Om for an Hour Luxe Relaxation without the Guilt


The Spa and Wellness Center
Brooklyn, New York

Ten years ago, Sheila Brody began with an 8 ft. x 10 ft. massage studio. Today, she and her sister Maureen manage an oasis of calm dedicated to low-impact living just a subway ride from downtown Manhattan. They are self-taught environmentalists, and in building a spa from the ground up, every support beam and every decoration became a lesson in green building, completed last year.

The center can be seen on Google Earth because the roof is covered in white soy paint to reduce heat. Walking in, guests are asked to write down their worries on a piece of paper and place them in the basket of intentions (which are ritually burnt every season) so as to enter the worry-free zone, a three-story building with a backyard café patio dedicated to wellness and healing. All printed materials are made with soy ink on recycled paper. The gift cards are biodegradable corn plastic. Antique chests are flipped on their side to make lockers. CFL bulbs flicker in salvaged chandeliers. The manicure tables are old doors propped up horizontally.

When the sisters decided to use recycled denim to insulate the walls, the construction workers balked. But later, Maureen says, the workers asked their boss if they could use it exclusively because for the first time they weren’t getting sick from inhaling the fibers. The Brody sisters also asked the artist building the large glass mosaic to use nontoxic adhesives. It meant she had to change her entire creative process, but she’s never gone back to the conventional grout. Inside, the walls are covered with soy paint free of volatile organic compounds, and outside the stucco is made of American clay that helps to repel dust.

The spa treatments are as impressive as the green building designs. While you wait for your massage, there’s a low-lit tea lounge with snacks and books on relaxation and self-improvement. The air-purifying system means that what you breathe is as pure as the cleansing you seek. The treatments include deep-tissue massage, an organic paraffin body wrap, organic scrub or facial. Upstairs there are couples’ rooms where simultaneous massages are paired with strawberries and champagne. For an all-day spa experience, a client can use the steam room, Swiss showers and a soaking tub. The spa even offers Shirodhara, an Ayurvedic treatment that involves pouring a warm stream of herbal oils, medicated milk and buttermilk rhythmically in a guided meditation over the supine client’s forehead.

Every piece of furniture and paint swatch was carefully chosen by a Feng Shui consultant who designed the space from the bottom floor (representing the earth and awareness) to the top (representing the heavens and spirituality). The movement studio hosts regular classes in tai chi, chi gong, pilates, guided meditation and yoga.

And it doesn’t end there. The Spa and Wellness Center uses SPAritual, the first vegan, certified-organic line of nail elixirs free of toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalates. Every manicure and pedicure is safe for pregnant women, a rarity. The makeup they use, by Jane Iradell, is more skin care medicine than cosmetic. “You can put it on immediately after a facial,” Maureen assures.

In the back is a partially covered garden, which houses HOM, the center’s organic café. While I sipped white wine sangria with organic fruit and nibbled on a mini apple pie and mini scones cooked by her mother, Maureen explained that their goal was to continue to learn and grow and make changes accordingly. “We are greener tomorrow than we are today and greener today than we were yesterday.” She also wants to share her knowledge, so the wellness center hosts seminars in going green. Some nights, their Feng Shui consultant visits to talk about interior design, while on others they host Mommy and Me cooking classes.


Common Ground Wellness
Center/Inner City Hot Tubs
Portland, Oregon

Even those of us on a shoestring need a little R&R, so here’s the non-luxe-that-feels-luxe option for all of us. Though they offer a number of excellent services, from reiki to Thai massage, acupuncture to biofeedback, what I enjoyed most about Common Ground Wellness Center/Inner City Hot Tubs was the fact that for just $10 I could communally soak in the drizzly winter nights for an hour, jumping from hot tub to cold bath to hot tub to cold shower to sauna. There are choices of men-only, women-only or co-ed nights. Located in downtown Northeast Portland, this nonprofit is bicycling distance for most residents. Operating on the basic goal “to create/provide an urban community wellness center committed to integrative healing and ecological responsibility,” the Center hosts classes, clinics, song circles and group therapy in the rooms available to rent.


Priti Organic Spa
New York, New York

“W e believe you can be beautiful without harming your world and yourselves’ is the founding principle of Priti Organic Spa in New York’s East Village. The atmosphere is clean and light, with sage green walls and furniture of reclaimed wood. Leaving with only edible, organic products on your skin will make you feel rejuvenated. The spa uses only Priti products—from nail polish to candles to bath salts—so you don’t have to wrestle the production chain to find out how your organic mustard seed bath salts were made. In-home services are also available.


Green Bliss Eco Spa
Los Angeles, California

Most people like to find serenity by gazing inward with quiet reflection. In L.A., where gridlocked commutes already provide so much quality solo time, eco-luxe nuts find their inner peace in large groups. Therein lies the success of Green Bliss’ mobile eco-spa service. They do offer treatments to individuals; but their specialty is hosting spa parties wherever, whenever and for any occasion. They offer massage (clothed and nude options); scrubs, rubs and wraps; skin care and facials; as well as wellness packages such as intuitive hypnosis, shamanic house blessings and raw food consultations. Where possible their products are organic and local, and always fair trade. They are part of the Sustainable Business Council of L.A. and 1% of their profits go to charities like Natural Resources Defense Council, Los Angeles Coalition To End Hunger And Homelessness and Healthy Child Healthy World.