Mystery shopper
Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

Mia Kyricos pays a visit to the Japanese-inspired spa in California that’s famous for enzyme baths

By Mia Kyricos | Published in Spa Business 2013 issue 3


The background
California’s Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary was founded in 1985 as a “vision of healing, beauty and inner peace” by Michael Stusser, originally an organic gardener who studied Japanese gardens and Zen Buddhism in Kyoto. While there he discovered the Japanese Cedar Enzyme Bath heat therapy which inspired the creation of Osmosis, regularly referenced as one of America’s most spiritual spas.

Set deep in a valley of Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, the eco-conscious spa property is spread across five, lush acres and features a large, Zen-like meditation garden and a two-storey spa with 17 treatment rooms, including four outdoor pagodas, and three large enzyme baths. Most recently, Sukiya Living: The Journal of Japanese Gardening ranked Osmosis as home to one of the top Japanese gardens in the US.

The offer
Osmosis’ signature Cedar Enzyme Bath, unavailable anywhere else in the US, is a ‘dry bath’ based on a mix of ground evergreens including cedar, rice bran and plant enzymes that naturally heat via fermentation. The baths require more than 600 active enzymes which, in addition to the heat, are said to influence body chemistry and natural cleansing processes. Reported benefits, aside from deep relaxation, include relief from joint and muscle pain, improved circulation and mobility, stress and fatigue reduction, improved digestion, detoxification and cleansing of the skin.

More traditional face and body treatments are also available using organic and natural products from Organic Male, Naturopathica, Phyt’s and a private-label range. 75-minute services start at US$129 (€98, £84).

Design
Found off secluded road in farmhouse-style building, Osmosis is reminiscent of the Woodstock era with burning incense and communal living. Inside, the spa unfolds in unexpected ways – from the front-desk a sliding door reveals narrow hallways and a hidden staircase leading to a ‘nook and cranny’ treatment area – this is not a purpose-built spa and is admittedly tired in some places. Elsewhere a tea garden, for pre-treatment contemplation, overlooks a small inner rock garden complete with a miniature footbridge; while a large double-bay room is reserved for the cedar-filled tubs.

With its mix of hippie-style spaces and Japanese touches, the design may be unusual, but it’s also charming and captivating.

The experience
When I called ahead to make a reservation, I was impressed with the, information and attentiveness. When enquiring what treatment went best with the enzyme bath, I was quickly up-sold “the popular” 2.5-hour Rejuvenation Package comprising a signature tea service and 20-minute bath followed by a meditative garden walk and 75-minute massage for US$199 (€151, £131).

On arrival, I was graciously greeted by name and ushered to fill out the standard questionnaire and liability forms. Guided to a small changing area, I put on a comfortable, flannel robe and was directed to the tea garden for a Japanese tea with digestive enzymes to further help the detoxification process.

The enzyme baths are wooden crates filled with a dry, fragrant mix of shavings and secret ingredients that naturally react with one another to create heat. Using a large shovel Jenny, my therapist, prepared a dent in the mix and invited me to disrobe, step in and lie down. She then covered me with the shavings – akin to being buried in the sand at a beach – while being careful to ensure the comfort of my head and neck.

I was very surprised by how fast the mix heated, but found the intensity relaxing – I wished I’d been given the option to stay in it longer – and Jenny checked on me every five minutes to freshen a cool, wet cloth on my forehead, and to wipe away perspiration. Aside from the relaxation, I must admit to also feeling somewhat cleansed: lighter if you will. Easily the least appealing part of the service was the shower that followed as the mix sticks to the skin and the pressure, likely due to the site’s eco-friendly approach to preserving water, was quite weak. I rushed to get to the meditation garden walk – a meandering stone path fringed by beautiful landscaped grounds, including a bamboo forest and a compelling display of bonsai and local vegetation, that culminated with a spacious Zen garden, pond and deck covered with pillowed seating. The walk is designed for mindfulness and reflection and I was quite happy my package allowed enough time (15-20 minutes) to experience this, before heading for my massage.

Without question, Osmosis saved the best for last: the signature Swedish Esalen massage. Esalen massage is a unique form of bodywork that’s been developed by the Esalen Institute – a humanistic alternative education retreat – in Big Sur, California over the last 40 years and is said to use “long, flowing full-body strokes for full body connection and awareness”. Frankly, I’m not sure how to describe it, nor can I say if the divine treatment was due to technique or talent. Either way, Jeremy delivered one of the best massages I’ve ever had; a benchmark for all future treatments.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Osmosis has a fairly extensive boutique retailing a number of unique items – from Japanese robes to meditative music, digestive enzymes, teas and health aids. However, there was no suggestion to purchase something for home use. And I must admit, after the grand finale massage, I could have been convinced to buy anything.

The green experience
It’s easy to see that being environmentally friendly is not just a marketing ploy at Osmosis but a core value that permeates all aspects of the property and business. Green practices from recycling to water resource and conservation are in operation throughout. The product houses have been chosen for their eco-credentials and locally-grown, sustainable whole foods are offered in partnership with the CERES Community Project: a local non-profit association that trains teen chefs to create nutrient-dense “meals as medicine”.

It makes perfect sense that founder Stusser is one of the original masterminds behind the Green Spa Network. Environmentalists should absolutely make note.

The business
The unique Cedar Enzyme Bath treatment at Osmosis is clearly a strong marketing tool. Prior to the visit, I asked a few Sonoma County residents if they’d heard about Osmosis, and everyone I spoke to cited the signature treatment and beautiful grounds with personal experience.

The facility has also put together some interesting packages to boost business, rather than relying on one-off treatment sales. It offers custom experiences and packages for up to 36 people with bespoke programming options – including a communal foot-bath designed to suit parties of friends, families or associates. Additionally, the spa sells wellness programmes throughout the year, entitling local members to monthly services varying from breath training, cleanses or other detoxifying treatments. And, like all services, pricing appears fair and reasonable, which is seemingly uncommon for both the area and industry – group packages start at US$75 (€57, £49) per person, while a four-week cleanse programme is priced at US$499 (€378, £325).

Summary
In a word, Osmosis is honest. It’s not the most glamorous of spas, nor is it the most convenient to access, but it’s easily one of the most authentic spas I’ve had the privilege to visit. The employees are sincere, the treatments are good, the pricing is fair, the setting is peaceful and the environment is respected. These days, that is a luxury.


Vital statistics
Address: 209 Bohemian Highway, Freestone, CA 95472, USA

Times: 9am – closing (depending on demand)

Web: www.osmosis.com


what’s the score?
Treatment offering
8
Facilities 7
Staff 10
Experience/treatment 9
Value for money 10
Overall experience 8.5

Right to Reply - Michael Stusser, founder, Osmosis
We are most grateful for the deserving acknowledgements of our talented, dedicated staff. The secret ingredients at the foundation of Osmosis are shared vision, the right livelihood and meaningful work. We feel we’re just getting started fully understanding the wide range of therapeutic benefits of the unique enzyme bath. As science unravels the dynamics of the microbiome – the mircoorganisms inhabiting the human body that impact on our physiology – we see a very promising future for the potential of live fermentation bathing. There are many very evident benefits from this treatment due to the metabolic enhancements that are delivered via the skin. The wonder of Mia’s massage may have had more to do with the bath than she attributed. We hear “that was the best massage I ever had” every day.
Guests are served tea to help further aid the unique detoxifying effects of the enzyme bath.
Kyricos says the Esalen massage she had was one of the best she’s ever experienced
Omosis has some of the best Japanese gardens in the US
 


CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2022

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS
 
07 Jul 2022 Leisure Management: daily news and jobs
 
 
HOME
JOBS
NEWS
FEATURES
PRODUCTS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTION
PRINT SUBSCRIPTION
ADVERTISE
CONTACT US
Sign up for FREE ezine

Features List



SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2013 issue 3

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

Mystery shopper

Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary


Mia Kyricos pays a visit to the Japanese-inspired spa in California that’s famous for enzyme baths

Mia Kyricos, Kyricos & Associates
Guests are served tea to help further aid the unique detoxifying effects of the enzyme bath
Guests are served tea to help further aid the unique detoxifying effects of the enzyme bath.
Kyricos says the Esalen massage she had was one of the best she’s ever experienced
Omosis has some of the best Japanese gardens in the US

The background
California’s Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary was founded in 1985 as a “vision of healing, beauty and inner peace” by Michael Stusser, originally an organic gardener who studied Japanese gardens and Zen Buddhism in Kyoto. While there he discovered the Japanese Cedar Enzyme Bath heat therapy which inspired the creation of Osmosis, regularly referenced as one of America’s most spiritual spas.

Set deep in a valley of Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, the eco-conscious spa property is spread across five, lush acres and features a large, Zen-like meditation garden and a two-storey spa with 17 treatment rooms, including four outdoor pagodas, and three large enzyme baths. Most recently, Sukiya Living: The Journal of Japanese Gardening ranked Osmosis as home to one of the top Japanese gardens in the US.

The offer
Osmosis’ signature Cedar Enzyme Bath, unavailable anywhere else in the US, is a ‘dry bath’ based on a mix of ground evergreens including cedar, rice bran and plant enzymes that naturally heat via fermentation. The baths require more than 600 active enzymes which, in addition to the heat, are said to influence body chemistry and natural cleansing processes. Reported benefits, aside from deep relaxation, include relief from joint and muscle pain, improved circulation and mobility, stress and fatigue reduction, improved digestion, detoxification and cleansing of the skin.

More traditional face and body treatments are also available using organic and natural products from Organic Male, Naturopathica, Phyt’s and a private-label range. 75-minute services start at US$129 (€98, £84).

Design
Found off secluded road in farmhouse-style building, Osmosis is reminiscent of the Woodstock era with burning incense and communal living. Inside, the spa unfolds in unexpected ways – from the front-desk a sliding door reveals narrow hallways and a hidden staircase leading to a ‘nook and cranny’ treatment area – this is not a purpose-built spa and is admittedly tired in some places. Elsewhere a tea garden, for pre-treatment contemplation, overlooks a small inner rock garden complete with a miniature footbridge; while a large double-bay room is reserved for the cedar-filled tubs.

With its mix of hippie-style spaces and Japanese touches, the design may be unusual, but it’s also charming and captivating.

The experience
When I called ahead to make a reservation, I was impressed with the, information and attentiveness. When enquiring what treatment went best with the enzyme bath, I was quickly up-sold “the popular” 2.5-hour Rejuvenation Package comprising a signature tea service and 20-minute bath followed by a meditative garden walk and 75-minute massage for US$199 (€151, £131).

On arrival, I was graciously greeted by name and ushered to fill out the standard questionnaire and liability forms. Guided to a small changing area, I put on a comfortable, flannel robe and was directed to the tea garden for a Japanese tea with digestive enzymes to further help the detoxification process.

The enzyme baths are wooden crates filled with a dry, fragrant mix of shavings and secret ingredients that naturally react with one another to create heat. Using a large shovel Jenny, my therapist, prepared a dent in the mix and invited me to disrobe, step in and lie down. She then covered me with the shavings – akin to being buried in the sand at a beach – while being careful to ensure the comfort of my head and neck.

I was very surprised by how fast the mix heated, but found the intensity relaxing – I wished I’d been given the option to stay in it longer – and Jenny checked on me every five minutes to freshen a cool, wet cloth on my forehead, and to wipe away perspiration. Aside from the relaxation, I must admit to also feeling somewhat cleansed: lighter if you will. Easily the least appealing part of the service was the shower that followed as the mix sticks to the skin and the pressure, likely due to the site’s eco-friendly approach to preserving water, was quite weak. I rushed to get to the meditation garden walk – a meandering stone path fringed by beautiful landscaped grounds, including a bamboo forest and a compelling display of bonsai and local vegetation, that culminated with a spacious Zen garden, pond and deck covered with pillowed seating. The walk is designed for mindfulness and reflection and I was quite happy my package allowed enough time (15-20 minutes) to experience this, before heading for my massage.

Without question, Osmosis saved the best for last: the signature Swedish Esalen massage. Esalen massage is a unique form of bodywork that’s been developed by the Esalen Institute – a humanistic alternative education retreat – in Big Sur, California over the last 40 years and is said to use “long, flowing full-body strokes for full body connection and awareness”. Frankly, I’m not sure how to describe it, nor can I say if the divine treatment was due to technique or talent. Either way, Jeremy delivered one of the best massages I’ve ever had; a benchmark for all future treatments.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Osmosis has a fairly extensive boutique retailing a number of unique items – from Japanese robes to meditative music, digestive enzymes, teas and health aids. However, there was no suggestion to purchase something for home use. And I must admit, after the grand finale massage, I could have been convinced to buy anything.

The green experience
It’s easy to see that being environmentally friendly is not just a marketing ploy at Osmosis but a core value that permeates all aspects of the property and business. Green practices from recycling to water resource and conservation are in operation throughout. The product houses have been chosen for their eco-credentials and locally-grown, sustainable whole foods are offered in partnership with the CERES Community Project: a local non-profit association that trains teen chefs to create nutrient-dense “meals as medicine”.

It makes perfect sense that founder Stusser is one of the original masterminds behind the Green Spa Network. Environmentalists should absolutely make note.

The business
The unique Cedar Enzyme Bath treatment at Osmosis is clearly a strong marketing tool. Prior to the visit, I asked a few Sonoma County residents if they’d heard about Osmosis, and everyone I spoke to cited the signature treatment and beautiful grounds with personal experience.

The facility has also put together some interesting packages to boost business, rather than relying on one-off treatment sales. It offers custom experiences and packages for up to 36 people with bespoke programming options – including a communal foot-bath designed to suit parties of friends, families or associates. Additionally, the spa sells wellness programmes throughout the year, entitling local members to monthly services varying from breath training, cleanses or other detoxifying treatments. And, like all services, pricing appears fair and reasonable, which is seemingly uncommon for both the area and industry – group packages start at US$75 (€57, £49) per person, while a four-week cleanse programme is priced at US$499 (€378, £325).

Summary
In a word, Osmosis is honest. It’s not the most glamorous of spas, nor is it the most convenient to access, but it’s easily one of the most authentic spas I’ve had the privilege to visit. The employees are sincere, the treatments are good, the pricing is fair, the setting is peaceful and the environment is respected. These days, that is a luxury.


Vital statistics
Address: 209 Bohemian Highway, Freestone, CA 95472, USA

Times: 9am – closing (depending on demand)

Web: www.osmosis.com


what’s the score?
Treatment offering
8
Facilities 7
Staff 10
Experience/treatment 9
Value for money 10
Overall experience 8.5

Right to Reply - Michael Stusser, founder, Osmosis
We are most grateful for the deserving acknowledgements of our talented, dedicated staff. The secret ingredients at the foundation of Osmosis are shared vision, the right livelihood and meaningful work. We feel we’re just getting started fully understanding the wide range of therapeutic benefits of the unique enzyme bath. As science unravels the dynamics of the microbiome – the mircoorganisms inhabiting the human body that impact on our physiology – we see a very promising future for the potential of live fermentation bathing. There are many very evident benefits from this treatment due to the metabolic enhancements that are delivered via the skin. The wonder of Mia’s massage may have had more to do with the bath than she attributed. We hear “that was the best massage I ever had” every day.

Originally published in Spa Business 2013 issue 3

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd