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Blue Sage Sanctuary
Put Your Load Down
by Nirmala Nataraj on Mar 23, 2007
Rest and relaxation. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Given our society’s terrible penchant for scheduling everything from requisite weekend getaways to quality time with loved ones, the time-honored idea of a little R&R has become little more than a bromidic gesture towards a removed, future indulgence, the lowest task on our collective to-do list, it would seem. But try to imagine a world in which time for silence -- a literal “waking up to smell the roses” -- is way more than a hypothetical priority. Imagine a world in which natural granite waterfalls, 20 acres of lush, woodsy beauty, and an intentional purification regimen were all there to get you better aligned with your body, spirit, and life purpose.
Health centers that offer purification regimes are a dime a dozen nowadays, but few of them can boast the goods that Blue Sage Sanctuary, an Ayurvedic retreat center tucked into the foothills of the Sierras, can. For one thing, Blue Sage wraps up Ayurveda (a 5,000-year-old wellness practice with roots in India), yoga, meditation, and a plethora of restorative spa therapies. A handful of dedicated practitioners administer all the good stuff, which also includes regular educational presentations by Ayurvedic experts.
According to founder/Ayurvedic practitioner Ragaia Belovarac, Blue Sage is focused on helping people develop a deeper understanding of their true nature as spirit, and take that understanding into their hectic lives. A several-hour drive to the middle of nowhere might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Blue Sage’s practitioners are also deeply connected to the Bay Area health and wellness community and have collected a gaggle of die-hard enthusiasts from the vicinity. Given the sanctuary’s rustic 20 acres, the nearby Yuba River, and the fact that Blue Sage only has one or two guests at a time maximum, those of us in need of a spiritual tune-up won’t be likely to hem and haw over the trek.
Now in its fourth year, Blue Sage functions as both a personal residence (Ragaia’s) and a retreat. “It’s not just a neat experience in the middle of the woods,” Ragaia, a soft-spoken blonde man with clear blue eyes, explains to me. Ragaia was drawn to the realm of natural healing after studying a variety of traditional paradigms, including yoga and Ayurveda. He’d experienced the typical “eco-vacation” retreat in the past, but what he primarily became concerned with was the idea of integrating health practices so that clients’ attempts at living sustainable, healthy lives wouldn’t end after getting into their cars and driving back home. Ragaia says he was called strongly to Ayurveda and decided he wanted to bring the practice’s therapies to the community. Though he looked into the Bay Area at first, the desire for a quiet space eventually drew him into California’s “gold country.”
“The area has gentle seasons, and the Yuba River is both beautiful and nurturing,” Ragaia says. “The land and energy harmonized with what I wanted to do.”
Down a path from the sanctuary’s spacious reception lounge/yoga room (flanked by a gorgeous array of ponds and rocks), the sanctuary’s private guest quarters proffer a minimal, earthy beauty -- a modest living area, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom are outfitted with Eastern decorative elements and an ecologically influenced design scheme. (And of course, don’t expect the distraction of television up here, your cell phones aren’t likely to work, either.)
The guest quarters are attached to the “spa” treatment room, as well as an enclosed outdoor shower and steam box sauna. “When people think of spas, they think of treatments that feel good,” says Ragaia. “Our treatments are, of course, designed to be restorative and rejuvenating --and the place is beautiful and private -- but the approach we take is one that we call ‘profound beauty.’ You are coming here to experience beauty from the inside out…to be taken more deeply into your body.”
All treatments at Blue Sage begin with an in-depth consultation with the client, in which various questions about diet, sleeping habits, and body composition are put forth. The sanctuary’s practitioners offer a variety of oil therapies, such as the Warm Herbal Oil Massage (Abhyanga), which I experience. Two massage therapists apply a customized essential-oil blend (designed to penetrate deep into your tissues, heal, and cleanse) with synchronized strokes. It’s a lighter, more rhythmic touch than I’m accustomed to, but by the end of the treatment, I’m filled with a feeling of profound nurturing unlike anything else I’ve encountered in a spa environment.
Other treatments include the Profound Relaxation Therapy (Shirodhara), a stock Ayurvedic treatment in which a stream of oils is poured continuously across the forehead, fostering normalized sleep cycles and, of course, profound relaxation. Another treat is the outdoor cedar steam box (Svedana), which offers steam baths with herbs like lavender, eucalyptus, and lemongrass, to relieve tension and enable oils from your treatments to penetrate the skin more deeply.
Despite all the indulgence, Ragaia describes Blue Sage as a place that’s in between a spa and a clinic, best suited for visits from 3-21 days. “Our clientele mainly includes people who are interested in purifying their bodies and redesigning their lives around this,” he explains. “It’s not an in/out spa environment. It’s best to give yourself some time to relax.”
Aside from the cleansing weekends, most people frequent Blue Sage for the intensive Panchakarma, an ancient cleansing method that promotes weight loss, clear skin, higher energy, and a “reformatted” gastrointestinal tract, in addition to a deeper understanding with one’s relationship to food. Aside from a tailored food regimen that includes kichiri, a traditional Indian meal consisting of mung beans (which have an alkalizing property) and vegetables, a Panchakarma treatment includes a week of warm oil therapies to help purge your system of impurities. Panchakarma usually lasts for a minimum of 7 days and a maximum of 21 days, and can be undergone twice a year, generally when the seasons change.
“People pretty much stay on the premises for the entire time,” says Ragaia. “It’s an immersion process that’s very traditional (a client staying in a room in the practitioner’s home). You enter a period where you’re like a child again. And when you’re taken care of, you learn to be more available to yourself.”
Even if you’re merely spending a day or two at Blue Sage, the healing energy of the land is palpable and perpetually available. You can sit out by the rock garden, gaze out into a vista of sky and stars, and have the splash of a turtle in a nearby pond be the only sound around for miles. It’s the perfect environment for contemplating your life, perhaps even discovering your purpose. And at the very least, it’ll make you seriously consider some major changes—a bit of R&R being just one among them.
by Nirmala Nataraj on Mar 23, 2007