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Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary: California’s Sanctum Sanctorum

by ED Walsh
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Thursday Feb 16, 2012
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The Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary may be the Disneyland of spas, in a good way.

Osmosis sits on 5.5 artistically landscaped acres in a creekside property in Sonoma County, about 90 minutes north San Francisco. The latest addition to Osmosis is the "Field of Hammocks," a half-dozen shaded hammocks set up near the creek that runs alongside the spa.

The hammocks went in over the summer. Guests get to rock in the hammocks while listening to MP-3 players with "Hemi-Sync" therapeutic sounds. Later this year, Osmosis plans to install four gravity chairs on a lower level closer to the creek.

The Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary is in the town of Freestone, which looks like a Disney recreation of the quintessential picturesque American small town. It is part of the renowned Sonoma County Wine Country and is just a short drive to the Russian River area and the rugged Sonoma Coast. Guerneville, which was has the highest per capita same-sex couples outside of Provincetown, is a very scenic 25-minute drive away.


Osmosis, by the way, is very gay-friendly. The spa uses same-sex couples in some of its advertisements and Osmosis General Manager Kirtis Johnson is openly gay.

Designing gays and anyone who appreciates good landscaping, will find a lot to fall in love with at Osmosis. The spa’s crown jewels are its authentic Japanese gardens which were designed by renowned British horticulturist Robert Ketchell. Osmosis founder Michael Stusser met Ketchell in Kyoto and the two eventually worked together to design classic gardens for which Kyoto is famous.

Besides the perfectly landscaped grounds, Osmosis is most famous for its Cedar Enzyme Bath. It is akin to a mud bath but instead of mud, the bath is filled with finely ground cedar, rice bran and enzymes imported from Japan. The bath stays warm through fermentation that mimics the body’s natural metabolic process. Stusser pioneered the bath in the US after seeing it used in Japan. When you’re done, unlike a mud bath, there is no mud to scrub off. The organic dry soft material in the bath brushes off.


Osmosis used to be a dump. Literally. When Stusser took over the property more than 25 years ago, it was a junkyard. The junkyard owner had a penchant for old trains. A couple of old cabooses on a track remain on the property and are the spa’s offices. A junked pickup truck is now used as an accent piece on the property’s gardens.

Osmosis is a member of the Green Span Network, a non-profit trade organization devoted to bringing sustainable practices to the spa industry. Osmosis is proudly one of the greenest spas in the world. It has its own wetlands area where it recycles water and uses it for irrigation.

A number of spa packages are available through the Osmosis’ web site. You can sign up for a newsletter through the site to be notified of specials that change from month to month.

If you want to really treat yourself, sign up for the Ultimate Experience package. The half-day treatment includes a boxed lunch, tea in a Japanese garden, the Cedar Enzyme Bath, a 75-minute Swedish Esalen massage, and an Osmosis Aromatherapy Facial. The package costs $320.


Osmosis’s signature Cedar Enzyme Bath costs $85 and is followed by a "metamusic blanket wrap," a treatment that consists of the client being wrapped in warm blankets while listening to therapeutic music. All guests are invited to stick around and spend time in the spa’s gardens.

LINK: Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary


Ed Walsh is a San Francisco resident and longtime writer for the LGBT press. Follow him on Twitter at SFTrip.

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