SPA REVIEW: Chou-wa at Osmosis Day Spa & Sanctuary — Sebastapol, California

Tony LaHood


Chou-wa: This Japanese concept of ideal harmonic balance of body, mind and spirit represents a most desirable life achievement — one whose attainment would seem to require conscious effort, personal discipline and concentrated practice. 

That is, unless you’re in Sebastapol, California. 


For tucked away in a wooded corner of Sebastopol is the quiet, verdant, hamlet of Freestone.  With a population of 50, its business district comprises a winery tasting room, a general store, an artisanal cheese shop, an organic bakery, and a bed-and-breakfast inn, all set along less than a half-mile of Bohemian Highway, the town’s main artery.

While finding chou-wa in such a place may seem unlikely, you can do exactly that at Osmosis Day Spa and Sanctuary. 


A surprisingly harmonious balance of Far East and Frontier West influences, ‘Osmosis is the brainchild of Michael Stusser, who followed his passion for Zen meditation to Kyoto, Japan after graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1965.  In Kyoto, while studying Zen history, Stusser became fascinated with the exquisite balance of natural elements typical of Japanese gardens. Once back in California, Michael and his colleague (and Zen priest) Steve Stucky turned into reality, in this little nook of California Wine Country, their vision of an oasis devoted to physical, mental and spiritual renewal.


If you build it, they will come. 

And they do, often from hours away, to luxuriate in a massage, spa package, facial, or Cedar Enzyme Bath, the spa’s exclusive signature service. A therapeutic ritual treatment from Japan, the experience involves immersing the entire body in a soft and fragrant mixture of ground cedar, rice bran and metabolism-stimulating living enzymes designed to improve circulation, ease muscle tension and restore skin tone. The spa menu includes both traditional and fusion massage styles, as well as reflexology treatments, organic facial scrubs and aromatherapy.


Osmosis offers six garden-view spa packages, of which the most popular is Transformation, a USD $239, 2½-hour experience that includes the Cedar Enzyme Bath and Osmosis Fusion Massage, which blends elements of tension-relieving Swedish-Esalen and revitalizing Shiatsu, Thai, and Chinese massages. Like all Osmosis spa packages, it also includes a Japanese-inspired tea service.

Other packages include the Radiant Skin, a Cedar Enzyme Bath followed by a 75-minute Signature Facial treatment featuring warm compresses, organic essential oils and a final, relaxing foot polish; Warmth of Love for Two, a $439, 75-minute Cedar Enzyme Bath/Shiatsu massage package for couples; and the 4½ -hour Ultimate Experience, which includes the Bath, a 75-minute Swedish-Esalen massage plus a customized facial, and a locally-sourced organic boxed lunch that can be enjoyed in the tranquility of a Japanese Meditation Garden.

You can also order a la carte: The spa menu offers an array of individual and specialized massages with optional aromatherapy and reflexology enhancements, and facial and body treatments. Osmosis welcomes groups wishing to reserve the venue for a business event, wedding or other special occasion.


The gods live in the details. 

Even without a spa treatment, a visit here is a rejuvenating experience. No less than five Zen garden areas grace its five acres, including Meditation and Japanese Tea Gardens; an enclave with private pagodas; an unexpected “Field of Hammocks” featuring — no surprise — several oversize rattan hammocks and sound wave relaxation therapy; and the open space winding along Salmon Creek. Although distinctly different from each other, all five gardens reflect meticulous devotion to wholeness and harmony among natural elements. 


All this indulgence can be enjoyed knowing that Osmosis holds the natural beauty of  its surroundings with the greatest respect. From the earliest stages of planning and throughout construction, the facility has emphasized sustainability. The spa itself uses eco-sensitive materials, organic textiles and non-toxic plants throughout, and utilizes energy-saving solar thermal hot-water collectors to produce 80% of its hot water. Purified water and organic teas are served in ceramic, non-disposable cups to reduce waste. Even their used Cedar Enzyme Bath mix is provided to the community for use as mulch.

One visit makes it clear why Osmosis has garnered 15 major awards since 2013, including a Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, and is recognized as one of the top ten spas worldwide by Organic Spa magazine.

Whether you’re a Sonoma County resident or just visiting, there’s no better way to spend a few hours than renewing your body, mind and spirit at a place like Osmosis Day Spa and Sanctuary.

Osmosis Day Spa and Sanctuary
209 Bohemian Highway
Freestone, CA 95472  USA

Telephone: +1.(707) 823 8231


Disclosure of Material Connection:
I have not received any compensation for writing this report. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About Tony LaHood

Contributing Writer on AlphaLuxe web magazine View all posts by Tony LaHood →

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