Saturday, November 29, 2008

Aaaahhhhhhhh... Now THAT'S What I Call Total Relaxation!

For my birthday, and as a belated birthday present for Kat, Elisabeth treated us three girls to a day at the Olympus Spa (for women only), "where the medical techniques of the East meet the relaxation techniques of the West" and where the mind, the body, and the spirit are nurtured. I'm still fully under the influence of the most relaxing day I've had in a very, very long time, so I'm moving about as quickly as an exfoliated sloth.

With my Google Map in-hand this morning, I followed directions to what I thought would be a large gym-type facility. After "Miss GPS" scolded me twice for passing my destination, I saw the words "Olympus Spa" on a nondescript corner building that looked more like a warehouse that a luxury spa.


Good thing, too -- for maybe this secret will be easier to keep!

(OK, that's not true; I want you all to know about this place because we all deserve such peace and serenity -- not to mention physical hedonism.)

When Kat and I arrived, Elisabeth was waiting for us, having already paid for not only the full use of the facilities for her and Kat (I was free because they have a get-in-free-on-your-birthday deal!), but for two treatments for me, the Korean Body Scrub and Korean Body Moisturizing.

Each of us was given a light cotton robe, a cap for our head, and two towels. On our way into the spa we left our shoes in the front room and then headed down a bamboo-planked hallway to the locker room, where we left our clothes behind for the day and donned the light cotton robes and caps. Elisabeth, who had been here with a fellow student, then gave Kat and me a tour.


The first thing we noticed when we entered the lounge was a profound sense of calm and quiet that permeated our surroundings. Although women moved from place to place, there was no sense of hurrying, no sense of crowding, and in fact, very little sense of time. The word that immediately came to mid within my first few moments was "community." Even with only quiet whispers and very little verbal communication, the sense of sisterhood was palpable.

olympus lounge

Surrounding the lounge are a series of heated rooms. One room has sea sand underneath a layer of canvas. It's heated to about 150 degrees. making the sand feel like a warm day at the beach. (The audio of waves and seagulls help too.) "Sand and variety of crystals on the wall provide complete fomentation that relieve arthritis, irregular menstrual cycles, severe cramping, and light headedness." I don't know if all the spa's health claims are true, but to tell you the truth, I don't care; all I know is that every inch of this place feels rejuvenating and healing.


Next to the sand room is the salt room, which is heated to 140 degrees and features sea salt underneath a layer of canvas and Calcite crystals on the wall. "It is designed to alleviate a range of respiratory and skin conditions, including asthma and psoriasis, and to reduce the effects of stress."


We spent a while in the meditation room, where the 90 degrees of dry heat and the peace and quiet just melted my stress away. "Underneath a layer of bamboo, the floor is made of Elvan stones, which offer unique properties that provides comfortable and relaxing environment."


My favorite room, though, wasn't heated at all. The Cabin Room, at 70 degrees, is awash with the musky scent of its pine floors and walls. The Olympus Journal book is available to write and share your thoughts with other women from all over the world. (I did write -- about how the negative body image and self-loathing I've had lately seemed just plain ridiculous in this quiet community of beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, ages and nationalities.)


After we visited the heated rooms, we went to the pool room and, along with all the other women of so many different shapes and sizes -- from petite to extra large -- and of so many ages -- from newly pubescent teens to very old women -- we disrobed and for the next few hours we, like everyone else, were unabashedly naked. What I noticed immediately was that there was no palpable sense of body issues, no shame or embarrassment, no modesty and no pride. We just were, in all our nakedness, a community of women, quiet, respectful, peaceful, relaxing women. I have rarely felt so comfortable in my own skin -- and that's saying a lot.

The pool area consists of four pools -- one is 90 degrees, one is 104 degrees, one is even hotter, and one (with a waterfall) is very cold. It is invigorating to move from pool to pool, relaxing in each... except, of course, the "shocking" cold pool!


There are a variety of tubs in the pool room. The first one is actually a well, rather than a tub. Mugwort has been used for hundreds of years in Korea and is "known to be effective in balancing women's hormonal levels and contains natural antibiotics and sterilizers that help keep your skin healthy and young." The idea here is that you dip a large bowl into the warm mugwort "tea" (there's actually a large "teabag floating in the well!) and then pour it -- or have someone else pour it -- all over your body. It feels truly glorious!


Once we'd explored for a while, it was time for my first treatment, the Korean Body Scrub. I've heard this described as "really angry Korean woman trying to get you really, really clean." While it's true there is a lot of vigorous scrubbing, I'd hardly say my masseuse was angry! In fact, she was an incredibly sweet lady -- with very aggressive sandpaper mitts!


After she'd scrubbed and re-scrubbed and exfoliated and permeated every single square inch of me (even behind my ears, I kid you not!), she poured buckets and buckets of hot water on me and then lathered me up completely with the softest, smoothest soap I've ever felt in my life! It was heaven and I swear, I'll never again have a western massage, which I always felt was too rough and punishing and not really relaxing.

After my scrub, Kat and Elisabeth and I visited more rooms and pools (all included with the entrance fee), and then it was time for my Korean Moisturizing Treatment. The best way I can describe that is this:


First, I was doused, literally and liberally doused, with warm olive oil, which was rubbed into every inch of my skin. Then I smelled honey! I'm not sure exactly what it was (not the real, sticky honey) -- probably another moisturizing cream, but the warm honey rub was added to the olive oil and I was already in heaven.

Then -- and this was the best part of the entire day -- my hair was wrapped in wet towels of different temperatures and my face was first rubbed with the honey moisturizer and then was covered with a thick masque of very cold, fresh cucumber skins! By this point, I was so relaxed, so completely removed from any stress, that I literally felt like I was floating! For about 20 minutes I was left alone like that -- hot towels and oils on my skin and cold cucumber on my face, and I must have fallen asleep... or maybe I was just floating. The treatment ended with a foot massage. Can you imagine -- a no-guilt foot massage! Yes, this was definitely heaven!

After my treatment, Kat, Elisabeth and I put back on our robes and went into the tea room to peacefully sip jasmine and barley and corn tea before heading to Claim Jumper for dinner. (We could have also had a meal at the spa's restaurant:)


Within the first hour at Olympus Spa, we decided that this mother-daughters treat will just have to be something we do regularly -- and for only $35 for the use of the pools and rooms for as many hours as you want per day (treatments are extra), this is a very affordable way to rejuvenate after a busy week at school or at work.

So from now on, the third Sunday of every month is spa day! With this to look forward to every month, I really think it will be easier to get through the daily stress of my job!

Thank you, Elisabeth, for the greatest birthday present ever -- time with my girls and hedonistic bliss, all in one! I love you!

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Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!

It looks as though you had a wonderfully relaxing day.

Jen said...

Oh my goodness, Carol. This sounds amazing, and the price is marvelous! I so wish we had something like this in Ann Arbor. What wonderful daughters you have!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the price blew me away! I figured it would be hundreds! And the treatments sound amazing! My brother asked me if I'd enjoy a spa experience (Xmas gift) and I wasn't sure. Now I'm thinking it might be the ticket!

Carol said...

The price really IS amazing! Next time I feel like I need some "retail therapy," I'll definitely come here with a good book instead of heading to Alderwood Mall (which is less than a mile from the spa)!


Margaret said...

It sounds and looks wonderful! I have always wanted to go to a spa.

Goofball said...

I'm drooling

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