings for breakfast, including: French pressed coffee, juice, yogurt, granola, pastries, fresh fruit, and hard-boiled eggs. After a leisurely breakfast, we treated ourselves to very luxurious treatments in the spa. This schedule left us time to spend the afternoon by the pool or take a drive into one of several little towns to explore, eat, and shop. By evening, another spread of local wines and cheeses were prepared for happy hour. We loved happy hour! They have the most amazing view of a lake and we could sip, or gulp (don’t judge) our wine and take in the sunset.

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We booked two treatments for every day that we were there. Our innkeeper was awesome. We informed her of our “fugitive mom status” and that we were not sure exactly how long we would be staying. She was happy to accommodate us and I’m pretty sure she was all about maximizing our adventure. She did point us towards a casino in Cherokee, to a great little bistro in Bryson City, and some great sandwiches near an amazing white water rafting and kayaking area. I have chosen to not include pictures from the Cherokee Casino or the Paula Deen Restaraunt in the Casino, because, “what happens at the casino, stays at the casino.”

What you need to understand about this spa is how well-trained the staff are. Most of the staff have worked, in the past, at the Grove Park Inn. The Grove Park Inn in Ashville, North Carolina, is definitely on my top ten spas in the United States list. My friend *Fancy, would not feel comfortable spending an inordinate amount of money on herself, particularly with our, “runaway and ditch the kids with their fathers,” situation. The guilt would have been too much for her. We basically got the same level of service of a luxury spa for a third of the price.

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The Spa at Lake View Fontana

The treatment rooms are separate from the rest of the hotel and just steps from the dining area. The treatment rooms were quiet, and some rooms were able to leave the door open, to enjoy the sounds of spring while getting our massages, body wraps, and facials. The massage tables were heated, and pneumatic, so the vibe of the treatment definitely felt high-end. No flimsy tables here. Each room also had a shower for their extensive body treatment menu. Those therapists did magical things with steamy hot towels! The signature aromatic hot towel massage is not to be missed. After back to back 90 minute treatments daily, we forgot we had children!

In conclusion, it is best to buy your mom a Mother’s day card and take her out for a meal. Our five-day retreat was well deserved and it recharged us to return home and continue on with our full-time care giving gigs. I believe our tab for the week at Lake View was less than a thousand dollars. That does not include the $500 cash advance at the Cherokee Casino or the excellent shopping at a Native American Museum in Cherokee. So yeah, I think we all learned a lot that week 🙂

 

Tips for your trip; They offer yoga retreats and girlfriend packages. Bryson City is in the southern part of North Carolina near Cherokee, but also very near Dollywood and Gatlinburg, Tennessee (a favorite place for many to get hitched). Lake View Fontana is a secluded resort and perfect for a romantic getaway. This resort is also perfect for outdoor lovers of all sports. The US National whitewater center is just minutes away. Breakfast is served daily, but no room service is available, so feel free to pack in some of your own treats. Also note, we have both been treated much better since our return and Mother’s Day cards and gifts are now awesome.

Have you ever run away from home? Where did you go?

 

 

 

No special treatment was given other than being a paying guest at this resort. This is my life.

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.