Skip to main content

Restoring body and soul the modern way

PHOENIX - Dewey Bunnell's 1971 lyrics, memorialized by America, capture the
spirit of the spa the Pima and Maricopa tribes have created at their world
class resort, the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass: "I've been through the desert
on a horse with no name. It felt good to be out of the rain. In the desert
you can remember your name, 'cause there ain't no one for to give you no
pain ..."

Clearly, as you feel the cool blue azulene paste of the spa's signature
Blue Coyote Wrap go onto your skin stroke by even stroke, you will most
certainly reconnect with who you are. Indeed, that's what life in the
Southwest desert has been about since time immemorial: breathing in
delicately scented morning air, softening to the heat of dusk and letting
go. Surrendering with the certainty that cosmic grace will lift you up and
place you exactly where you were meant to be all the time.

The resort is called Aji Spa - a 17,500-square-foot facility with pools,
baths and 17 treatment rooms - and its name comes from the Pima word for
"sanctuary." Nearby Aji Mountain was the safe haven where women, children
and elders congregated during battles with warring tribes.

These days, though, instead of climbing to the top of Aji, tribal members
find another kind of safety through employment at the spa and larger
resort. According to The New York Times reporter Ralph Blumenthal, "more
than a third of the 500-member staff was hired from the 20,000-strong
Indian community, and the tribes may take over operation from Star-wood
Management, which owns the Sheraton and other chains, when a 10-year
contract expires in 2012."

But back to the sanctuary. Back to Aji Spa, where an array of massages,
facials, body wraps and baths await the traveler. Even entering the refuge
is a stunner - a stone waterfall, a colorful butterfly mosaic signifying
metamorphosis, private rain showers, and giant clam shells to stretch out
in while the mud paste on your body dries and cracks, drawing impurities
and toxins from the skin and leaving it primed for one of Aji Spa's many
varieties of massages.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

You can try a cedar and sage rubdown, complete with a Ho'-Dai or Gila River
rock massage. Naturally smooth river stones are placed on and under the
body in the tradition of the Pima and Maricopa people, who for centuries
have used hot rocks to soothe painful conditions and reduce accompanying
anguish. While the smooth stones radiate their heat right down to your
bones, a therapist with firm hands works the fragrant oils into your skin.

Since water is life to desert dwellers, the Pima and Maricopa have chosen
to include a Shunthagi, or Watsu, massage which is done in a quiet pool of
pristine water. Close your eyes and feel the gentle, rhythmic rocking the
therapist performs to loosen your joints ... or leave them open to catch
iridescent glints of light off the Watsu pool while your spine loosens, and
movements that are impossible on a traditional massage table work to
promote elasticity and flexibility.

The tribes have covered the gamut in spa accoutrements at this highly
popular $175 million resort, a place that, according to Director of Public
Relations Kristen Jamagin, earned "tens of millions of dollars in profit"
in 2004. Those wishing to luxuriate in self-care taken to new heights can
also get reflexology massages that use pressure points on the hands and
feet, massages especially designed for pregnant women, companion massages,
scalp massages and the ever-present Swedish.

The facials are fabulous as well, running from white clay, to
jasmine-scented masks, to aloe and beyond into realms that offer alpha beta
peels and Cheoj, or a facial treatment for men. Expect the eyes, lips, neck
and decollete to receive special pampering; and then, if you've a mind to,
treat yourself to a body polish or scrub with river salts or jojoba before
dipping into a bath of your choice - energizing ruby grapefruit,
detoxifying juniper and cypress, mineral salt bath or calming serenity bath
in a tub filled with lavender essential oils and natural botanicals,
including rose petals and chamomile.

In sum, as the tribal creators of Aji Spa put it: "Through its design,
storytelling art, gardens, treatments and programs, Aji Spa will inspire
you with clarity and a renewed perspective as you seek sanctuary from your
world of daily stress and cares."

Put another way by Dewey Bunnell: "In the desert you can remember your name