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The DragonTree: Where Health Meets Heaven

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The Portland Mercury's fourth annual charity auction raised over $11,000 for Resolutions NW, a nonprofit conflict resolution service that heads off disputes in neighborhoods, families, and other communities so valuable resources paid for by taxpayers can go to the most crucial priorities. Bidders chose from items that included gifts and services from a range of businesses, including the Mercury, which offered a 1,200-word glowing feature on the highest bidder. In this case, the winning bidder was the DragonTree holistic day spa, whose services really are something to write home about!

It's always amazing to me that people will spend preposterous amounts of money on harming—or at least exhausting—themselves, while rarely, if ever (or only when forced), using it to heal themselves of the damage. This doesn't just apply to things like going to the dentist, buying fresh produce, or having your annual exam, but to less common forms of general maintenance that are proven to have long-term preventative benefits, like massage, acupuncture, or sauna.

If you want to shake up your lifestyle, try calculating how much money you spend on alcohol, cigarettes, or other bad habits, and devote just one quarter of it to something that will benefit your body, and see the difference it makes in the way you feel, mentally as well as physically. Take a yoga class, get a massage, or invest in a complete analysis of your health at Portland's premier location for a wide range of holistic therapies: the DragonTree holistic day spa.

The menu of services offered at the DragonTree will make you tingle just reading it: The Head, Neck, and Shoulder Combination promises to "take the world off your shoulders and melt your knotted muscles away" (20 minutes for $25, or 30 minutes for $35); the Double Delight is "an aromatherapy [foot] bath followed by a two-therapist massage of the head, neck, feet, and calves" ($95); the Element Infusion starts "with a scrub of cold salts and aromatic plant oils on the legs and feet. This is followed by a footbath and then a 10-minute scalp massage with warm oil. Finally retreat to a massage room for a 90-minute deep-tissue massage" ($170). Aside from massage and foot treatments, the spa offers facials and waxing. The menu of facials in particular, is incredibly tempting, with each hour-long treatment including a foot, hand, and neck massage. But perhaps most intriguing at the DragonTree are the less typical spa options available, including acupuncture, yoga, and Ayurveda.

While you are most likely familiar with the Eastern practices of acupuncture and yoga, Ayurveda is less frequently seen on this side of the world. An ancient health science practiced in India, it is based on the idea that health problems arise from an imbalance of physical, spiritual, and emotional levels, and the practice further breaks down to individually assess what is lacking in each client's overall constitution. This creates a top-down approach to maintaining health that includes mentally restorative treatments such as Shirodhara: "A stream of warm medical oil is gently poured onto the forehead at the location of the third eye. This divine treatment quiets the mind in a profound way. Shirodhara is aimed at eliminating the cause of disease, especially in the head. It is also said to awaken the intuition and improve vitality" (30 minutes for $60, 45 minutes for $90, and 60 minutes for $120).

Ayurveda can also specifically focus on facial skin, and the spa offers an Ayurvedic facial that custom analyzes your skin, as well as taking into account variables like seasons to give your skin what it needs most at any given time. After an initial consultation, you can maintain your skin's health with follow-up visits to a therapist who is already familiar with its tendencies.

For the most complete analysis of your health's balance, it is recommended that you make an appointment with the DragonTree's Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist, Briana Borten (also the owner). In a two-hour consulting session, she will assess and recommend treatments and lifestyle changes that include diet, herbs, daily routines, sense therapies, yoga, and cleansing or rehabilitation therapies.

While the Ayurvedic approach is beneficial for anyone, many of Borten's clients seek help from her for a specific problem that has not been adequately relieved through other avenues of more traditional Western medicine, including everything from cancer to addiction (which is not to state the claim that the day spa cures cancer, but that it may alleviate the discomfort of some of the disease or its treatments' side effects and improve general health, making the body stronger in its ability to resist the illness). The DragonTree is equipped with almost everything you need to carry out your specified recommendations, including an in-house herbal pharmacy where herbs and tinctures can be custom blended to your needs. The spa also houses an acupuncture expert (and Mrs. Borten's husband), Peter Borten, and therapists offer a wide range of massage techniques, including Swedish, deep tissue, Thai, trigger point, Abhyanga, Fijian, pregnancy, and aromatherapy.

While Swedish and deep-tissue techniques are the most commonly found massage techniques in American spas, DragonTree's more exotic offerings are particularly exciting: Thai massage is often described as "having yoga done to you," with the client remaining clothed while the therapist massages and stretches your body. Trigger point locates points of "muscular stagnation," that cause complex pain patterns throughout the body, and presses them to release them. Abhyanga is an Indian technique employing one or two therapists performing vigorous, interweaving hand rhythms, and Fijian massage is done using the therapist's feet!

Recently, the DragonTree expanded, adding not only additional treatment space, but also a traditional Finnish sauna and showers. In many cultures, sauna is considered a routine part of maintaining health, and in Portland it may be particularly important. Because the weather in the Pacific Northwest is so damp, it can create problems such as stiff joints, fatigue, dizziness, and even poor digestion. The warmth of the sauna helps to raise the temperature of the body's core, relieving it of this dampness as well as detoxifying the skin and warming the muscles, which makes it a good companion treatment to massage and facials.

While many spas cater primarily to the vanity of their clients, DragonTree's approach is far more comprehensive and altruistic, with an aim not to make its clients dependent on the spa's services, but to aid them in finding a lifestyle that is most beneficial to their health and well being. In our society, we are led to think of something like getting a massage as a selfish luxury. One of the DragonTree's aims is to educate its clients to recognize that massage and other therapies are more than mere pleasure, but that they are important elements of maintaining one's health and vitality. Likewise, the spa places a high value on the health and vitality of its social environment, contributing to the community, with frequent donations to a wide range of causes.

Many of us are all too willing to cozy into Portland's favorite way of coping through the winter by seeking refuge in the admittedly hospitable bars that dot our neighborhoods, without giving our bodies some respite and added attention. And while I wouldn't dream of taking you away from this self-medication altogether, I do suggest the DragonTree for a healthier, and even more blissful, alternative way to comfort yourself.

The DragonTree is located at 2768 NW Thurman. See thedragontree.com for more information, and make an appointment by calling 221-4123.

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