by Gabrielle L. Wheeler
… is a Sanskrit term
essence or fluid.
In the spiritual tradition,
this term refers to the
essence of human
experience; the emotions
that govern human life.
For my massage, I lie on my stomach over the warmth of the heated table as experienced hands rub nutty-smelling body butter into my back. I allow myself to melt under the strokes and forget about all the stressors in life. I am present in this relaxing place. Thoughts come and go about everything and nothing. I wonder if I am experiencing my rasa today.
Near the end of my treatment, steamed towels are wrapped around my feet and placed on my face. They warm me like a hug, but also bring me back to the moment. I open my eyes in an inviting room of Rasa Spa. The walls are a dark red-orange. And their angles make the room a unique shape, not perfectly square nor rectangular, which feels comforting.
The spa, located in downtown Ithaca, was designed with comfort and relaxation in mind. “There was an intentional change of angles of walls. I think it just creates a little bit of a sense of a flow in the space,” explains Rachel Hogancamp, the spa’s co-founder. The entire space flows. I was drawn from the entrance into the bathroom and changing area made inviting by both fresh and dried flowers. The locally-made sinks do not match. They remind me of lily pads, and speak to the artistic creativity and earthy feel of the Ithaca region.
The locker room flows next into the Tranquility Room, a large, bright space that overlooks the Cayuga River. The room is full of comfortable lounge chairs that invite me to read a book or even take a nap. Nearby, a small meditation alcove with pillows and dark walls offers a secluded space for connecting with one’s rasa.
Visitors are encouraged to spend as much time as they’d like, even the entire day, enjoying the Tranquility Room. Behind its tumbling curtains, a hallway leads to the bodywork rooms and a community room, where yoga and meditation classes are offered.
When my session was complete, I followed the space as it flowed back to the entrance where I could browse the selection of locally-made and luxury body care products for sale.
Healing the whole person
Rasa Spa was built in 2006 in association with Cayuga Medical Center, although it is a separate entity. It’s located on the center’s second floor and focuses on healing the whole person. Services include massage – a range from standard to medical massages – plus aromatherapy, energy work, facials, and skin care.
The spa also maintains a room in the medical center where Hogancamp and members of her staff can see patients. They’re glad to offer relief and relaxation through the power of touch to the people being treated at the medical center. “There’s nothing better than hearing one of my staff members tell me that he or she just worked with a patient who had a major experience at the hospital,” she says. The 11-year partnership between the two entities is still in its infancy, Hogancamp adds. She believes that there are still ways they can mature and evolve together in exciting directions.
Hogancamp is committed to using organic products, and the spa makes its own house blends of oils that are used in the bodywork rooms. Some of them are also available for sale at the spa store. One of those blends is used in a unique service called Ananda, based on an Ayurvedic therapy called shirodhara. During an Ananda treatment, the practitioner drips the blended oil onto the forehead of the client before working it into her hair and scalp. Hogancamp says the experience of having the head as the primary focus takes the client into “another zone.”
The spa supports the Ithaca community in many ways. Hogancamp used the work of local artists and craftspeople to decorate the space, and continues to spotlight local artists by featuring their work on a rotating basis in the Tranquility Room and adjacent hallways. Rasa Spa also donates to local nonprofits and promotes their events through social media.
Of course there is much to offer clients who wish for a day of retreat, but the spa is also developing its own true essence as an essential member of the community and entire Finger Lakes Region. In terms of my own experience, I felt like the massage therapist had invited me to flow deeper into myself and search for the rasa of me.
Rasa Spa works hard to offer something for everyone at their three locations in Ithaca.
• Cayuga Wellness Center, 310 Taughannock Blvd.
• Community Corners, 903 Hanshaw Rd.
• Cayuga Medical Center, 101 Dates Dr.