Luxury Spas: There is no environment where water is more prized. I speak of the desert of course. On a recent visit to the Phoenix, Arizona area, I had the privilege to experience Watsu at the beautiful Sanctuary Spa on Camelback Mountain.
Watsu I learned is a near embryonic experience that takes place in a warm water pool which is kept close to body temperature. That in itself, creates a comforting enfolding of the body as you descend chest high into the pool, which is the size of a regular hot tub. Watsu was created by therapist Harold Dull in the early 1980s, then director of the Harbin School of Shiatsu and Massage in northern California. The technique slowly evolved as he began to incorporate aspects of Zen Shiatsu into his water massage therapy.
My experience began as I was greeted by my therapist, who introduced herself simply as Jeanne. We talked briefly as she intuitively sized up my trust level, and we stepped into the pool. So, I was able to approach the experiences as I like to without building up any preconceptions. It was a bit on the chilly side that day, a nice breeze was fluttering through the bamboo of the privacy fence at this beautiful resort which has been transformed from a tennis destination to one of the toniest spas in the United States.
So as I enter the pool Jeanne gives me the option to wear ear plugs, which I don't want to do, but the thought of acquiring swimmer's ear leaves me a little paralyzed with indecision. I opt not to use the plugs, which turned out fine. While most of your face is out of water, your ears remain underwater most of the time.
I was relatively relaxed, but as the hour wore on, I stopped watching the wind feather through the bamboo and just closed my eyes. Jeanne, at times embracing me, or gently swinging me through the water, sometimes manipulating arms and legs a little or even gently swinging me by the neck, which was so gentle as not to be disturbing and actually alleviated for a while after the treatment, a nagging neck pain, which is mostly with me just about any time of day. I was continuously supported by her as she gently stretched my body in the water in a way that would be impossible in conventional massage.
I liked it! Yes, Watsu is wonderful. It is a bit on the unconventional side, but if you are already a massage junky, you should also take Watsu to well, like a fish takes to water. We are after all aquatic animals.
No matter what you select off the menu of this fabulous spa that was recognized in 2006 as the "top resort" in the United States by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler and has also been included on the Travel +Leisure "T+L 500" list, as well as the Traveler's "Gold List" and "Reader's Choice" winner since opening in 2002, you will leave there like mush. Your mind in a stupor that only complete relaxation can conjure.
Fellas' if you are looking to impress someone special, take her to the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. Wine and diner her at their incredible restaurant, Elements where Chef Beau MacMillan creates signature cuisine and seasonal menus that focus on local ingredients grown by area organic farmers and artisans.
Then order up a vinasanti in-room ritual at your casita. Take an hour massage followed by a 30 minute scrub with a choice of four restoring scents. Or check out the Sanctuary Signature Body Ritual featuring fresh coconut blended with jasmine, vetiver and gentle buffing grains to hydrate soothe and polish skin to a youthful glow. Or how about the Espresso Mud Treatment, a fragrant cleansing exfoliation using certified organic coffee beans, Japanese honeysuckle, black clay and volcanic pumice followed by a detoxifying, warming wrap and a rich, soothing body balm to complete the experience. Did I mention the Rosemary Citron Salt Scrub where you are exfoliated with mineral-rich sea salt infused with rosemary, lemon and mint, finished with an ultra-hydrating Shea butter lotion infused with aloe vera and sweet Orange.
My gosh...I can't wait to go back.
By Ruth Mitchell