About Toronto, Ontario


I try in vain to make my body impersonate a human pretzel in the restorative yoga class at iwa Spa, one of Canada's newest spas located in Blue Mountain village just two hours north of Toronto. I look over to Melissa, the yoga instructor and the other women and one guy in the class and for them each movement seems effortless. Then there is me. The realization hits me - aging and beer belly aren't the ideal elements for yoga success. Can iwa Spa and its treatments put me back on the road to wellness?

"Inspiring wellness always," is iwa Spa's motto and philosophy. I would be a happy camper if I could achieve a sense of wellness some of the time in my walrus shaped body and stress infused mind. ROCK THERAPY, JAPANESE STYLE iwa Spa distinguishes itself from many other spas especially in North America by offering Ganban-yoku. Gan means rock, ban is board, and yoku - bath. Think sauna but on a smooth rock bed. Ganban-yoku is a volcanic rock sauna heated to 40 degrees Celsius. Warm but not uncomfortably hot. You lie on the rock bed and feel the warmth rise up into your body as it emits negative ions and infrared rays that heat and detoxify your body.

I tried this for about thirty minutes. I'm instructed to start on my back and then switch over to the sides and then on my tummy. I find it a bit hard to lie on the rock bed at first and don't feel the warmth but after about 10 minutes I can definitely feel the heat penetrating my body and loosening up my muscles. The benefits of Ganban-yoku range from relief from pain and insomnia, boosted immunity, stress reduction, detoxification and weight loss. I guess I need a few more sessions. They have one large Ganban-yoku room that can accommodate up to 12 people. You can wear loose clothing or iwa Spa will provide you with a traditional and lightweight comfortable jinbei robe. If you want privacy they also have a couples suite. Rock on with your loved one!

YOGA & BODY RESTORATION The Ganban-yoku studio is also used for restorative and hot yoga classes. I am a yoga novice and my body movements prove it, but I was keen on trying the restorative yoga class. I felt the heat might loosen the grip on my stiff body. Rather than push people to extreme pain and positions that no human should do unless you are a paid Cirque de Soleil performer and contortionist, Melissa the very amiable yoga instructor emphasized it's more about finding your own comfort zone. And I learned very quickly compared to the others in the class that my comfort zone was worlds apart. In fact I seemed to be on another planet entirely. But Melissa was very understanding and sympathetic to my less than flexible body.

I went through the different positions as best I could. Heat helps. As the class continued my body was loosening up and started to feel I was only continents not planets apart from the other participants. My core and hip the next morning felt unhinged for the first time in years. I'm a ganban-yoku convert. ENVIRONMENT FRIENDLY iwa Spa is the inspiration of personable husband/wife team of Michelle Ubell and her husband Cam. Both had successful business careers but this was their first foray into the spa business. Upon entering iwa Spa, there is an immediate sense of warmth, friendliness and organic freshness. It's simply down to earth wellness.

The owners encourage a family-like atmosphere - both with its 42 employees and the spa visitors. Pats on the back, hugs with repeat clients reflect that family atmosphere - something rarely seen at a spa. Laughter, smiles, and general sense of well-being spells success for these owners. Well-being doesn't mean living a life of yoga, meditation or depriving oneself of a glass of wine or a chocolate treat. Here well-being is a personal thing. In my case wellness could involve a refreshing wheat beer, fine wine and decadent chocolate treat. In fact they serve some delicious homemade chocolate here. You won't find the owners preaching to clients like some spas do. Enjoy life and be good to your body and mind. MOUNTAIN VIEW KNEADING AND POLISHING

One way to treat the body - a relaxing and therapeutic massage. My girlfriend Sarah and I entered into the simple but fairly roomy couple's suite which offered some beautiful views of Blue Mountain and the village. My thoughts weren't so much of ski hills now but the skilled hands of Kristianne my therapist. She worked her magic on my tightly knotted body while being serenaded by the sounds of Nora Jones in the background. Following the body massage we hopped over to the well designed pedicure station offering views of the mountains and Blue Mountain Village. Sitting in the comfy black chairs we each had the Beat the Ski Boot Blues, a 30 minute relaxing foot treatment. No matter your footwear choice this treatment will help soothe those sore and overworked tootsies and feet. We relaxed afterwards in their massage chairs. Unlike most spas it actually had some publications geared toward's men like Men's Health and GQ magazine. The decor, staff and treatments they offer make this a very welcoming spa no matter what gender. HEAVENLY WELL-BEING After a few hours of well-being at the spa I continued the well-being theme at the Westin Trillium House ( in Blue Mountain Village - a 5-minute walk from iwa Spa across Mill Pond. The resort/condo complex offers up its heavenly beds and luxurious and well-appointed guest rooms with swimming pool, hot tubs, outdoor fireplace to cuddle up to your loved one. If your sense of well-being includes good food and fine wine enjoy Oliver & Bonacini Cafe & Grill restaurant in the hotel and indulge in prime rib to a variety of pasta dishes and some very decadent desserts. Blue Mountain - wellness never looked, felt or tasted so good! iwa Spa

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