31 JAN 2012: My stress-ravaged, whale-like body is being stretched, pulled and manipulated. Blindfolded, I float weightlessly in the warm mineral springs’ water as Blue, my seasoned and professional therapist, moves my body into positions that I never thought possible. My newly discovered flexibility makes me foolishly think I could have a career as a circus contortionist or a model for Joy of Sex manuals.
Blue’s innovative and restorative HydroYoga treatment wasn’t around when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon first landed on Florida’s shores in 1513. As legend has it he was searching for the fabled island of Bimini and its Fountain of Youth. If one drank the spring’s magical waters it had the power to restore youth.
Unfortunately he didn’t find a Fountain of Youth. Five hundred years later thousands of people come to Warm Mineral Springs in North Port, Florida each year to experience its healing waters. It is located about an hour’s drive south of Sarasota off Interstate 75 or similar driving time from Fort Myers.
Knowing I will reluctantly join the half century club in the summer of 2012 and with my body showing visible signs of aging (kindly pointed out daily by my kids), I decided to visit Warm Mineral Springs. It bills itself as Ponce de Leon’s Original Fountain of Youth. I’m not even looking for a fountain – I’ll be happy with a trickle.
RESTORING & REJUVENATING
I first visited Warm Mineral Springs about eight years ago. I enjoyed the spring’s constant 87-degrees year-round temperature and mineral rich content – 51 different minerals and boasting the 3rd highest mineral content in the world and number one in the United States. Unfortunately it wasn’t only the visitors in need of restoring and rejuvenating!
The Fountain of Youth complex was showing significant signs of aging!
Fortunately new and forward-thinking management have taken control of operations at Warm Mineral Springs. The actual property is jointly owned by the city of North Port and Sarasota County. Extensive renovations and additions have now made it a welcome retreat for locals and visitors alike. Admission is US $20 (adults) and includes any wellness class and day use of the Mineral Springs.
Improvements include: comfortable outdoor chairs, daily wellness programs from Pilates to gyro kinesis, a café with fresh and eclectic menu items (try the green wheat grass shooters), a retail store featuring many Spa Donya and locally produced products from skin repair creams, healthy chocolate treats and jewelry and better landscaped outdoor areas. It’s now worth spending the day and coming back again and again.
A significant improvement is the range of body care and aesthetic services now offered. Ionized foot bath detox treatments, facials, scrubs, wraps, waxing, watsu, acupuncture and even nail art. Spa Donya incorporates in many of the treatments what they are blessed with – the 51 minerals in the 9 million gallon mineral spring.
The missing ingredient is no hotel packages. North Port needs hotels. Venice, Sarasota and Fort Myers are within an hour or less so that’s a viable option. Once that is in place Warm Mineral Springs can truly become a top spa/wellness destination.
SHADES OF BLUE
My journey to this Fountain of Youth had to include its multifaceted and talented 56 year old therapist Blue Dunn. There are many shades of the colour blue the same applies to the man Blue. He’s the first therapist I have met that also teaches tight wire and juggling. But his passion is as a “body mechanic” – restoring and restructuring the body back to a balanced and healthy state. After 18,000 hands-on hours of treatments he’s seen his share of damaged bodies.
Not content to just go through the motions of traditional therapies he developed and applied many of his own treatments and has even trademarked them. One of those which I was anxious to experience was his HydroYoga treatment.
It was an unusually chilly day in Florida and Blue was hesitant to perform the treatment. After summoning up my tough “I’m Canadian” bravado he agreed.
The temperature of the spring water was at its customary 87 °F - very comfortable. The temperature outside - subtract about 35-40 degrees! Blue was in a wetsuit and I was wearing my bathing suit. I quickly went in the warm water. He attached floatation devices on my feet and around my neck. He also gave me a large blindfold to put on for the duration of the treatment.
Florida’s sunny skies turn dark. He cradled my body. At that moment I felt like Blue offered me up to the health gods. If I’m lucky they will take pity on me and revitalize this tired, knot-ridden body. I was also hoping that the birds in the area don’t decide to use my body as a target for their droppings. Such are the thoughts of a spa enthusiast.
Blue begins the one hour HydroYoga treatment ($100 US) shifting my body around in rhythmic movements – if only my dance moves were this smooth! His hands and feet are in a constant state of motion on my body –manoeuvring, massaging, stretching, pulling in movements designed to both relax and energize. As the session goes on I feel the knots loosening and my body in a tranquil state despite the cool outside temperature.
It’s easy to see why Blue is so fit – providing this treatment is incredibly hard and technical work – there is much more science to it than it looks. And I must admit I wondered how this might look to the birds above and human observers. I prayed my wife and kids did not return and take photos of me in these positions which would be shown at all future family gatherings.
Since the body is in water it can be more relaxed and flexible than on a traditional massage table. And since this water is full of minerals you get twice the bang for the buck. HydroYoga is a rejuvenating blend of yoga, stretching and massage wrapped up into one therapeutic hour.
The knots were loosened, flexibility had been restored, and stress was reduced. I felt like a revitalized individual. As for my balance I’m not sure if I’m balanced enough for Blue to teach me how to be a high wire artist. Perhaps the next visit.
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