Story and photography by Barbara Angelakis
Additional photography by Manos Angelakis
ASPIRA The Spa
The Osthoff Resort
101 Osthoff Avenue
Elkhart Lake, WI 53020-0151
The glacial retreat from North America, some 15 million years ago, carved out great deep bodies of water as the ice receded. During the height of the glaciations, the Bering land bridge permitted migration of 4 legged, as well as 2 legged mammals, to cross from Siberia into North and later, South America, populating the continent.
In Wisconsin, about an hour west of Milwaukee, is Elkhart Lake, the 4th deepest lake in the State. At approximately 120 feet at its deepest point, Elkhart Lake formed at the end of the ice age. The lake, fed by tens of thousands of fresh water springs and revered for its intense depth and clarity, was sacred to the original First Nations tribe of Potawatomi Indians that arrived in the area and lived there for more then 10,000 years. Evidence of their long history is found in the artifacts, tools, and arrowheads that even today are being unearthed. A fascinating visit is Henschel’s Indian Museum and archeological dig, built over an ancient sacred and ceremonial site of the Potawatomi’s which was unearthed by accident when the current Henschel’s great grandfather was farming the land and his horses fell through a mound unveiling the sacred Indian site. http://www.henschelsindianmuseumandtroutfarm.com/museum.html
We were at Elkhart Lake to visit the Osthoff Resort & Aspira Spa and experience first hand some of the ancient healing powers of the indigenous peoples that lived there so long ago and which have been adapted for use at the Spa. In fact, many of Aspira’s healing treatments were inspired by practices of the First Nations, with the lake, the land, and the gardens, providing the necessary natural ingredients. Aspira means, “infused with spirit” and just breathing the air at the resort on arrival somehow links one with the sacredness of the site. We were fortunate to be visiting in early October, at prime time for the fall foliage display. The bright blue sky created a perfect backdrop for the stands of trees showing off their brilliant golds, reds, burnt oranges, and wine colored leaves. Carpets of fallen leaves covered paths leading deep into the woods and made the walk around the lake even more magical.
The Osthoff is a suite specific hotel located right on the lake and the accommodations were large, well appointed, and comfortable. Our suite had a living room, dining room, fully equipped kitchen, master bedroom and master bath with full Jacuzzi and separate shower, plus a second bedroom and smaller but well equipped bath. A large balcony outside the living room faced the lake and forest beyond.
The Aspira Spa is located on the ground level of the Osthoff Hotel and was designed by visionary multi-tasking Lola L. Roeh, General Manager of both the resort and spa. Only the finest local materials were used, so that indoors or out, you feel connected to the land. Lola’s vision was to create a healing center of gently curving walls without sharp angles or corners and great pains were taken to accomplish that end. The spa’s most spectacular feature is a circular meditation room. At the center of the room, is a waterfall with water gurgling over natural stones and collecting in a pool, surrounded by flickering votive candles. Seating is along the circular walls and guided meditations are available on request or you can enjoy the serenity of the room by yourself at any time. As in any healing spa you will also find classes, notably Yoga, which is practiced in the early morning by the sacred lake. Aspira provides a truly spiritual, healing, luxurious environment.
Massage suites are available for single treatments or for longer periods of time for one to gather with their significent other or group of family or friends. The plush suites have fireplaces, cozy couches and large circular soaking tubs, plus treatment tables. Meals can be served in the suite so that a full day can be devoted to a totally “me” experience. My first service was the “Purifying Cedar Treatment”, an herb used by indigenous people to purify and protect. Nowhere else can you find this exquisite treatment created at Aspira Spa. Marena was my therapist and one of only a few practitioners trained to perform this treatment. Marena was responsible for collecting the necessary amount of cedar from the Osthoff property, according to the number of cedar treatments she had scheduled for the day. She pulverized the freshly gathered herbs by hand and mixed them with brown sugar and oils to create a balm. The treatment consists of cleansing the body with a specialized shampoo to prepare the skin for the exfoliating action of the cedar. The scrub is than applied with long smooth strokes until the body is covered front and back. After showering off, the body is gently massaged with body milk. The scent of the cedar lingers on the skin that is now silken smooth and hydrated.
Marena then handed me over to Lori who works with Cherokee medicine (healing techniques) for a Mind, Body & Spirit Alignment she developed. Lori will use intuitive massage, Reiki, Reflexology and even Craniosacral modalities, whatever is needed, to insure that the body is returned to perfect balance. Each morning before dawn, Lori goes down to the sacred lake to greet the sun and gather sand and water for her treatments. Each treatment is specific to the client’s needs. I left Lori feeling peaceful and filled with well being.
My next treatment was the Aspira Chroma Lift, a signature facial based on ancient healing properties of color therapy. Several natural masks are applied during the procedure, toning and uplifting the contours of the face, eyes, and neck. The color therapy stimulates lymphatic drainage, and along with strategic massage, reduces puffiness. Three to five treatments are recommended for optimum benefit but my trip was short and one was all I had time for, still I was very pleased with the results.
After a wonderful evening meal at Lola’s eponymous fine dining restaurant at The Osthoff (see story at “Great Food at Elkhart Lake”), we fell into bed dreaming of the spa treatments the next day would hold.
Today I will experience a two-part treatment; the first part is Balneotherapy in a Chromatub. Aspira is only one of two spas in the country that offers this European designed balancing and detoxing therapy. The basic equipment looks like an oversized tub with a hood covering one end. Charka colored lights that dance along the interior of the tub constantly change the color of the water. The treatment detoxifies based on the minerals, nutrients, and essential oils, the therapist selects for the water, according to the needs of each client and their physical condition. Since I had just come from a cooking class – L’ecole de la Maison with Chef Scott J. Baker, where we tasted all 6 pasta recipes we prepared that morning - Jennifer my therapist used mild agents in my bath water so as not to over tax my system. During the bath she performed lymphatic drainage, charka balancing, exfoliation and a scalp massage. The bath was timed precisely to 25 minutes and then Jennifer sent me back to Lori for Aspira’s signature Sacred Waters treatment. Later that evening I noticed that I had lost water retention in my legs which was my reason for wanting the lymphatic drainage procedure to begin with.
For the Sacred Waters treatment, Lori collects pristine waters from the lake at dawn the day of the treatment. Using beautiful long strokes in a gentle massage, Lori took me to an altered state, and frankly, I cannot recall the entire procedure, only to say that I left feeling all was right with the world and especially with me.
Of course I could not enjoy the entire menu of spa treatments, especially the treatments created by and for Aspira Spa, such as the Wild Chamomile and Lavender Body Masque, Elderberry Facial, Chakra Garden (using color and vibration of plants from Aspira’s own garden) Crystal Chakra Balancing Massage, Indigo Journey, to mention a few… but there’s always the next time.
For an entire menu of Aspira Spa services visit www.aspiraspa.com
For more information on Elkhart Lake, WI please see the “Great Food at Elkhart Lake” story in the Restaurant Notes section.
© November 2012 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.