You know that feeling when everything seems to be erupting around you at once? A volcano of chaos: a fight with your spouse mixed with an upcoming move, and to top it off, your anxiety at is at an all time peak. That was me before I hopped on a flight to Nayara Springs, a magical luxury wellness paradise amidst the floral and fauna in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.
A huge fan of all things “me time,” I’ve run the gamut of “woo woo” wellness journeys, from past life psychic adventures in the Berkshires to Ayurvedic nutrition trips in the Finger Lakes, but now, I was looking for a different type of healing, one from Mother Earth.
If you’ve been to Costa Rica, you may be familiar with their philosophy of “pura vida,” quite literally meaning, “pure life.” During a nature walk of the property where there were natural wonders at every corner—sloths snoozing high up in the branches, monkeys swinging from tree to tree, and pink bananas—I asked my nature guide what Pura Vida meant to him, “Pura Vida teaches us to take care of nature and take advantage of nature. You don’t need to go to the store, you have everything around you to live a beautiful life.” It was time to look up from my phone, and be reminded of the world around me. The chaos of life in New York City needed to be silenced, and I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be to get the physical and emotional reset that I so needed.
Part of the reason Nayara Springs was so appealing to me, was their legendary healing spa treatment which uses real volcanic ash mud. Yes, the ash from an actual volcano that is a quick drive from the property. In tradition, Ticans believe there is nothing more detoxifying, soul-centering, and energy-shifting than the mineral-rich volcanic earth. They say the liquid-y mud is a purifying miracle for your face and body and mind. Not only was my mind anything but grounded, but my skin was a wreck too: a huge cherry red zit on the center of my forehead (oh, the wonders that air travel does for your skin), achy shoulders, and tech neck from frantically checking my phone an embarrassing amount.
I booked my treatment and welcomed the possibility that it would shift me for the better internally and externally. Here’s what happened.
The benefits of volcanic ash mud
While the thought of volcanic ash mud being poured over your precious skin may sound frightening, there is nothing to fret. The volcanic ash in this treatment is sourced from the nearby Arenal volcano, collected, cleaned, and deemed safe before use. Benefits of the liquid potion besides its believed magical powers include: clearing up your skin (the minerals are anti-bacterial), exfoliating, helping with inflammation, and packing a punch of natural healing minerals that get absorbed by your skin.
I entered the spa area, and walked across a bridge that led me to my own open-air private tree house/treatment room right smack in the middle of the rainforest. It was the epitome of enchanting. I sat down and my spa therapist/energy healer rinsed my feet with jasmine-scented warm water and we did a quick meditation, breathing and listening to the sounds around me, birds, a soft early evening rain. She led me to my spa table and we got started.
The best way to succinctly describe the treatment is a “Pura Vida Rebirth.” It is somewhere between a body treatment, a mind massage, energy-healing therapy, and a gentle body drainage experience. Once I was on the spa bed, my therapist dripped the warm liquid healing volcanic mud that smelled earthy and beautiful on a section of my body, and then I used gentle pressure for tight spots and more of a Swedish massage technique for the rest.
The exfoliating grit felt gentle, like sand almost, and was not harsh, but did get my body going with blood flow. I started to drift off into a meditative state as she massaged the ash deep into the back of my body, then the front, with a focus on my stomach to debloat, drain, and heal. After my body was doused in gray volcanic mud from chest to toes, I was wrapped in hot towels, and then my therapist applied the volcanic mud on my face in circular motions. I laid with the mud all over my body and felt like I was lifted above the rainforest, it was otherworldly to be cocooned by the nurturing volcanic ash and listen to the sounds of a rain falling and wildlife in the rainforest.
When the ash treatment was done, I took a warm shower and rinsed the mud off my body and face. I touched my skin once it was all off, and I felt like a newborn. My skin was glowing and the aches, pains, and worries of my mind all felt gentler, more manageable and in a more peaceful place.
On my face:
One glance in the mirror, and my skin looked instantly resurfaced, like I had just had a session of microdermabrasion. The huge “recycled air travel zit” on my forehead magically went down, almost disappearing. I felt exfoliated and fresh and didn’t even need moisturizer.
On my digestion:
There was a LOT of stomach massage with the volcanic mud which I really enjoyed. Circular motions and then a figure eight and pressure. Not to be TMI, but it instantly helped with my travel digestion (constipation) and bloat (as that is always a problem for me on flights).
On my emotional state:
There’s something very primal and grounding about using something alive from the earth on your skin like this in a natural way. All of these natural nutrients and minerals that came from a volcano, this natural phenomenon of the earth soaking into your skin. It’s hard not to feel like it’s a jungle “baptism” of sorts. On top of that, Costa Rica’s spa “music” does not disappoint. There’s no Sharper Image sound machine needed, it’s the real rainforest surrounding, and your ritual happens amongst singing birds and wildlife, lulling you into the deepest inner and outer calm.
Not ready to hop on a plane to Costa Rica to get experience a Volcanic Ash Mud Treatment? here are products with healing mud in their ingredients that you can use at home:
This luxurious Hungarian mask is like a mud facial in a jar. It smells like geranium and chamomile, dries in a flash, and has the same gentle exfoliation-like quality of the volcanic facial. After 4 minutes your skin looks rejuvenated, brighter, and if you have any blemishes, the redness looks far less pronounced.
The original mud cleansing bar, loved by Hollywood and beyond, Erno Laszlo’s Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar uses mud from the Jordan River to remove impurities, clean pores, and give you a smoother, cleaner complexion.
There’s nothing more gratifying than a peel-off nose strip, and these ones by Innisfree are made with the power of Jeju volcanic cluster. They deep clean and quickly rid your nose of impurities, pollution, and anything else blocking those gorgeous pores of yours.
Peter Thomas Roth’s Irish Moor Mud Mask is a classic for a reason, you can literally feel the mud pulling out the congestion from your pores. The mud, a mixture of 9,000 year-old black moor mud is harvested by hand from the Irish countryside and combined with hijiki seaweed, volcanic ash, and activated charcoal for an instant detoxifying effect while also giving a dose of hydration as well.
With minerals from Africa’s ancient volcanic lava formations, this body scrub does wonders in the shower. Apply it to dry spots on your body like your elbows or knees, or for a total deep body exfoliation, put it all over your body and rub in in circular motions.