Travel is a time-honored method of moving away from one’s comfort zone, a lesson I revisited as I researched an article on the health benefits of massage. While the culture of American maleness has morphed somewhat to allow sports massages, manly scents and even exceptional improvements in male grooming, traditional spas with feel-good pampering have not yet won over the majority of men. Many men are spa-shy, and I, for one, consistently head the opposite direction from any spa door.
For research on the article, I planned to tour a few spas and interview a sport or fitness professional, all while fully clothed. However, a press trip to Santa Fe and northern New Mexico enticed me to move beyond my comfort zone. The trip’s focus on Hispanic and Native American art and culture with side trips of fly fishing and a scenic railroad ride resonated with me. However, a few days before the trip I received the final agenda for those of us on the “spa track.” No fly fishing and no scenic trains–only full time spa immersion ahead for me.
I shuddered as I previewed the multiple spa treatments that I would endure. Cleansing, kneading and relaxation loomed, and I imagined an unseemly focus on my body. I envisioned me naked, on a slab, slathered with heated creams, redolent of perfumes like a sacrifice to the goddess Hedone. For this assignment, I concluded, I must venture into the heart of darkness. “The horror, the horror!”
I reluctantly arrived for my first spa treatment at La Posada de Santa Fe. The spa matched the luxury of the hotel’s accommodations and public spaces featuring the best of local artists’ works. Signature menu treatments, using native healing plants and herbs, included the “Spirit of Santa Fe” and even a “Chocolate Chili Wrap,” and sounded tasty as well as manly. But, I was skeptical. An understanding masseur agreed to a basic Swedish massage with no cute name. I felt relieved that I remained stoic throughout the treatment, even while naked. The therapist used another word for my stoicism, “Tense”, and recommended the steam room or a swim in the hotel’s opulent heated outdoor saline pool before my next treatment.
Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese-style hot springs resort overlooking the ski bowls of Santa Fe, moved me away from stoicism and one giant step toward nirvana. The resort and spa are so reminiscent of Japan that the outdoor nudity felt culturally appropriate. Still, with lingering shyness, I chose the option of a private pool, instead of the more communal clothing-optional public pools (one mixed and another for women only). The yin and yang of a lingering hot outdoor soak in cedar-lined tubs, paired with a quick cold plunge, innervated and relaxed me before the massage. The massage room had two sides open to the sound of song birds performing a symphony for spring in their wooded hillside venue. The natural setting and expert massage completely relaxed my mind and body.
The next day, at BODY of Santa Fe, I met Lorin Parrish, its founder. More of a community center than a traditional spa, BODY reflects Lorin’s passion to present the cutting edge in fitness and health, food and apparel in a casual and accepting environment. BODY includes a spa, a gym, yoga classes, child care services, and an award-winning restaurant. Products that are fairly traded, sustainable and use organic business practices are offered, including clothes for the entire family available in the boutique.
Lorin shared her views on the science of massage and body work. Her expertise, enthusiasm and dedication to the vision of holistic health presented the context I needed for my article. A healthy body supports a healthy mind, and Lorin detailed the known scientific benefits of massage and other body treatments.
I boldly agreed to a deep tissue massage combined with a lymphatic drain to reduce the chronic swelling and fluid retention in my feet and ankles. Complex stuff, these treatments, and they require skills gained through years of training and experience. BODY employs more than forty therapists with a wide variety of high-level skills. The community center was so welcoming, and the therapy so spot-on, that my spa reluctance was put to rest, I hoped, for good.
But I was somewhat concerned if my new enthusiasm would hold at Wo’P’in Spa at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino. I wondered if this large resort, with the hustle and bustle of a busy casino, enormous conference areas, top restaurants and entertainment, would overwhelm my senses and my resolve.
Fortunately, Wo’P’in Spa created a calm retreat that reflected the surrounding Pojoaque Pueblo’s philosophy of serenity, health and balance. I chose “Spirit of the River” from a large menu. This signature treatment included a hot stone massage, a red-earth cocoon wrap and a pedicure where, as a man, my feet were expertly scrubbed and groomed, not painted and prettified.
I was eager to visit my final destination spa, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa. This spot captures the cultural history of northern New Mexico. Native Americans, Spaniards, hunters and trappers, cowboys, settlers and others sought this oasis of healing waters long before a tame resort opened in 1868. Recent and ambitious remodeling, expansions and enhancements, along with attention to highest levels of customer service, transformed the outpost to a destination resort. The resort notes that it is the only hot springs in the world with four unique healing mineral waters – iron, arsenic, soda and lithia – all free of smelly sulfur. The spa is acclaimed as among the top spas in the country and in the world.
Men and women seek adventure in the surrounding desert hills and rough landscape with mountain trail biking and hiking leading among a host of adventurous activities. Spa Director Jeannine Mallory designed several packages appealing to even the most rugged man, and calls the unpretentious atmosphere at Ojo Caliente “the perfect environment” for the male spa novice as well as spa enthusiast.
I soaked in each of the pools and covered myself in red clay in the mud pool before my spa service, a “Native American Blue Corn Prickly Pear Salt Scrub” with a Men’s Fitness Face Therapy. The names of my treatments on this journey had certainly been creative, and this one, the longest, made me wonder if I was going to the spa or the restaurant buffet. It turned out to be the perfect choice to cleanse and re-hydrate my skin after a day spent canoeing on Lake Abiquiu and hiking around Ghost Ranch, and, sealed my new passion for the efficacy of spa treatments.
For more information:
La Posada de Santa Fe: www.laposadadesantafe.com
Ten Thousand Waves: www.tenthousandwaves.com
BODY of Santa Fe: www.bodyofsantafe.com
Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino: www.buffalothunderresort.com
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort and Spa: www.ojospa.com