RED CLAY. VOLCANIC ASH. SAGE OIL. ROSE WATER. RED CHILE.
I’m saying the words silently, focusing on their cadences as I lie covered in a tingling mixture of these ingredients. Massage therapist Christina Conder is gently pummeling my body with small flaxseed-filled muslin bags dipped in herbal oils. As her percussive rhythm helps the clay soak into my skin, I follow a flute’s sinuous warble on the sound system. I drift and daydream, but I’ve never felt more grounded.
I’m deep into Ancient Drumming, an 80-minute signature treatment at Tamaya Mist Spa & Salon at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya, at Santa Ana Pueblo. Being at Tamaya also means I’m in the midst of a uniquely New Mexico spa experience. At the 500-acre pueblo-owned, Hyatt-managed resort, “Everything you see is designed by the people of the pueblo,” says spa director Janisa Casillas. “All our services get run through the pipeline to ensure genuine Indigenous cultural values.”
Wellness and relaxation have been ways of life in the Land of Enchantment for centuries. Pueblo, Navajo, Comanche, and Ute people took the healing mineral waters at Posipopi, or the Green Springs, for generations before explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca called it Ojo Caliente. Taoseño Antonio Joseph began developing the lithia, arsenic, iron, and soda springs as a health resort in 1860. It would become one of the first spas in the country and a destination for many tuberculosis patients in the late 19th century who arrived in New Mexico to “take the cure,” which consisted of rest, dry air, hot-springs soaks, and appreciating beautiful landscapes.
At La Posada de Santa Fe, Spa Sage director Barbara Morrow says she encountered a “pretty rustic” spa industry when she arrived in 1989 to open the now-shuttered Vista Clara Ranch, the first full-service spa in the state, in Galisteo. A decade later, she started Spa Sage. “Wow, did we do great guns,” she says. “All the hotels began opening spas.”
These days, the spa landscape is as varied as the state. Many spas offer treatments based on locally harvested lavender, sage, and prickly pear. At these escapes, mountain and desert vistas and yurt or Airstream lodgings are just as integral to healing as yoga classes, scenic hikes, equine therapy, steam rooms and saunas, and giant jugs of fruit-infused water. And checking into a downtown hotel means fitting a treatment or two into your agenda along with museum visits, shopping, and dining.
At Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, in Truth or Consequences, massage therapist Elisa Dessner tells me that people who come to the Ted Turner-owned property to relax tend to appreciate more than the treatment. “You can drive around in the winter in a thin sweater with the windows down,” she says, while she expertly kneads the knots from my shoulders. “The sun’s just always out.”
After my morning treatment at Tamaya, I end the day with a Music as Medicine session at Bishop’s Lodge. Reopened in 2021 as part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, the former estate of Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy is beginning renovations on its Stream Dance Spa. Stream Dance will eventually add a longer menu of spa services to the resort’s grab bag of guest experiences, which includes fly-fishing excursions, mountain biking, plein air painting, artist lectures, cultural tours, and other meaningful retreats, many of which hark back to the days of the property’s flowering as one of the state’s premier guest dude ranches.
I think about the land’s history while sound healer WalkingStar begins an hour-long private concert with Native flutes, crystal meditation bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, and a diverse cast of other instruments. Lying in the dark room with my eyes closed, I’m transported by the music through several pasts. Mind, body, spirit, I think. All are present. It’s a bit intense.
“It can definitely stir up things for people,” he tells me when I sit up. “It’s opening things up. People have associations with certain sounds. Some people cry. Some will get up and leave.”
Feeling weird but peaceful, I walk out of the spa into the wooded basin of the lodge and stop to take in a gauzy pink sunset, watching diners relaxing on the restaurant patio. Earth, sky, people. Wellness begins by being here.