It’s finally time to focus on you
By Glenda Winders
It has been a whole year since you began masking up and locking down, and in that time, you might have baked too much bread, cooked too many meals and spent more than a few days not wanting to get out of your pajamas. Now that it’s possible to venture out again, a reboot might be in order to help get your body and mind back to where they were before the pandemic began and get a start on creating the best version of yourself you can be.
We’ve sampled some of the Indiana spas and retreats that are ready to welcome you and administer their healing and soothing remedies. Need to shed pounds in a hurry or just want to spend some time away from the chaos? Do you have a week to spend wallowing in luxury or just a lunch hour to fit in a treatment? Whatever your situation, we have you covered.
Stuff of legend
If your idea of post-pandemic repair involves a few days of luxury and pampering, maybe the legendary French Lick Resort is where you should go.
“French Lick Resort’s legacy of health and wellness is deeply rooted in the famous mineral waters that have been attracting visitors since the resort’s inception in the mid-1800s,” says Tessa Higgs, public relations coordinator. “Today our guests can still find rest, relaxation and rejuvenation through our two spas. We offer a variety of services, ranging from skin care and body treatments to soaking in a signature Pluto Bath.”
The Spa at French Lick Springs Hotel is designed after other great spas in the United States with luxurious American decor, while its sister West Baden location is more European in design so that you come away feeling as if you have been to London or Paris. The treatments at both are similar and focused on renewal of both body and spirit.
The Pluto Mineral Bath involves sitting in a deep tub filled with the area’s legendary healing spring water for half an hour. Or how about a Sacred Stone
Massage, with the therapist using heated basalt stones to soothe tense muscles? The Aromatherapy Massage promises to “calm, relax and energize” with essential oils. The Moroccan Rhassoul Clay Wrap blends clay from the Atlas Mountains with the spring water, which is then applied, followed by a wrap before you relax.
The menu of delights includes hydrating and organic facials, chemical peels, pedicures, manicures, paraffin waxes, hair styling and more for men and women. Special treatments for athletes or pregnant women are also on tap. Some packages (here called by the lovely name of “rituals”) combine several complementary treatments into one decadent day of feeling about as serene and well as you can.
These spas are serious about working on every part of your being. At French Lick, take advantage of a gym with Matrix equipment. The West Baden spa is in a natatorium, so have a swim before or after your treatment. Then off you go back to your room to snuggle into a luxurious bed and perhaps nibble on a plate of fruit.
The Indianapolis Salt Cave and Hydrotherapy Center will use salt in some of its treatments to help you get back to your old self.
“We are a holistic wellness center with three different services, two of which include salt,” says owner Stefanie Patterson. “The first offering is a room made completely of 9 tons of pink Polish salt.
You relax in zero-gravity chairs and bundle up in a blanket as it is kept a bit cooler in there. While relaxing, you will hear light music and cascading water that create a serene and tranquil environment.”
The cave isn’t actually a cave but a reconstructed Polish salt mine located in a historic Indianapolis fire station. Several rooms are available, so whichever treatment you decide to have, you’ll have in privacy.
While you are relaxing in your “cave,” they are running a machine called a halogenerator, which grinds up pharmaceutical-grade salt and aerosols it through the air. The salt particles you breathe deep into your lungs break up and dry any mucus in your lungs and airways, essentially cleaning out your lungs like a toothbrush does for your teeth.
The salt is also naturally antibacterial, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, so it helps open your airways. Patterson says it helps anyone with respiratory conditions that include allergies, asthma, COPD and sinusitis as well as ear infections, snoring and jet lag. The salt going through the cave also kills bacteria on the skin that can lead to psoriasis and eczema.
For the Hand and Foot Detox you sit in an oversized chair with your hands and feet on heated salt blocks. The salt draws out toxins and heavy metals through sweat to soothe muscles and joints and stimulate the central nervous system for healing. Like the salt cave, this room is dimly lit with soft music and the sound of trickling water. Patterson recommends this treatment for anyone with arthritis, carpal-tunnel syndrome or joint pain. She says clients have reported feeling relief when they leave or over the next couple of days.
Their third treatment is the Far Infrared Sauna. This traditional-looking dry sauna heats your body by using panels in the back and floor to emit infrared waves to penetrate the body and heat you from the inside out. Patterson says it is useful for detoxing as well as helping with inflammation or circulatory issues.
One more way to get away — really away — from it all for an hour is to float in a sensory-deprivation tank, and one place to do that is A Place to Float in Indianapolis. It sounds a little strange and scary, but it’s quite the opposite. Here’s how it works.
The staff takes you to a room where you have zero access to any stimuli once the light goes out. When they leave and close the door, light and sound are completely locked out of the room. You shower to remove any oils or lotions that could interfere with the action of the salt that keeps you afloat and then climb into a tank that is about the size of a Volkswagen beetle. When you’re situated and comfortable, you switch off the light.
“After that it’s you, yourself and you,” says Brad Wrigley, general manager.
Claustrophobics needn’t worry because the tanks are roomy, but if the enclosed space should be a problem, they can put you in an open tank that yields pretty much the same results. The tanks hold about 100 gallons — 10 inches — of water to which 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts have been added. This makes you more buoyant than if you were in the Dead Sea, Wrigley explains. The water is heated to the external temperature of the skin so that the sense of touch is eliminated.
You lie totally flat, the most natural position you could be in because there’s no gravity, no pillow, nothing pulling or pushing one way or the other. Now that you have no access to your senses, you’re lulled into a blissful state of total nothingness. Oftentimes people report that they think they fell asleep, but they’re not sure, or the music at the end wakes them up, and they didn’t know they were asleep.
“Psychologists call that state of mind hypnogogia — a super state where you heal proficiently because your cells regenerate at a more rapid rate,” Wrigley says. “An hour of hypnogogia gives your body more rest than a full night of sound sleep, and you come out feeling like you’ve had a full night’s rest. The anti-inflammatory quality in the magnesium sulfite eases stress and all three kinds of pain: inflammation, nerve pain and psychosomatic that is usually manifested by trauma or anxiety.
“You get a total reset,” Wrigley says. “Your biochemistry changes a bit when you’re in there. Your cortisol levels bottom out, and melatonin comes up. When you come out of the tank, it’s like you’re reset back to your factory default. The way stress is filtered into your cognitive mind is different because you’re more creative and have more clarity.”
Most people report that pain relief lasts four, five or six days. One said it lasted a week, another two weeks. People who are managing chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, say it lasts two or three days, so they come back more often. The facility has a flat monthly rate that allows them to come in as many times as they need to.
“We’re not going to charge people more who have more to deal with,” Wrigley says.
All these facilities say they have put extra sanitizing practices into effect because of the COVID pandemic, but Wrigley says, “We are literally the cleanest place on Earth.”
The amount of salt in the tank alone is enough to create an inhospitable environment where microbes can’t survive. Beyond that, the staff cleans the tanks with a concentration of peroxide that requires workers to wear gloves, use the same filters as those in an Olympic-size swimming pool and change them more often than other float centers.
While the filtration system is working between floats, ultraviolet light is shot through the water. Both inside and outside the private rooms every surface that’s touched is wiped. They limit the number of people in the building, and both staff and guests are masked. Wrigley says they are “annoyingly strict” about social distancing.
Whatever they are doing seems to be working since they are doing a brisk business despite pandemic concerns.
“The sensory deprivation experience itself is beautiful,” Wrigley says, “but the way you live in between is just a better quality of life.”
If you’re beyond serious about losing weight and getting back into shape, Detox Oasis in Shoals is the place for you. Owner Dave Marshall has had a variety of careers that have included underwater welder, deep sea diver, combat pilot and corporate communications executive. In every setting his colleagues asked him to do fitness training because of his commitment to being healthy and in good shape.
Marshall traveled around the world to learn teaching techniques (he learned how to detox in Thailand, for example) and opened the oasis. Here clients retreat to a farm built in 1897 and do what it takes to drop as much as 16 to 18 pounds in just six days for men or 7 to 8 pounds for women.
“You can do here in a week what would usually take months,” Marshall says. “That’s a person who does everything we ask them to do — a daily regimen of colonics, yoga, 8 miles of hiking, personal training, and a lot of green juices and herbs. The yoga and hiking components are what really make us different from anyone else.”
Marshall’s wife, Wendy, teaches the yoga classes, runs the farm when her husband is away and for the past several months has ensured that stringent COVID-19 protocols were in place.
Clients who come for the “Fit Body Retreat” follow the same rigorous physical program that the detoxers do, but they get to eat actual food — and good food at that. The Marshalls grow their own greens and operate one of the largest organic vineyards in the state. They also raise elk and will soon add Wagyu beef to their herd so they and their guests can be sure of where the meat in their diet came from.
Fitness guests at the ranch help cook the meals in a remodeled 1,500-foot kitchen according to principles in
Marshall’s cookbook, “Marshall Law: From Raw Foods to Red Meat.” Each meal contains a protein, a complex carbohydrate and a green vegetable. Detox participants, meanwhile, will be having a wheatgrass or algae drink and a choice of bone broth or vegetable broth at dinner. He says he tries to teach guests that not every meal has to be an event.
“If they spend a week here with me in the kitchen helping to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s no confusion when they leave about how to make lentils, wild rice, salmon, chicken or whatever they decide to eat. What I’m trying to do is create an environment where the person will be able to go home and continue eating the same way they did while they were here.”
Guests, many of whom are repeat customers, can stay up to 10 days for the detox program; fitness participants usually stay 10 to 14 days. Some of them have been military people who come to get ready for deployments or after they return, often saying things such as “I’ve got to get Afghanistan out of me” before they see their families. Participants leave with a meal plan that will keep them losing about 2 pounds a week.
“We give them a jump-start,” Marshall says. “When they leave here, they’re detoxed and clean, and their skin looks great. They feel good, and now there is a light at the end of the tunnel. They’ve proven to themselves that they can do it. They have hope.”
Guests stay in one of the 18 bedrooms in the farmhouse and adjoining Grand Lodge, which Marshall characterizes as a five-star log cabin. In addition to all the training they do, they can also work out in the grain-silo gym, play on a nine-hole golf course, shoot clay pigeons, hunt morels in season, milk the goats and help make cheese.
No drain, no gain
The massages sound heavenly, but you say you don’t have even a couple of days to be away? Some treatment providers can send you off feeling like new after just an hour. Take, for example, Elena Kinder, certified massage therapist and owner of Trinity Wellness Center in Bloomington. Her background is in providing massages for oncology patients that employ lymphatic drainage therapy, but she doesn’t limit her practice to people who have cancer.
“There are many benefits outside of oncology for LDT,” she says. “It can be beneficial for individuals with chronic conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia or orthopedic issues. It can help support the immune system, thus keeping the individual from getting sick. It can even potentially help with weight loss by helping to rid the body of waste. Specifically, with oncology patients, LDT can be very beneficial when treatments such as radiation therapy or lymph-node dissection occur.”
Another of her specialties is working with athletes who are in training or rehab. Her goal, she says, is to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and holistic treatments. On your quest to get back to normal, she has lots of ways to help, from Swedish and deep-tissue massage to craniosacral therapy, cupping (suction to release tension and increase blood flow) and myofascial release. She can also give the hot stone massage that you missed if you didn’t get to go to a bigger spa.
Her Arvigo therapy — using core pressure points to massage the abdomen — can help the body repair itself, whether the problem is muscle tension or post-surgical scarring. She says it can enhance fertility and help with health issues that are unique to women or men. She is also qualified to do emotional freedom therapy, or tapping, to reduce negative feelings such as mental tension, pain, grief and fear to get the mind and body back in harmony.