Sunday, May 9, 2010

Riding Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe

I've learned that when you’re having a hard time relaxing, it never hurts to follow the Japanese example. No, I’m not talking about getting a karaoke room - although I know several people who would swear by that. I’m talking about soaking in some hot springs in the mountains (what they call onsens) until your skin turns pink, your mind clears and your entire body begs for a nap.

For my birthday this year, Kevin and I checked into a Japanese-style spa resort called Ten Thousand Waves in the mountains above Santa Fe. We had spent the two weeks prior clearing out the contents of his mother’s home. Upon returning to New Mexico, we were wiped. Recharging was clearly in order, but we needed something to help us snap us out of the “what has to be done next?” mentality.

Fortunately, Ten Thousand Waves had just what we needed. “The Natural” spa package promised “total transformation in just three hours.” Sold! Dressed in our robes, bright orange kimonos and spa sandals, we followed the stone path and climbed several steep sets of stairs from our suite to check in at the spa. After catching our breath and sipping some cucumber water (lest you think we’re pansies, I should mention the entire resort is 20 acres), we then ascended several more levels to our private outdoor hot tub.

Fenced just high enough for privacy – and just low enough to let you take in the scenery - our tub looked like a steaming cauldron in the cold mountain air. Snow covered the ground beyond the fence, and when the wind rustled the ponderosa pines, small flakes fluttered into the hot water for a kamikaze death. Disrobing was not something to take your time with. It was winter, and we were at an elevation of 7,800 feet. So we jumped in quickly and exhaled deeply. Before we knew it, our 50 minutes were up, and the attendant was at the gate beckoning us to the next treatment.

With noodles for legs, we shuffled indoors to a couples massage room for the “yasuragi” head and neck treatment. The name “yasuragi” means “comfort” in Japanese, and for me, this was truly the best part of the package. With warm camellia oil slowly dripping down my scalp, I was more than comforted. I was practically asleep. They say most people hold tension in their head and neck, and I’m definitely one of them. After the “yasuragi” was over, my scalp pulsated with a happy lightness, and I welcomed the mental blankness.

Next came the full body massages followed by a salt glow. Personally, I could have done with continuing the “yasuragi” and forfeiting all the rest. While most of the massage felt wonderful, parts of the salt glow had me alert with anxiety. On the thinner skin of my calves especially, I felt like I was being assaulted with sandpaper. Later, in the sauna, I asked Kevin if he found the salt glow as painful as I had, and he hadn’t. So go figure. Apparently I have sensitive calves.

It wasn’t enough to keep me from slipping into a near-narcotic stupor, though. We made dinner in the suite’s small but functional kitchen, lit a fire in the fireplace (with Buddha sitting above), passed out at 8 p.m. and slept for ten delicious hours.

When we woke, for the first time in many days, there was nothing we needed to do, other than make a pot of coffee and try out the complimentary organic granola in the fridge. That, and have a long discussion about our Warmlet, the suite’s Japanese-style heated toilet. I found it a bit startling. Was it turned up too high? Or was it just the cold temps that made it seem overly toasty? More importantly, what IS the optimal temperature for one’s behind?

After this ridiculous dialogue (although perhaps not so ridiculous given the warnings posted on the Warmlet above, including a note that the young and elderly should be supervised), we needed no further proof that our adrenaline rush was over. We were finally relaxed. Perhaps a little too relaxed. But let’s face it, sometimes mindlessness is bliss.

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