Plunge into Repose at The Bodhi Spa

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Newport’s newest spa puts “a modern twist on the traditional bath house”

Founded by Harmony Oschefski, The Bodhi Spa is a hydrotherapy spa on lower Thames Street in Fifth Ward, located down the block from Thames Street Kitchen. With her sister Cedar Hwang, co-founder Newport Naked, the entrepreneurial sister duo are excited to bring their unique “water journey” experience to Newport. Harmony and Cedar answered a few questions about what a water journey is like and their own journeys that led to opening The Bodhi Spa:

Harmony—After many years of traveling and exploring the world, what inspired you to launch The Bodhi Spa in Newport, R.I.?

HO: I have always known that I would own my own business one day. My mother’s side of the family have all been entrepreneurs so I feel as though I inherited that drive to create my own destiny and well-being. What you do for work is such an important life decision, I wanted to create a space that was a pleasure to be in, that bettered your quality of life and that of course that had promising business potential.

[from left] Cedar Hwang, Harmony Oschefski and Mayor of Newport Jeanne-Marie Napolitano at The Bodhi Spa’s ribbon cutting ceremony [Courtesy of The Bodhi Spa]

After living in Toronto, Canada for 15 years and having my first child, I felt the strong urge to move my family back to my roots in Newport, to enjoy a much more relaxed and peaceful way of life. I thoroughly enjoyed taking time away from work and a busy schedule to spend it with my daughter. After a couple of years I began to think about my personal goals and which direction I wanted to go. It was following a trip to Maui in 2012 that I was ultimately inspired by a small Zen spa on the North Shore. When I arrived home, I was already interested in the building that had long been for sale and in need of a very serious rebuild at 654, 656 and 658 Thames Street. The stars aligned and within six months I had purchased the space, registered the business and was well on my way to making this dream come true.
I feel as though the bodhi spa is a perfect culmination of my life experiences—from earning a BSc in Human Kinetics, to learning a wealth of transferrable business skills while working for a nutraceutical company, BioAdvantex Pharma, followed by trying my hand as a Yoga teacher with a focus on heart disease and cancer patients. My extensive travels on sailboats and solo reminded me that whatever I do, it will have to be a unique life experience and I would honor that feeling in the business I would deliver to my community. When I thought about building a hydrotherapy spa, something clicked and I thought, “Now that would be something I would love to be a part of for the rest of my life!”

There are plenty of names you could have chosen for your spa that communicate calm and relaxation . Why did “bodhi” strike you as the perfect fit?

HO: We wanted a name that was inspiring and we wanted it to reflect our mission for the spa which was to create a space that cleansed your body, broadened your awareness of your own body and left you feeling a little more “awake” and “in tune” when you left. The bodhi tree is the tree that the Buddha was sitting peacefully under meditating when he became fully enlightened. We felt is was an organic image of truth, peace and calm and that is why we go to the spa!

Cedar—You also run Newport Naked, a local publication dedicated to giving readers a local perspective of Newport. How has your experience running a spa vs. a publication furthered your point of view as a local?

CH: I’ve done many different trades in the past, all have been deeply connected with the public. I captained Heritage with 12 Meter Charters and I loved sharing stories with the guests and teaching them about Newport’s rich history. When my husband decided he wanted to start a local publication, I was excited to expand on our ability to share our city’s lore. While the first two positions I held enabled me to share stories, The Bodhi Spa has introduced me to a wealth of new knowledge. I now find myself learning and explaining the benefits of using hot and cold water therapy, infrared sauna technology, and healing in general. People are excited to relax and enjoy our space but it makes me especially happy to hear of guests who are in need of a healing experience professing their thanks.

Growing up in Nova Scotia, in what ways does Canada approach healthcare/holistic treatments similarly to the United States? Differently?

CH: Harmony?
HO: Because basic health care in Canada was free to all citizens, I felt that complimentary health care was more attainable. Even if you had to pay for your alternative health care appointment ie acupuncture or massage, it would have been affordable since you were not paying for the basic care. In addition, most people have additional insurance plans which were significantly more affordable than in the U.S. In most cases massage, chiropractic care and other forms of holistic health care were covered on these plans. A standard on most plans would included six massages per year—no questions asked, and even more if recommended by your physician. I feel that we should have a split between the US and Canada systems—not free, but more affordable and I think the insurance companies have some work to do in the US to offer affordable, more inclusive plans that would give their clients the opportunity to proactively take care of their health through alternative, holistic applications rather then reactive hospital visits.

How can someone incorporate hydrotherapy with their regular exercise regimen?

11270325_932148596805632_3782644388245387535_oHO: Hydrotherapy can be done in many forms. The way we are using it is in a series of hot mineral baths, a steam, and of course, an icy cold plunge. Our hydrotherapy circuit is a complement to your overall cardiovascular heath which is directly related to any exercise program. The water journey consists of a series of hot and cold applications – mineral baths, saunas, steams and a cold plunge. When you expose your body to heat waste including toxins and lactic acid are released into the circulatory system. Blood vessels dilate, allowing a higher volume of blood to flow through your circulatory system carrying this waste.  Follow this by a cold plunge and you will constrict the blood vessels which sends the blood to the core to be filtered through the internal organs which are your body’s natural filters. Repeating this process of dilating and constricting your blood and lymph vessels is much like an internal “workout” for the entire circulatory system in itself!

In addition to the water journey, The Bodhi Spa offers a variety of luxurious spa treatments, including a Hydrating and Slimming Detox Wrap, Mineral Rich Dead Sea Mud Treatment, organic facials and massage. If someone wanted to spend a whole day at Bodhi, what would you recommend?

HO: For the whole day I would recommend starting with the Ultimate Body Beautifying Combo, because you just want to be in a bathing suit after that treatment! Your whole body feels cleansed, toned and loved. I would follow that with a water journey and an extended relaxation in the Zen garden with a good book. Following this I would treat myself to a massage and another round of the water journey. My final indulgence would have to be the Collegen 02 facial so I would leave with every ounce of my body feeling pampered and attended to.

As owners of a spa, you must have tips on how to relax—how do you recommend guests to unwind during their visit?

CH: Disconnect. I find it’s the quickest road to relaxation. That’s part of the reason we don’t impose a time limit on our guests. We want them to disconnect and not worry about a check out time.

HO: Yes – Cedar and I have also always loved our bath time, so being able to offer mineral baths to our guests on a much larger scale is a natural fit.

What makes The Bodhi Spa different from other spas?

HO: The bodhi spa is the only spa of it’s kind in New England where we have a modern twist on the traditional bath house! It’s unique in that you can spend a unlimited time with a group or solo in this type of setting. There are many wonderful spas that you can visit as a group, however to be able to share in the experience from bath, to sauna to cold plunge and again, as a group is the difference.

For those who have never been on a water journey before, what should they expect?

HO: They should expect to be introduced to a new feeling of complete relaxation and a new way to “spa”. Key words that I have been hearing from guests after their visits are – euphoric, invigorated and peaceful to name a few. Your mood is altered when you leave the bodhi spa. You’ve detoxed, released hormones which make you feel alert and invigorated and rested your mind. The combination of these actions makes everything seem lighter and you feel happy and free.

Both of you have traveled all over the world–where is your favorite place that you’ve been to?

CH: I loved Bequia, sailing there was beautiful, the market was fresh, the people were happy, and it was still very authentic.
HO: This is a difficult question because I fall in love over and over again with so many of the places I have visited. I got married in a small surfing village in Sayulita, Mexico and I love everything about that town. At this very moment that would be my answer. Ask me in an hour and I may have a different answer depending on where my memories take me…

To learn more about The Bodhi Spa and to book an appointment, visit their website.