Spa Magazine Worldwide Guide – Winter/Spring 2007
A distant scent of cedar becomes an overwhelmingly raw, musky aroma as I enter the Osmosis bathhouse in Sonoma County. Caitlin, my spa attendant carves out my resting place with a pitchfork – not the usual spa utensil. She molds the chips to provide comfort at my knees and neck, and then I’m buried with heaps of steaming cedar, covered from chin to toes. Immobilized with wood chips up my ass – not comfortable.
This is all Michael Strusser’s fault. A long-time Zen practitioner, he experienced a healing treatment in Japan in 1985 that changed his life. His epiphany was sparked in a smoldering tub of fermenting woodchips just like this. Cedar enzyme baths are part of a centuries-old Japanese healing tradition, but they were new to Strusser and he found them blissful. Two years later he opened Osmosis.
“All movement in living tissue is catalyzed by enzymes,” says Strusser. Enzymes spark the exchange of oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream, manage the nervous and immune systems, and even regulate the blinking of an eye. The biochemical activity in Osmosis’ baths of fermenting cedar chips, which is essentially an enzyme orgy, mimics that within the internal organs. “When immersed in the tubs, the core organs get a rest,” explains Strusser. “Their work is being done for them from the outside in by the enzyme bath.” This breaks down wastes and cleanses the body on a cellular level. Toxins are released through intense perspiration, the skin being our own semi-permeable membrane. Hence the name Osmosis.
The bath is definitely a singular experience. I wouldn’t describe it as relaxing. It was deeper and more intense than that. In this incredibly hot, enzymatic swirl I felt my heart beat with tremendous intensity, and sensed my lungs wring then inflate to their zenith. My mind was alert yet quiet. I felt enclosed in a mass of undulating energy. I was the microcosm in the macrocosm, soaking in the wisdom of the ancient cedars. After twenty minutes Caitlin returned. She scrubbed clingling chips from my flesh and after a shower I emerged unwound, refreshed, and dare I say, blissful.