The newly-opened Still Point at Haven on the Lake is a complete mind-body wellness retreat.
By Laura Wainman
In a city that is as continuously stressed as Washington, D.C., it is no surprise that spas have become as ubiquitous as Starbucks shops. But not all relaxation destinations are created equal, and every once in a while we discover one that is worth sharing. Located in downtown Columbia, MD, the third location of Tori Paide and Marla Peoples’ The Still Point wellness spa at Haven on the Lake is a bit of a drive for Washingtonians, but this reporter can attest it’s a drive worth making.
Nestled within the 25,00-square-foot Haven on the Lake, overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi, The Still Point at Haven on the Lake is a full-service wellness retreat offering everything from acupuncture to holistic skincare, naturopathic medicine and massage therapy. Guests can also take advantage of the mind body movement classes, such as pilates, yoga and barre, or make use of the healing environments, including the crystal salt room, tropical rain shower, steam bath, cold plunge, sauna and whirlpool, all designed to optimize health and the overall experience at the spa.
After being invited to come check out the new spa, I prepared myself for a day full of pampering and selected the aqua barre class, 50-minute custom massage and warm salt glow body treatment to try. I took a quick tour around the facilities to get my bearings before changing into my swimsuit for the aqua barre class located in the 86-degree movement and relaxation pool. The instructor, Evin, seemed to recognize most of the 8-person class and greeted her attendees with hugs as she announced what equipment would be needed. Having taken many barre classes and being a huge fan of the exercise craze, I was very curious to see how aqua barre would stack up. We did a 5-minute warmup of marching, leg pendulum swings and hamstring curls before moving on to upper body exercises using a water dumbbell. Next we bellied up the barre to target our thighs and glutes through a series of releves, plies, pelvic thrusts, frog jumps and reverse squats. We ended with aqua crunches and planks to work the abs before a few quick noodle stretches. My verdict was that aqua barre follows the same format as barre, but adds additional resistance of the water. However, it feels easier in the water as the water works to simultaneously engage and relax your muscles. While I missed the muscle shaking that always indicates I am getting a good workout, I would definitely continue to take aqua barre classes in the future.
I had a bit of time to kill in between my workout and my body treatments, so I took full advantage of the healing environments. First up was a dip in the 1-person cold plunge, which shocks the body, stimulates circulation, reduces recovery time and rejuvenates tired and sore muscles. Cold plunges can be used independently or as part of a more extensive approach alternating exposure to moist heat and cold, in order to aid in recovery from muscle soreness brought on by exertion. I was able to last all of two minutes before bailing to the warmth of the steam bath to cleanse my body of toxins through exposure to the warm moist heat. The practice dates back to the Ottoman Empire when they adapted the Romans’ bathing rituals to foster a state of relaxation. Next was a quick soak in the tropical rain showers with a variety of temperatures and pressures designed to tantalize the senses, and finally I detoxified in the sauna inside the women’s retreat room. Unfortunately, timing did not allow for me to check out the space I was most interested in: the Crystal Salt Room. According to Haven on the Lake, Salt Therapy is an ancient European healing technique used to treat common respiratory ailments (asthma, hay fever, etc.) and skin conditions (acne and eczema) and sessions are 40-minutes long.
Done with the pool portion of the day, I donned my luxuriously-soft robe and the sandals offered by the spa, sipped cucumber water and headed to my warm salt glow body treatment with Mary. The 50-minute treatment ($109) uses mineral-rich Dead Sea salts combined with warm oils to exfoliate and smooth skin while restoring nutrients. Dead Sea salt is known to have a higher salt concentration, which allows for a greater absorption of minerals. The salts were surprisingly gentle and left my skin feeling clean, tingly and silky smooth. All of the skincare products used at the spa are part of The Still Point’s recently launched organic skincare line, TOMA Skin Therapies. Mary used TOMA Restorative Body Oil, containing rice bran oil, virgin unrefined coconut oil and rosemary leaf extract, to prep my skin for exfoliation and added a TOMA Body Tonic essential oil blend called Restore, made from lavender, bergamot, geranium and ylang ylang, to the moisturizer applied at the end of my treatment. The moisturizer smelled amazing and left my skin feeling cool, open and refreshed. I really appreciated that the scent of the lotion was not overwhelmingly citrusy or floral, like at many spas, but just generally calming- like bed on a lazy day. Unlike a massage or facial, it wasn’t a service I would feel a need to get that often, but I could see doing it a few times a year to reset the balance of the skin.
To end the day I met my massage therapist, Myron, for a 50-minute custom massage ($109), incorporating various techniques of movement to increase body function, decrease inflammation and aid in healing, while promoting relaxation and well-being. Myron was very thorough in asking which areas of my body carry the most tension or that I would like him to focus on. I actually had a large knot near my right shoulder that was irritating me, so he gave the area some extra attention. It was by far the best and most tension relieving massage I’ve ever received as Myron used his whole upper arm and elbow to work deep into my sore muscles. All of the custom massages come with the option of adding one of four TOMA Body Tonics ($15) to the massage lotion, blended to suit the specific needs of your mind and body. I chose Detox, made from geranium, pink gapefruit, juniper and cypress oils to add the healing effect of antioxidants to the circulation improving effects of massage. Mend (good for healing recent injuries), Restore (a rejuvenating and tonifying scent for mind and body) and Ground (special blend suited to help restore balance spiritually and physically) are also available as add-ons.
After four hours at The Still Point at Haven on the Lake, I left feeling like Gumby- an exfoliated, rejuvenated and thoroughly relaxed Gumby.
The Still Point at Haven on the Lake, 10275 Little Patuxent Pkwy, Columbia, MD 21044, 410-715-3020, www.havenonthelake.org