Written by: Hayley Swinson | Photography by: Mark Steelman
The exterior of Inis Spa—Island Spa in Irish—is unassuming: a casual building next door to other small businesses—a deli, a boutique, a bakery, located on one of the main roads in Surf City. Upon entering the spa, however, I am transported into a calmer, cooler world where water trickles from a quiet fountain and the air is rife with the scent of aromatherapy oils. The office manager, Vanessa, is sweet and helpful, offering me flavored water while I wait. She shows me to the meditation room, where clients can bask in candlelight and the earthy energy of geodes, quartz, and Himalayan salt lamps. Out of all their rooms—including seven treatment rooms, some equipped with showers, some large enough to accommodate couples or groups—this is my favorite. I sink into a chaise lounge to wait for Mary Rowe, the owner and founder of Inis Spa.
When she arrives, Mary grasps my hand with both of her own and draws me in with a warm, kind smile. She has offered me a treatment because she wants me to write from a firsthand perspective. Her lilting Irish accent gives her voice a sing-song quality, as if it were just another instrument in the soothing musical track played throughout the spa.
In the treatment room, she explains what I will be receiving, a head-to-toe experience normally includes a facial, Reiki; a massage on my shoulders, scalp, and temple; and Reflexology on my feet. This treatment, called The Spirit of The Island Facial, which can be customized depending on the client, usually includes exfoliation of the hands and arms. The staff use Osmosis skincare products, which is custom-mixed depending on the client’s needs. According to the Inis Spa website, “the Osmosis brand is doctor-developed, clinically proven, and oncology friendly.”
I lie face up on the massage table with a sheet and cozy blanket covering my body as she moves to the head of the table. She instructs me to take deep breaths in and out, much like in a yoga class.
“We focus on mind, body, and spirit,” she tells me. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m., Inis Spa facilitates a by-donation meditation class, led by Don Clements, and yoga classes are scheduled as requested. “If you wanted to book a small spa party, or an office day at the spa…you can start your day off with yoga, end it with meditation,” Mary says. “Healthy snacks or lunch can be included. It’s all about giving and receiving good energy.”
On the table, my breathing synchronizes with hers as she places her hands over my forehead, takes a breath, then places them over my collar bone, takes a breath. “Reiki is an old form of Japanese healing,” she says during our interview. “It’s a ‘laying on of hands’…you’re honoring that person with moments of silence.” She emphasizes the importance of connection between client and practitioner. “It’s such love and trust, you just have that connection. It’s not by talking to them. It’s being in the same area for such a small amount of time. It’s very powerful and immensely healing.”
Mary wafts essential oils around my head and under my nose. Later, I learn that all of their massages include hot stones, aromatherapy oils, and hot towels. “It’s not just a straightforward massage,” Mary tells me. Throughout both the interview and the treatment, I am struck by how thorough and complex Mary’s philosophy and her holistic approach to treatment is, how nearly tangible, like another scent in the air.
Inis Spa offers 12 licensed practitioners, all imbuing the same philosophy of relaxation and wellness. So whether your pleasure be found in a Thai massage, Reflexology, Lomi massage, Aromatherapy session, or an array of other services offered, you’ll find yourself elevated to new heights of tranquility and peace. And, as the holidays approach, the need to reboot and reset can be achieved for the whole office. What better way to reward employees than with a “spacation”, or day for corporate relaxation and introspection? The spacious layout of Inis Spa can accommodate groups, from co-workers to family members and friends, allowing for the collective, holistic emergence of a revitalized sense of wellbeing.
Later, I discover that the very existence of Inis Spa is serendipitous. Originally, Mary had been thinking of opening a cafe wine bar. When she contacted the owner of a potential space for her business, she discovered a significant coincidence. Upon hearing Mary’s Irish accent, the building owner told her, “Oh, I have just come home from Ireland, and I stayed in this castle, and I went to this spa.”
“Was it Dromoland Castle?” Mary asked her. Mary had directed Dromoland Castle Spa in Ireland for nearly 15 years before moving to the United States.
“Yes,” the woman told her. Mary’s enthusiasm is palpable as she tells me this story. “And I said,” she explains, “Well then, it has to be a spa. If that’s not a sign! The hairs were standing up on the back of my neck!”
As she finishes my treatment with Reflexology, Mary wraps my feet in warm towels, the smell of eucalyptus wafting through the room. She leaves me to slowly return to Earth, to the stresses of work, school, life, to the everyday disappointments we all suffer. But I leave Inis Spa, not with dread, but instead with the tools I need to be mindful, to take the spa home, to focus on mind, body, and spirit. As Mary says, “Whatever you give out, you get back in.”
Honor yourself with love and gratitude. Come feel the ‘Spirit of the Island’ at Inis Spa.