Amidst the stressful and heartbreaking earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdowns of last week in Japan, plus threats of tsunami waves hitting the US west coast and radioactive particles eventually carried on the sea winds, it became clear that it was time for a retreat from Babylon. I chose to honor sustainable, renewable, geothermal energy by choosing Calistoga Hot Springs as the premier destination for a daylong, mini-retreat. Then found a sweet, affordable deal and made reservations for a Mud Bath Special for Two at Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa & Resort.
Since my daughter Emma recently turned 16, I also chose to honor her transformation to womanhood by introducing her to the joys of spa treatments and the concept of radical self-care. It was a surprise belated birthday present, and she loved the experience of mud, glorious hot mud.
Saturday blessed us with a mostly-sunny and warm day. It was grand to drive past bright green hillsides of new grass covered with dazzling carpets of yellow mustard en route from Berkeley. Throughout Napa Valley, the vineyards are just beginning to leaf out green shoots … portending promise of autumn nectar.
Origins of the Mud Bath
The mud bath tradition goes far back into history. Cleopatra used Dead Sea black mud, and the therapy seems to show up all over the world, wherever hot springs and volcanic ash appear together. Calistoga is California’s mud bath capitol because nearby Mt. Konocti erupted about eight million years ago, blanketing the area with rich, volcanic ash. The eruption also left cracks in the earth’s crust that allowed geysers and hot springs to form, including Old Faithful Geyser — one of only three regularly-erupting geysers in the world.
Ingredients of a Mud Bath
The Native Wappo Indians used volcanic ash and warm spring water to make a kind of mud bath. Shortly after the Gold Rush, the first to commercialize the idea was Calistoga’s founder Sam Brannan.
In 1946, John “Doc” Wilkinson, a young chiropractor, came to Calistoga. Wishing to provide an extra dimension of relief to his patients and others, he established a spa within a few years and developed the mud bath recipe that’s commonly used in Calistoga today: volcanic ash, hot spring water from a nearby source, peat moss to make it soft and help the body float. Today, most Calistoga spas add an aromatherapy ingredient, such as lavender or eucalyptus.
The spas bring the ash in fresh every morning and mix it with boiling mineral water from a nearby spring, adding peat moss for texture and to help the body float. Boiling spring water is used to sterilize the mixture between clients.
We each had an individual tub, and the two tubs were connected in a L-shape. An attendant is on hand nearby and available throughout the treatment, made complete with soft robes, slippers, iced mineral water with lime, and a number of steps to the renewal process.
Healing Aspects of the Mud Bath
Deep relaxation is the primary and most-proven reason to take a hot mineral mud bath. The warm, soft mixture cocoons and buoys up the body and sucks the stress out. There’s no pressure anywhere on the body. The heat of the mud (usually over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) makes you perspire and cleans the pores. The treatment consists of 10-15 minutes of immersion, which improves the complexion, removes toxins, and soothes and relieves joint and muscle pain.
The attendant augments cleansing by applying a nourishing herbal clay mask after you are comfortably surrounded in mud. She also brings ice-cold mineral water and cooling wash clothes for your forehead.
After the mud bath, we washed off in a hot mineral springs shower and then submerged for a spell in a hot Jacuzzi. This step was followed by blanket wrap to cool down the body and is done in a room with soothing music and the lights turned low. Nap Time! The entire treatment process takes about 1.5 hours. After we were done with the treatment, we swam laps in the pool.
What a wonderful way to rejuvenate and renew! Ah… the bliss of retreats with radical self-care (more on this concept in a subsequent post).
Retreat Coach Lotus Allen | Femme Fire