Surya Spa: rē•spinning Self-Care into a Wellness Destination

What happens when a five-star hotel meets an Ayurvedic guru.

By: Jessica Ourisman
Surya Spa: rē•spinning Self-Care into a Wellness Destination

There is merit in planning a stay away from home that is devoted entirely to health and wellness, particularly in the intentionally pro-health lifestyle. As holistic health professionals say, you simply cannot heal in the same environment in which you became ill. If this type of conscious getaway sounds like it might be in your future, the five-star, Santa Monica Proper Hotel and its Surya Spa make for a luxury healing oasis that wellness dreams are made of.

Located coastally in Los Angeles, California, it boasts neutral-hued interiors designed by Kelly Wearstler, with luxury amenities like Aesop toiletries and custom linens by Parachute Home. Nestled alongside the upscale hotel is the Surya Spa, the hotel’s Ayurvedic wellness destination offering much more than relaxation as a pastime. Through the work of its founder, Ayurvedic Guru Martha Soffer, the spa offers relaxing getaways with the potential for clients to learn about aspects of the alternative health framework to make wellness part of their lifestyles moving forward.

Soffer’s Journey to Ayurveda

The concept of Surya Spa arose as an organic evolution of Soffer’s love story with the ancient healing modality from India. Born in Colombia, she originally studied Computer Science in college and planned to pursue a completely different career. But upon discovering Transcendental Meditation (TM), an evidence-based form of mantra meditation with fans that range from The Beatles to Jennifer Aniston, she embarked on a different path that led her to Ayurvedic medicine. Upon discovery, her true purpose became clearer.

When she speaks about Ayurveda, Soffer comes alive — and even her husband will attest that in her career pursuits, it was as if the universe aligned to allow her to forge her path forward. What began as her small practice with patients grew to take over their family home, ultimately becoming the basis of what the Surya Spa is today.

The healing philosophy whittles down to restoring bodily balance, with a major emphasis on tending to the body’s innate system of detoxification, the lymph. Through the lens of Ayurveda, Soffer rē-frames foods, the environment, the elements, and lifestyle choices as various mechanisms to be induced in order to bring the body back into balance, using the framework of the dosha types to guide the decisions. It might surprise you to learn that no matter your predominant dosha type(s), you actually possess them all; Soffer is adamant that different factors can bring any one of the doshas into a state of relative dominance and imbalance over the others at any given time. The key is learning to look at your environment resourcefully in order to grasp the diet (or tonic), activity, or practice to remedy the internal imbalance that presents.

In making Ayurveda more accessible to everyone, she instructs her patients to be more adaptable to the world and environment they are living in — to suit their doshas, but more fundamentally, to connect to their bodies, awaken their inner-knowing, and be their own advocates in prioritizing homeostasis.

Visiting Surya & a Session with Soffer

With this purposeful history and philosophy engrained in its origins, the Surya Spa rē•spins the way luxury spa-goers can seek out healing by offering more than just a couple hours of stress-reduction. Should you choose to engage more deeply, you can walk away with a transformative new wellness framework (or at the very least, a new set of wellness tools). “The experience at Surya is extremely unique — unlike getting a standard spa treatment at a hotel or boutique spa, Surya offers a multitude of wellness options that allow guests to go as deeply as they want with their experience,” says Kamala Kirk, co-founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Spa & Beauty Today. “From their personalized Panchakarma journeys and Transformation programs to a series of courses and classes — in addition to food and skincare products — they provide all of the tools and experiences that clients need to achieve their health and wellness goals.”

As Soffer tells rē•spin, “Ayurveda is a lifestyle — it’s something you do every day.” Thus, you can choose to simply book yourself one of their four-handed massages and then leave, or you can also choose to immerse yourself in the lifestyle of Ayurveda for a longer stay. A consultation with Soffer will bring you an array of health insights (you won’t believe the information she can glean just from taking your pulse!), from your predominant dosha type(s) and recommended foods, to lifestyle practices to implement on the day-to-day, like tongue-scraping and oil-pulling. 

In addition to massages, you can also seek out stress-reducing Shirodhara — a traditional Ayurvedic treatment designed to soothe the nervous system by dripping oil onto your forehead over the course of the session — or even a treatment that balances the chakras with lights, along with the strategic placement of crystals on the body while you undergo a guided meditation. 

The Rise of the Destination Spa

The appeal of the educational and immersive Surya Spa is perhaps more relevant than ever before, particularly as the travel industry mirrors the growing wellness niche in the rise in popularity of wellness retreats and destination spas. The trend began pre-pandemic but took an obvious downturn as international travel stalled. As Kirk points out, a renewed global understanding of the importance of self-care and wellness is combining with global re-opening to propel this travel trend even further.

Considering the enormity of the stressors we have faced in the last year and a half, it is only natural that the former ways of coping with stress could use an upgrade. “While it’s relaxing to go and spend a few hours at a spa, that’s not always enough,” Kirk tells rē•spin. “Wellness travel and destination spas offer an opportunity for travelers to immerse themselves in a complete experience that lasts from the moment they wake up to when they go to bed.” Retreats and pre-planned itineraries don’t only maximize your time there, but they offer pro-health insights from experts that can truly make the experience transformative, and make your vacation feel restorative. If you’re looking for a luxurious and relaxing getaway — but one that also makes improved wellness possible long into the future — the Surya Spa at the Santa Monica Proper brings the benefits of alternative medicine Stateside in a chic, luxurious setting.


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