When You Wish Upon a Spa

WLT’s guide to the essential 10 holistic hideaways
By Abigail Lewis, Jessica Ridenour and Eliza Thomas
You’re not the only one suffering from holiday stress. With increased pollution from air and auto travel, miles of trees being harvested for our decorating pleasure and tons of paper and packaging being trashed, the Earth feels your pain as well. If you’re feeling less than jolly this holiday season, why not treat yourself (or gift a loved one) with a people and planet friendly indulgence? Here’s our guide to the top 10 local spas that nurture mind, body and spirit.

being in la
2016 Hillhurst Ave., LA, 323.665.9355, http://beinginla.com

Take one look at Being in la owner and esthetician Jenette Serrins’ own luminous visage and it’s clear the woman knows the secrets to a naturally beautiful complexion. From her intimate Los Feliz day spa — a 1940s building treated to its own eco-facelift, complete with natural paint and vintage furniture — she transforms so-so skin with nary a Botox syringe in sight.

Case in point: The Non-Surgical Face-Lift ($150), one of Jenette’s signature treatments, is a three-stage process using herbs, pure essential oils, natural enzymes and proteins that naturally lifts, brightens and tightens a tired mug. Not only are the facials visibly effective, but Jenette is happy to explain how diet, product and lifestyle choices affect the quality of your skin. Bring in the products you currently use and she will analyze the label, identifying ingredients that may be ineffective or potentially toxic.

The one-year-old day spa offers massage, wellness yoga, nutritional counseling, hair and make-up as well as a variety of natural facials (for both men and women), including the Om Face-Lift ($175), combining acupuncture with the stimulating vibrations of tuning forks.

When it comes to staying beautiful, we’ll take tuning forks over the knife any day.

The Chopra Center Spa
2013 Costa Del Mar Rd., Carlsbad, 888.424.6772, http://chopra.com

Hidden within Carlsbad’s sprawling La Costa Resort, The Chopra Center offers daily classes on yoga and meditation, holistic medical consultations, weeklong wellness programs and shorter weekend retreats. Oh, did we mention it offers healing spa treatments too?

Like all Chopra Center programs, the Spa’s treatments are based on millennia-old Ayurvedic principles that assert all illness stems from unbalanced doshas, elemental forces that manifest physically in the body. One dosha — either vata, pitta or kapha — is typically dominant in the body, but a relative balance is ideal.

Massage is one way to assuage out-of-whack doshas, and fittingly the Center offers some unique options, such as the Odyssey Enlivening Therapy ($185). This sampler treatment starts with a full body exfoliation, followed by a friction massage (Abhyanga) and a deeper massage (Vishesh), both performed with an herbalized, dosha-balancing oil blend. The treatment is finished off with the surprisingly powerful Marma Therapy, a kind of Reiki/massage combo to clear energy and realign chakras.

Guests are encouraged to enhance their massage experience by exploring the Spa’s labyrinth of saunas, steam rooms, showers, hot tubs and lounge areas contained within the complex’s bougainvillea-covered white stucco walls. You may need to leave a trail of whole-wheat breadcrumbs to find your way out, but considering all that The Chopra Center has to offer, getting lost there might not be such a bad thing.

Body in Balance
808 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, 310.406.1910, http://bodyinbalancedayspa.com

What’s soothing, healing and green all over? It’s Body in Balance Health Center and Spa, where co-owners Colin Walkden and Dr. Nazila Mahgerefteh take planet-friendly holistic health to a whole new level. Treating the body as a unified whole, they offer a wide range of therapeutic options, including chiropractic, massage (for children and pets as well), facials, lifestyle coaching and nutritional consultation, that address the cause, rather than the effect, of a client’s ailment.

A good start on the path to healing is a chiropractic consultation and adjustment ($120) to align the body and open the flow of energy, followed by a Hot Stone Massage ($75) with raw, organic coconut oil, which improves circulation and melts tension. Dr. Nazila has an almost psychic ability to seek out and soothe soreness and injuries.

Because the health of humans is inextricably linked to the health of the environment, the Manhattan Beach-based spa uses only non-toxic, cruelty-free products right down to every last candle and roll of toilet paper. The body care products are so pure they’re practically edible (“If you can’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin,” says Nazila), but these products will better serve your derma than your taste buds.

Dtox Day Spa
3206 Los Feliz Blvd., LA, 323.665.3869, dtoxdayspa.com

LA dwellers are no strangers to the toxic effects of air pollution, traffic-induced stress and one too many happy hour martinis, but happily a new spa in the recently hipster-ized Atwater Village offers eastsiders a tranquil respite from abusive city life.

In their ample 6,000 square feet of exposed brick and lofty ceilings, Dtox has created an oasis of steam and sauna rooms, soothing waterfalls and a spacious atrium offering comfy couches, tea and fresh fruit.
Slip into one of six treatment rooms to luxuriate in a steaming bath of North Sea green algae and organic essential oils ($45) to detoxify the body, hydrate the skin and stimulate the lymphatic system. After, hop out of the tub and onto the table for a heavenly Hot Lava Stone massage ($120). Dtox slathers your skin in private label products that are as natural and botanical as possible (and often organic) and shuns allergy-inducing nut oil.

Dtox’s extensive menu also includes scrubs, wraps, manicures/pedicures, natural sunless tanning, couples packages and “Just For Men” treatments. Friday night happy hours allow clients to try 20-minute treatments for $39, (or 3 for $99), a much healthier alternative to martini overload.

Cote d’Azur
74 N Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena, 626.396.3030, cotedazurspa.com

Sometimes a massage is just a massage, but at Pasadena’s Cote d’Azur Spa, it’s a journey through seven generations and several continents.

Proprietor Carolyn Jaques, descended from Shawnee, Choctaw and Chippewa tribes, has trained her staff to work with Native American and Maori traditions. Indigo Escape sessions ($100) begin with an energy reading. My intuition was “hot” that day—“tuned into things that might be true, but not necessarily helpful”—so Jaques suggested frankincense and sandalwood aromatherapy.

The Indigo treatment is a magnificent medley—including hot stone and rice bags, deep tissue and energy balancing—so that the whole body continues to release, not just the specific area being addressed. Jaques, a sturdy earth mother with a ready smile, understands the sensitive boundary between deep release and pain. Her nurturing touch unknotted my entire body, including places often given short-shrift—feet, inside heel, forearms. She systematically worked through blocks she said had been passed down through seven generations of my ancestors, and ended with a ritual cutting of psychic cords. By the time she played the rose quartz bowls, I was well on my way to ecstasy.

Cote d’Azur’s international theme includes other combos like Escape to Santorini that includes a facial and hot stones ($225), or you may prefer a Thai massage ($120) or Tibetan Foot Treatment ($50), a scrub or a wrap. Tibetan tankas and Indonesian art highlight Cote d’Azur’s décor, but being massaged in the soft golden glow of their spacious treatment rooms feels closer to heaven than any country on Earth.

23975 Park Sorrento Dr., Ste. 120, Calabasas 91302. 818.591.0046, zenspa.biz

Tucked on a side street off the Calabasas Commons, just a stone’s throw from the 101 Freeway, ZenSpa is a welcome sanctuary. Enter through an airy reception area offering elegant jewelry, body care products and intriguing spa gifts. Don’t linger too long, however; a luxurious darkened lounge awaits, with Zen gardens, a waterfall, tea and fruit.

Your bodycare specialist will gently lead you to a themed treatment room like an exotic rainforest or a Mediterranean villa. Try the ultimately relaxing deep Abhyanga massage ($155) that incorporates warm oils specially blended for your Ayurvedic body type—vata, pitta or kapha—which can vary depending on the day. It feels so relaxing you won’t even notice the toxins being released through pressure point and traditional massage.

Body scrubs, facials, microdermabrasion, waxing and cellulite treatments are also available, and you can finish up your visit with an Infrared sauna, said to be particularly effective for pain relief and weight loss.

Be sure to bring your partner or a friend—ZenSpa has a comfortable double massage room and offers half-off on a second 50-minute service, Monday through Thursday. Or if you’re just looking for a quick break from freeway traffic, 25-minute treatments can be had for only $55.

Tola Life Spa
23755 Malibu Road, Ste. 700, Malibu 90265. 310.456.9504, tolaspa.com.

It’s difficult to imagine having a bad day in paradise, but just in case, Malibu residents and visitors can retreat to the Tola Life Spa Sanctuary in the Colony Plaza shopping center. Sequestered between the yogurt store and a bank, this “Aveda concept salon” has made the most of its compact storefront space.

Relax on soft cushions and enjoy fragrant aromatherapy while filling out an Elemental Nature Questionnaire that determines your energy type—infinity, air, fire, water or earth—and the products used in your treatment. Tola means balance, and every aspect of your session is designed to restore balance to your life.

Wrap yourself in a sumptuous robe and sip herb tea while your feet are scrubbed and washed by a modern day Magdalene. Relax on a warm sea of heated water-filled pillows for an exquisite Hydrotherm Massage ($125).

No need to worry about turning over mid-treatment—your therapist will reach her hands under your back in this nurturing hour-and-a-half treatment.

Maybe you’d prefer Lomi Lomi, the art of love and healing that has been passed down from Hawaiian elders; or the ultimately healing and indulging Himalayan Rejuvenation, which includes five different intensive treatments (3.5 hours, $425). Or try the Dvau, a massage a trois involving two therapists ($150). Follow up with a full-body facial that includes foot and scalp treatment.

Tips are a no-no here, so stash that extra cash in environmentally conscious Aveda products to go.

Too pooped to drive to Malibu? Tola will send a technician to you, anywhere in the LA area.

At Home Eco-Luxury
Green Bliss Eco Spa, 323.630.4537 greenblissecospa.com

Green Bliss Eco Spa is more than just a spa service—it’s a mission.

“Everything in life is connected: people, business and community. The health of each is dependent on the others,” proclaims their website. “We strive to use the most ecologically sound methods to treat and educate our clients while keeping pace with the newest trends emerging in the green and holistic lifestyle movement. Equally important is Green Bliss’s dedication to creating and promoting a model for community-based, environmentally responsible business practices.”

This earnest vision of wellness as movement is apparent in every facet of Green Bliss, from their products (organic, sustainable, fair trade and local whenever possible) to their give-back program ($3 donation per client to local orgs like National Resources Defense Council and the LA Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness) to the fact that their practitioners come to you via carpool.

Yup, that’s right—they come to you. With no brick and mortar location, Green Bliss Eco Spa turns your hotel, or living room into a luxury spa, for solo unwinding or eco-luxurious spa parties. Choose from services like Hot Herbal Poultice Massage—a 14th Century Thai treatment designed to soothe soldiers returning from battle, lemon verbena or citrus chemi-free mani-peds, Bamboo and Lemongrass body polish or couples side by side Thai Yoga massage. And when you’re done, there’s no need to find your way home in that post-spa daze—after all, you’re already there. Now that’s bliss!

The Bey’s Garden
2919 Main Street, Santa Monica, 310.399.5420, beysgarden.com

Peeking into the open doors of The Bey’s Garden from the sunny sidewalk, you might first assume you’ve stumbled upon a friendly, neighborhood body-care boutique. Perusing well-edited displays of organic skincare, handcrafted European perfumes, and enlightened books, gifts and sundries feels like raiding the beauty closet of a naturally glamorous, effortlessly tasteful friend whose style secrets you’re always trying to uncover.

Retire to one of the shabby chic treatment rooms, however, and you’ll know you’ve really hit the jackpot. For it’s in here that The Bey’s Garden alchemists concoct beauty, relaxation and therapeutic treatments refined from the potency of nature. Like the Eight-Greens organic facial ($110)—a phytoestrogen and antioxidant bioflavonoid cocktail designed to fight the signs of aging, improve hydration and skin elasticity and prevent breakouts. Or the Aha Fruit Pulp and Paprika Treatment—a chemi-free alternative to glycolic peel ($105).

Body wraps and scrubs, naturally gentle waxing, therapeutic massage, aromatherapy, chiropractic, prenatal and Reiki, polarity and reflexology round out the all-natural, 90 percent organic wellness menu, with ingredients that sound more like the contents of a garden-fresh smoothie than spa routine. So go ahead and indulge—it’s good for you.

Willow Spa
Willow Spa, 3127 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.453.9004, willowspa.com

What happens when two chiropractors and a massage therapist try to turn a 1950s Santa Monica bungalow (and former gun shop) into an eastern-inspired oasis of serenity and renewal? In the case of Willow Spa, the end result is a labor of love that manages to strike the elusive balance between casual and sophisticated, comfortable and exotic.

If you like traditional (read: run of the mill) spa services administered with a heavy helping of formal frippery, than the earthy, Zen vibe at Willow is probably not for you. But if unwinding in a tropical garden under a bamboo canopy with a mug of exquisite green tea while a friendly therapist deftly delivers a foot massage sounds like your thing, then you’ll feel right at home.

After the starter massage—complimentary with all Willow services—wander among the burbling fountains in the cozy grounds, sampling a holistically-inspired menu of wellness treatments like all-natural facials and body scrubs, Reiki, acupuncture and aromatherapy. The Japanese enzyme bath ($95), originally developed for Japanese Olympic athletes, is a standout for its deep purifying and detoxifying properties, designed to increase circulation and stimulate the body’s natural enzyme production.

Given the inclinations of its founders, Willow naturally offers chiropractic and an eclectic array of massage like Rising Lotus, a heavenly treatment for new moms which utilizes therapeutic herbs to detoxify tired muscles and assist the body’s natural healing process ($156). And with Willow Spa’s reasonable pricing, you’ll return again and again—whether to celebrate something special or simply the joy of having found such a welcome retreat.

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