Spa People
Michael Stusser

My intention was to create a meditative environment for a healing sanctuary that provided nurturing services in resonance with nature


Michael Stusser became a full-time organic gardener after leaving college in the 1960s. However, his gardening focus shifted from food to landscaping during his years as an apprentice in Kyoto, Japan where he studied traditional Japanese gardening and Zen meditation.

After experiencing the extraordinary healing powers of a traditional Japanese enzyme bath, he decided to place this unique treatment at the heart of his Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, which he built in 1985, alongside a Kyoto-inspired meditation garden, in the hills of Northern California.

Today, the Cedar Enzyme Bath continues to be the main attraction for people looking for a natural, immersive healing therapy, while the unique facility also plays host to local cultural events, such as equinox or solstice rituals, as well as meetings that introduce leaders to industry networks in conservation and environmentalism.

We ask Stusser to explain the benefits of his 100 per cent natural treatment and how he’s encouraging sustainable earth-friendly spa operations within the wider industry, through his work with the Green Spa Network.

What was your inspiration?
My vision for Osmosis flashed into my mind’s eye during my extraordinary first experience of an enzyme bath in Japan, and I imagined this exceptional health treatment situated in a beautiful Japanese-style environment planted in the hills of Sonoma County.

I found a perfect rural location, built a small enzyme bath building with recycled wood from a chicken coop, and enhanced it with a small Japanese garden. My intention was to create a meditative environment and healing sanctuary that provided nurturing services in resonance with nature.

Although it was a humble beginning it embodied all the elements of the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary as it is today.

What makes Osmosis unique?
Our 5.5-acre property, once used as a seasonal encampment by the Pomo Indians, is situated in a magical riparian corridor in one of the most scenic parts of Northern California. Since we believe connection with nature is a key to healing and transformation, we’ve created a variety of outdoor experience spaces, including charming outdoor eating areas along Salmon Creek, and a hammock garden with sound therapy.

Our Kyoto-style meditation garden has been recognised as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in America and in addition to traditional spa services, we also offer massage in private pagodas nestled along wooded pathways next to the creek. We offer tours of our gardens as well as forest bathing and guided meditation.

Our massage therapy sessions last 75 minutes so they can begin and end without rushing. We’re currently developing three decks on our hillside to provide guests with dramatic views during their visit and we’re exploring partnerships with our neighbours, to create day-long retreats.

What is a Cedar Enzyme Bath?
It is a unique sensation, best described as a primal earth experience, in which we create the ideal environment for billions of microorganisms to connect symbiotically with the microbial activity within the human body.

Enzymes are a special class of proteins that catalyse change and movement in all living tissues, from the transfer of oxygen from the linings of the lungs into our blood, to the movement of energy through our nervous system and digestion.

There are a minimum of 3,000 different enzymes in every human cell and a minimum of 600 active enzymes present during the fermentation process of the enzyme bath.

Our tubs are filled with three cubic yards (2,290 litres) of finely ground fragrant cedar, rice bran and everygreen plants, as well as some water and a cultured catalyst. This mixture is a perfect balance of carbon and nitrogen, particle size and humidity to support a bloom of microbial activity that generates a gentle penetrating heat biologically, making the enzyme bath different from any other form of heat therapy.

Why are there so few Cedar Enzyme Baths?
The effort involved in obtaining, transporting, storing and mixing the materials makes it very labour-intensive as a business model. We actually have a 35-page training manual for employees who administer the bath.

What’s the historical background?
Although the first known modern Cedar Enzyme Bath was established in the 1940s in Hokkaido, Japan, its history dates back centuries.

The Cedar Enzyme Bath attracted international attention when the treatment was offered at the 1972 Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan to help athletes achieve a fast recovery from the stress of exertion. During the past 50 years, the treatment has become popular in many parts of Japan – particularly in clinical environments that promote its therapeutic benefits.

What does the treatment entail?
Osmosis spa guests are served a herbal enzyme tonic prior to the bath to initiate elevated enzyme activity internally. A bath attendant sculpts out a body-shaped cavity in the mixture and guests lie covered to the chin in the bath for 20 minutes, with the evenly-supported position allowing optimum relaxation.

After their session they exit the tub – with assistance if necessary – brush off, shower and have a rehydrating electrolyte drink. They can then continue on to a 75-minute massage or facial of their choice, or a sound therapy session.

The bath’s heat causes the body’s circulatory system to dilate and the epidermis to soften, opening the pores of the skin to receive the heat and energy of billions of organisms.

This activity mimics many basic functions of the body’s internal organs and the flow of this metabolic activity within the body allows these to rest in a unique way, as they are being supported from the outside in.

This facilitates the breakdown and transport of toxins, making the Cedar Enzyme Bath a powerful detoxification treatment.

It’s also been suggested that this activity supports the production of T cells by the immune system.

What are the health benefits?
Recent scientific discoveries have proven that a diverse and vibrant microbiome is important to gut health. The gut/brain connection is now also known to be an essential link in balancing mood, psychological wellness and optimal cognitive function. Healthy microbial activity also improves the length of telomeres, a key marker for longevity and resistance to degenerative diseases.

In addition, the enzyme bath is an aromatherapy treatment akin to a full body compress. As the material heats up, the oils from the cedar and other wood species are released into the steam and flow into the open pores of the body. These contain phenol, camphor and a variety of terpenes known to elevate activity in the limbic system.

What are the wellness benefits experienced by Osmosis guests?
Our guests report a range of post-treatment benefits, including an immediate sensation of reduced tension and stress. The bath balances body chemistry and the nervous system by stimulating serotonin and melatonin production, and many guests experience an exceptionally deep and restful night’s sleep following the bath.

The treatment also offers relief from aches, including arthritis and joint pain and noticeably increased mobility. Athletes have confirmed it clears lactic acid from sore muscles.

Circulation is improved, as the bath dilates the cardiovascular system and increases blood flow to even the smallest capillaries. The enzyme activity also delivers a full body exfoliation by digesting dead skin cells while constantly sanitising the bath.

A major post-treatment experience is elation, as the cedar oil in the bath stimulates the brain’s limbic system.

Cedar Enzyme Bath ingredients

The bath is composed of a blend of natural ingredients:

Cedar: For thousands of years, cedar and its essence have been used by Native Americans and other aboriginal cultures for rites of purification, strengthening, and cleansing. The cedar comes from one of the most fragrant evergreen woods in the world and is native to Oregon. Similar to Hinoki, a sacred wood in Japan, which is used in traditional homes, hot tubs, and temple construction, this cedar contains fragrant resins including phenol, which produces healthful vapours for bathers to bask in.

Rice Bran: Used for centuries as an exfoliant for its oil’s softening properties and revitalising nutrients, the light, fluffy bran is separated from the rice kernels during milling and ferments easily. High in enzymes, it contains 20 per cent oil, and nutraceutical compounds that act as antioxidants to protect from free-radical damage. The bran’s B-complex vitamins are vital to nerve health.

Biological Catalyst: This is cultured to activate the enzyme bath as a baker would culture a sourdough starter. It stimulates the fermentation that sustains the generation of warmth, while creating a universe of highly beneficial enzyme activity and maintaining the hygienic properties of the bath.

Bath tubs contain ground cedar, rice bran and a cultured catalyst Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
Stusser’s Japanese garden in California is regarded as highly authentic Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
After the enzyme bath, guests move on to have a 75-minute treatment Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
Stusser delivering his enzyme bath in 1985 Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
The Kyoto-style meditation garden offers guests peace and tranquility Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
The 5.5-acre property is located in one of the most scenic areas of California Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
The gardens are rich in healing plants Credit: Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2022 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Michael Stusser

Spa People

Michael Stusser


My intention was to create a meditative environment for a healing sanctuary that provided nurturing services in resonance with nature

Michael Stusser created his Cedar Enzyme Bath in 1985 Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
Bath tubs contain ground cedar, rice bran and a cultured catalyst Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
Stusser’s Japanese garden in California is regarded as highly authentic Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
After the enzyme bath, guests move on to have a 75-minute treatment Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
Stusser delivering his enzyme bath in 1985 Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
The Kyoto-style meditation garden offers guests peace and tranquility Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
The 5.5-acre property is located in one of the most scenic areas of California Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary
The gardens are rich in healing plants Photo: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary

Michael Stusser became a full-time organic gardener after leaving college in the 1960s. However, his gardening focus shifted from food to landscaping during his years as an apprentice in Kyoto, Japan where he studied traditional Japanese gardening and Zen meditation.

After experiencing the extraordinary healing powers of a traditional Japanese enzyme bath, he decided to place this unique treatment at the heart of his Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, which he built in 1985, alongside a Kyoto-inspired meditation garden, in the hills of Northern California.

Today, the Cedar Enzyme Bath continues to be the main attraction for people looking for a natural, immersive healing therapy, while the unique facility also plays host to local cultural events, such as equinox or solstice rituals, as well as meetings that introduce leaders to industry networks in conservation and environmentalism.

We ask Stusser to explain the benefits of his 100 per cent natural treatment and how he’s encouraging sustainable earth-friendly spa operations within the wider industry, through his work with the Green Spa Network.

What was your inspiration?
My vision for Osmosis flashed into my mind’s eye during my extraordinary first experience of an enzyme bath in Japan, and I imagined this exceptional health treatment situated in a beautiful Japanese-style environment planted in the hills of Sonoma County.

I found a perfect rural location, built a small enzyme bath building with recycled wood from a chicken coop, and enhanced it with a small Japanese garden. My intention was to create a meditative environment and healing sanctuary that provided nurturing services in resonance with nature.

Although it was a humble beginning it embodied all the elements of the Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary as it is today.

What makes Osmosis unique?
Our 5.5-acre property, once used as a seasonal encampment by the Pomo Indians, is situated in a magical riparian corridor in one of the most scenic parts of Northern California. Since we believe connection with nature is a key to healing and transformation, we’ve created a variety of outdoor experience spaces, including charming outdoor eating areas along Salmon Creek, and a hammock garden with sound therapy.

Our Kyoto-style meditation garden has been recognised as one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in America and in addition to traditional spa services, we also offer massage in private pagodas nestled along wooded pathways next to the creek. We offer tours of our gardens as well as forest bathing and guided meditation.

Our massage therapy sessions last 75 minutes so they can begin and end without rushing. We’re currently developing three decks on our hillside to provide guests with dramatic views during their visit and we’re exploring partnerships with our neighbours, to create day-long retreats.

What is a Cedar Enzyme Bath?
It is a unique sensation, best described as a primal earth experience, in which we create the ideal environment for billions of microorganisms to connect symbiotically with the microbial activity within the human body.

Enzymes are a special class of proteins that catalyse change and movement in all living tissues, from the transfer of oxygen from the linings of the lungs into our blood, to the movement of energy through our nervous system and digestion.

There are a minimum of 3,000 different enzymes in every human cell and a minimum of 600 active enzymes present during the fermentation process of the enzyme bath.

Our tubs are filled with three cubic yards (2,290 litres) of finely ground fragrant cedar, rice bran and everygreen plants, as well as some water and a cultured catalyst. This mixture is a perfect balance of carbon and nitrogen, particle size and humidity to support a bloom of microbial activity that generates a gentle penetrating heat biologically, making the enzyme bath different from any other form of heat therapy.

Why are there so few Cedar Enzyme Baths?
The effort involved in obtaining, transporting, storing and mixing the materials makes it very labour-intensive as a business model. We actually have a 35-page training manual for employees who administer the bath.

What’s the historical background?
Although the first known modern Cedar Enzyme Bath was established in the 1940s in Hokkaido, Japan, its history dates back centuries.

The Cedar Enzyme Bath attracted international attention when the treatment was offered at the 1972 Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan to help athletes achieve a fast recovery from the stress of exertion. During the past 50 years, the treatment has become popular in many parts of Japan – particularly in clinical environments that promote its therapeutic benefits.

What does the treatment entail?
Osmosis spa guests are served a herbal enzyme tonic prior to the bath to initiate elevated enzyme activity internally. A bath attendant sculpts out a body-shaped cavity in the mixture and guests lie covered to the chin in the bath for 20 minutes, with the evenly-supported position allowing optimum relaxation.

After their session they exit the tub – with assistance if necessary – brush off, shower and have a rehydrating electrolyte drink. They can then continue on to a 75-minute massage or facial of their choice, or a sound therapy session.

The bath’s heat causes the body’s circulatory system to dilate and the epidermis to soften, opening the pores of the skin to receive the heat and energy of billions of organisms.

This activity mimics many basic functions of the body’s internal organs and the flow of this metabolic activity within the body allows these to rest in a unique way, as they are being supported from the outside in.

This facilitates the breakdown and transport of toxins, making the Cedar Enzyme Bath a powerful detoxification treatment.

It’s also been suggested that this activity supports the production of T cells by the immune system.

What are the health benefits?
Recent scientific discoveries have proven that a diverse and vibrant microbiome is important to gut health. The gut/brain connection is now also known to be an essential link in balancing mood, psychological wellness and optimal cognitive function. Healthy microbial activity also improves the length of telomeres, a key marker for longevity and resistance to degenerative diseases.

In addition, the enzyme bath is an aromatherapy treatment akin to a full body compress. As the material heats up, the oils from the cedar and other wood species are released into the steam and flow into the open pores of the body. These contain phenol, camphor and a variety of terpenes known to elevate activity in the limbic system.

What are the wellness benefits experienced by Osmosis guests?
Our guests report a range of post-treatment benefits, including an immediate sensation of reduced tension and stress. The bath balances body chemistry and the nervous system by stimulating serotonin and melatonin production, and many guests experience an exceptionally deep and restful night’s sleep following the bath.

The treatment also offers relief from aches, including arthritis and joint pain and noticeably increased mobility. Athletes have confirmed it clears lactic acid from sore muscles.

Circulation is improved, as the bath dilates the cardiovascular system and increases blood flow to even the smallest capillaries. The enzyme activity also delivers a full body exfoliation by digesting dead skin cells while constantly sanitising the bath.

A major post-treatment experience is elation, as the cedar oil in the bath stimulates the brain’s limbic system.

Cedar Enzyme Bath ingredients

The bath is composed of a blend of natural ingredients:

Cedar: For thousands of years, cedar and its essence have been used by Native Americans and other aboriginal cultures for rites of purification, strengthening, and cleansing. The cedar comes from one of the most fragrant evergreen woods in the world and is native to Oregon. Similar to Hinoki, a sacred wood in Japan, which is used in traditional homes, hot tubs, and temple construction, this cedar contains fragrant resins including phenol, which produces healthful vapours for bathers to bask in.

Rice Bran: Used for centuries as an exfoliant for its oil’s softening properties and revitalising nutrients, the light, fluffy bran is separated from the rice kernels during milling and ferments easily. High in enzymes, it contains 20 per cent oil, and nutraceutical compounds that act as antioxidants to protect from free-radical damage. The bran’s B-complex vitamins are vital to nerve health.

Biological Catalyst: This is cultured to activate the enzyme bath as a baker would culture a sourdough starter. It stimulates the fermentation that sustains the generation of warmth, while creating a universe of highly beneficial enzyme activity and maintaining the hygienic properties of the bath.


Originally published in Spa Business 2022 issue 2

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