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Portal into peace

By Trysta Eakin
Dec. 20, 2010 at 6:20 a.m.


The Woodhouse massage experience

Woodhouse owner Jeni Garrett says the most common beginner's service is the Swedish massage, either 50 to 80 minutes in length. Here is an overview of that massage:

The guest is shown to the locker room where she or he (men account for 10 percent of her business) undresses to preference and changes into a robe and reflexology sandals.

While the licensed massage therapist gets the room ready to be a portal into calm and peace, the guest relaxes in the quiet room, sans cell phone and other worldly possessions, with a cup of tea and soothing music.

The therapist escorts the guest to the room, first discussing any areas that should be focused on and the amount of pressure preferred, and then leaving momentarily to let the guest stow the robe and get onto the table, face up.

The cleansing ritual begins as the therapist rubs the feet with a warm towel, doused in certified organic massage oil.

Following that is a calming ritual using the spa's signature essential oil blend, The Woodhouse Escape. The of lavender mixed with other proprietary substances "really sets the tone for the treatment," Garrett said.

The massage starts at the head, down to the neck and shoulders, and then to the legs.

Halfway through, the guest turns over for the back to be massaged, the area where people carry the most tension, Garrett said.

Once the massage ends, guests are instructed to take their time getting up, in keeping with the premise of relaxation and calm. After redressing, oftentimes guests go back to the quiet room again, Garrett said, sometimes falling asleep before returning to the hustle and bustle of their day.

About Woodhouse Day Spas

Founded: September 2001 by Jeni Garrett

Victoria (flagship) location: 609 N. Wheeler St.

Franchise info: 23 spas in 13 states, also soon to be in Columbus, Ohio and India.

Menu of services: www.victoria.woodhousespas.com

Contact info and hours: (361) 572-8488; Monday, Wednesday, Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Earthy smells break the silence of the room, a hint of mint hidden behind it.

The delicate beginning of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" interrupts sounds of neck knots popping and soft shuffling of feet.

As the friction of hands to oil and then to skin heats up the room, tension begins to slide easily from the air and thoughts of, "Did I wear the right shoes with this outfit today?" and "Did I reply to that e-mail from my boss yet?" subside, leaving the feeling of anxiety behind for that of peace.

If you've never had an appointment with a licensed massage therapist trained to transport you to this thought-to-be-mystical place of solace, Woodhouse Day Spa owner Jeni Garrett would encourage you to consider your health.

"Research shows there is a mind-body connection; we read so much about what stress can do to your body," she said, emphasizing that ailments like heart disease, high-blood pressure and depression are closely related to stress.

"My husband is an anesthesiologist so I see the Western side (of medicine), too, and that's definitely where you should go for emergencies and other things, but preventively, there's no doubt that stress can be reduced through the use of meditation, yoga and massage therapy."

Garrett said her spa promotes not only the use of massage, but also a different way of living, embracing simple reprieves from the daily grind. This is notion, she says, many people are starting to subscribe to.

"Partly because of the economy, because of the stress of the media hype, news, alerts and stuff people are inundated with every day, Woodhouse is an escape. It's that place of peace and calm, relaxation. Where you don't have the phone and e-mail - you don't have that constant stimulation."

A mother of two young children, Garrett stressed that taking time out for oneself to rebound is essential for healthy living.

"We want to take spa from the perception of luxury to necessity because that's really what it is," she said. "It's not all about pampering. In fact, we don't let anyone use the 'p' word here."

The spa entrepreneur has created a whole glossary of terms to be used - or not to to be used - by all 23 Woodhouse locations across 13 states, she said, in hopes of changing the stereotypical perspective of spa treatment.

"When we started this here, especially in Victoria, where there weren't day spas, we had to educate people on spas. Now, after 10 years, people are finally realizing this a necessity."

Garrett isn't the only one advocating the use of massage for a healthy lifestyle. The Mayo Clinic writes on its website, "Brush aside any thoughts that massage is only a feel-good way to indulge or pamper yourself. To the contrary, massage can be a powerful tool to help you take charge of your health and well-being, whether you have a specific health condition or are just looking for another stress reliever."

The well-respected medical practice and research organization suggests massage is helpful for stress relief, managing anxiety and depression, pain, stiffness, blood pressure control, sports-related injuries, boosting immunity and cancer treatment.

Another point they agree on is the benefits of another's touch.

"Touch is such an important part of who we are and in a high-tech society, we lack that," Garrett said. "So we call the philosophy behind our treatments 'touch with intent.'"

Soon, the franchise will go back to the roots of ayurvedic massage, she said, with the opening of a Woodhouse spa in India this October, something she never dreamed when developing the idea of Woodhouse almost 10 years ago.

"I had no idea that it would take off the way it did. I thought we'd have to educate people a lot more. That's how I knew that we had something special, something we'd have to duplicate."

With the holidays on the horizon, the busiest time of year for Woodhouse, Garrett said she looks forward to easing those traditionally stressful months for the women - and men - of the Golden Crescent region.

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