By Linda Kissam
I’ve been to many spas, but it’s the ones that offer their own special twist that makes a memorable experience. Spa junkies everywhere should be writing the following name down on a piece of paper … The Aji Spa at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, in Phoenix, Arizona. It offers the world’s most authentic Native American spa services. If they sold spa condos there, I’d be interested, that is how good it is.
Aji, means “Sanctuary” in the Pima language. It takes its name from the nearby Aji Mountain located on the Gila River Indian Community which was once a sanctuary where women and children would go in times of war. Aji Mountain is still honored as one of the Community’s most sacred treasures and fittingly, Aji Spa is where sacred Pima and Maricopa traditions are still practiced and shared.
The spa is about a five minute leisurely walk from the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa (where I was staying – lovely rooms and views) , down a flat, winding lake side path. There’s something about that brief nature walk that sets the mood and anticipation for something very special to come.
A brief walk and a deep breath later, the spa welcomes me within a natural setting. The soothing scents surround me as soon as I walk in the door. The ancient Pima and Maricopa cultures are showcased throughout the spa in design elements, artwork, architecture and shared legends. No hurrying around here; just a lovely young woman greeting me and introducing me to my spa guide who takes me to the ready rooms.
The women’s locker room is striking. A private indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi are there when I am ready to imbibe. My guide shows me around, gives me a big fluffy robe and slippers, mentions the many free amenities available to me (scented lemon water to drink, creams, lotions, hair dryer, showers, tooth brush, etc). I am in heaven.
We move on to the women’s quiet room which provides a couple of comfy chairs surrounded in native décor creating a centering, calming setting. This is a place to wait in privacy for upcoming services if I like, or I can go to a different waiting room for both men and women. Teas, lemon water, snacks and a muted décor call to me to rest, relax and rejuvenate, as I gaze out to a swimming pool framed by mountains. If this was all I did, I would have been happy.
I hear my name being called… so sweetly, so caring. Time for my 50 minute facial (Wihosha). I am impressed with the Spa’s use of the exclusive ARCONA Skin Care Line known for its high quality, luxury formulations and their unequalled ability to make a positive change to the skin through ingredients such as enzymes, antioxidants and amino. We have a brief talk about my skin type and my expectations and the treatment begins. I am filled with bliss.
I head back to the locker room refreshed and glowing. I linger a bit more in the communal room for lemon water and a look at other services I might try: Massage (Thagimun), Body Wraps (Hon), Salon Services Fitness & Recreation, and Exfoliating Body Treatments (Chipich) all call my name for another day.
On my way out of the spa I stop in the gift shop for some major retail therapy. I find the prices reasonable and my credit card able. I head over to the Aji Café. I see they offer a menu with healthy lunch options prepared on site by the Aji Café Chef under titles such as Replenish, Restore, Refresh. I order the Hand Picked Jumbo Crab Meat & Watermelon Salad (click for recipe) ($16) and The New Dawn Aji Spa Signature Cocktail: A refreshing blend of Elderflower Liquor, Riesling, Pineapple and Cranberry Juice, finished with a splash of Champagne ($12). Ahhh yes, ending a true experience with a refreshing treat. Does life get any better?