Ayoma Lifespa, Hotel Valencia, San Jose
By Kathy Chin Leong
Everyone loves Santana Row, San Jose’s newest and hippest shopping enclave, unlike anything else in the Bay Area. And the Ayoma LifeSpa, one of several spas in the artsy neighborhood, is equally unique.
This spa is a gem of an oasis in the middle of Silicon Valley. But like any precious stone, you must hunt for it. Located on the fifth floor of Hotel Valencia in San Jose’s Santana Row, you must go up two banks of elevators, and round two corners of hotel rooms before you get there. However, once inside, the payoff is a retreat into the luxuries of a mini-India.
When I stepped inside, I immediately took mental notes - the beaded pillows in luscious jewel-tones, authentic copper vessels holding colored powders, tureens for foot soaking, soothing Indian instrumental music, rustic wood benches and matching wood-carved mirrors. Smells of fragrant oils reminded me of exotic spices. Everything is imported from India for authenticity. And that is not all.
Ayoma is based on Ayuveda principles, a 5,000-year-old system from India that emphasizes healing for the mind, body, and soul. When new customers arrive, they fill out an assessment survey. It is unlike any other spa questionnaire I’ve ever seen, for it asks you about your digestive health, the temperature of your skin, your general happiness state, sleep patterns, and so on.
As owner Jenny Rodriguez explains, the treatments here are all very personal and personalized. Hence, your therapist will take a look at your questionnaire to assess your dosha or your type of mind-body constitution. The therapist will recommend the type of massage or treatment that will result in the correct balance for each individual. While the spa offers facial services, most clients come in for a body, or hand or foot massage. All massages are designed to eliminate toxins and rejuvenate the body, stresses Rodriguez.
Like I said before, the spa is a gem, and although it is small, this compact, five-treatment room oasis will do volumes for your outlook. For those coming in from the cold and want to warm up and destress quickly, the spa will give you an abbreviated survey that takes just a minute to fill out, instead of five.
On the day I arrived, I signed up for the sampler indulgence, a one-hour winter holiday treatment the spa is promoting called the "Come Out of the Cold" package featuring a 30- minute chair massage, followed by a hand or foot massage that also lasts half an hour. It is a relaxing service that does not require the customer to disrobe. The $105 indulgence was a blissful way to bring sunshine into my day when this particular morning was cloudy and overcast.
Darla, the lead therapist, led me to the massage chair and set me up amply. Sitting down, I planted my head forward into the face cradle, plopped my hands and elbows on the armrest, and tucked my feet behind the footrest. She worked her thumbs and fingers on my scalp, rotating her digits like a mini rug cleaning machine, giving me the right amount of pressure at the right time. The neck, the shoulders, and my back were kneaded one side at a time. She ended the treatment with an ahh-some thumb walking down my spine followed by a quick rapid hand wisps, as if pushing out the bad toxins away from my body.
Afterwards, the foot treatment was a delight as Darla sat me down and served me a digestive Indian tea brew. She sat across from me on a stout pillow, and immersed my feet into a copper vat filled with warm water. As Darla poured more of the warm liquid water over my calves, ankles and feet, from an authentic copper pitcher, of course, she explained that in old India, this was a customary home greeting. This ceremonial foot cleansing warmed me as I sipped the tea and the hot chocolate that comes with this package. Simply, the sight of a mug of hot chocolate with bobbing marshmallows was already adding happy points to my emotional tank.
Darla proceeded to use an herbal natural scrub, sloughing away the dead skin from my heels, in particular. Next, she poured oil my dry, parched epidermis from the knees down. Smooth, deep strokes epitomized the foot and calf massage, and thanks to Darla’s expert hands and technique, I felt complete and very nourished afterwards.
There’s a lot to the Ayurvedic treatment I still don’t fully comprehend, but as an spa-aholic, I give Ayoma a thumbs up in successfully delivering authentic, 5,000-year-old customs and traditions to a modern-day clientele.
Right now the spa is offering busy shoppers an opportunity to check out the spa at no charge. Until Dec. 24, the public is welcome to come in and have a cup of hot cocoa, tea, or cider, look at boutique items, and sit down to relax.
ALL-DAY PAMPER : When you must calm your restless mind, Rodriguez recommends taking advantage of the one-hour Abhyanga massage, followed by a relaxing oil therapy called Shirodhara, applied to your "third eye" (centered between your eyes on your forehead) for $200. This provides you with a warm oil treatment on head, face, inside ear, and shoulders for clarity and emotional balance. You can use the hotel gym, outdoor pool and spa at no additional cost, and you can also have the spa staff order and deliver you lunch from the Cielo Restaurant downstairs. You can eat poolside or inside the spa.
HOTEL SPA PACKAGE: Shop, Stay and Be Pampered- $425 (double occupancy) This is a bargain of all bargains. Price includes a $100 towards a spa treatment at Ayoma or Burke Williams Spa, next door. It also includes a $100 gift certificate for shopping at Santana Row. That’s not all. The package also includes eats: a cheese tray and bottle of Santana Row Wine when you check in and breakfast the next day.
HOLIDAY TREATMENT: Come In Out of the Cold Package for $105- The spa is offering a one hour combination Ayoma treatment that accompanies a 30-minute chair massage for your back, shoulders and neck, and your choice of a 30-minute hand or foot massage. A special gift certificate package is now available for $250 which regularly retails for $315 and includes three massage coupons. With every certificate you also get a tin of Ayoma herbal tea valued at $10.50.
QUICKIE : Step inside for a 15-minute chair massage for $25 or a 30-minute chair massage for $50.
DETAILS : Ayoma LifeSpa, Hotel Valencia Santana Row,
355 Santana Row, Fifth Floor, San Jose
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