My first experience with Jivana Green Spa & Salon was in 2010, when I booked the Traditional Hammam Experience. The spa, located in Burlington, Vermont, and its founder, Cathie Hansen-Barré, left such an impression on me that I included them in a round-up, “The 10 Best Green Spas,” in an issue of an independent spa magazine I co-founded back in 2006. At that time, spas–as well as consumers—were just beginning to wrap their terry-cloth-toweled heads around the “green” concept. I wrote that my Jivana experience left me “feeling ready to take on the world.” I continue to return to Jivana, and more recently its sister spa, The Soma Detoxx, which opened in South Burlington in 2018.
A vivacious woman with an intuitive sense of what today’s consumer wants, Cathie’s first exposure to spas was in Montreal in the late 1980s where she worked at a day spa that offered classic European-based treatments. She also had the good fortune to study Tragerwork with its founder, Dr. Milton Trager and Ayurveda with Dr. Vasant Lad. Cathie possesses a passion and a curiosity for spa and offers solid treatments, with a keen eye on the changing needs of her clientele. Here’s her story about how she got into the world of spa and how her vision evolved.
Tell us a bit about your background, where you’re from and what you’ve studied.
I have dual citizenship–I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and grew up outside of Philadelphia. I moved to Canada in 1982, where I met my husband. When the US allowed for dual-citizenship, I got it in 1992. My first massage course was in Philadelphia, and I continued studying Tragerwork, Reflexology, and Postural Integration. In Montreal, I did a two-year certificate in Homeopathy, and became a traditional naturopath in 1993. I also had the good fortune to study with Milton Trager, MD, who created Tragerwork, and Vasant Lad, BAM&S, MASc, the first Ayurvedic physician to teach in the US. Studying Ayurvedic medicine with Dr. Lad gave me the Ayurvedic piece, the ancient spa treatments. I already had the European model, and that’s how my vision evolved.
“I feel like people’s knowledge about spas is still evolving, they’re learning…”
What was your first experience with spa?
My first exposure to spas was in Montreal. I worked at a new spa at the time, Le Sanctuaire de Montreal. It was a European-style spa, with a variety of excellent spa therapies. They have since moved from the original complex to a downtown fitness club in Montreal. I did massage there at the time, then that led me to do more research about spas, that was back in 1987 to 1989. When I could, I began visiting spas in the US and Montreal. It gave me a really good understanding of the European spa model–there’s something deeper—detoxification is important.
Let’s hear about Jivana Green Spa & Salon.
We originally opened as Jivana Holistic Spa in March of 2009, but we surveyed our employees and nobody knew what ‘holistic’ meant—they said it doesn’t actually mean anything to them. I asked a few clients in their 20s, too, and they didn’t relate to the word. My daughter Laela said, ‘We’ve always been green, let’s just call it Jivana Green Spa & Salon.’ Laela is our Spa Manager, plus offers organic hair services. She is also our resident mediator! She is talented on so many levels, and has her own wedding hair and makeup business which began at Jivana, then branched out.
With the transition to Jivana Green Spa and Salon, we wanted to offer organic haircare services that weren’t available in Burlington. When you add in hair services, you do add to the bottom line. Jivana is a little city spa, there are eight treatment rooms, one is the hair room, one is the foot bath area. A unique detail: Wayne Olds, a fine artist who is known for his large murals in casinos and his work on movie sets, hand-painted a beautiful mural of lotus flowers in the spa behind the foot bath.
We have a couple of specialty treatments with the Soft Pack, the hammam table. Originally, I had two full spectrum saunas, but after a month I realized we needed another treatment/massage room. Changes over the years have been influenced from the feedback I receive from guests– what they want not just what I want.
What guests want versus what the owner wants is a very smart way to operate.
Yes, everything has to evolve, and we’re in Burlington, Vermont. We’re not in New York City or LA or London–so I feel like people’s knowledge about spas is still evolving, they’re learning. At Jivana, we always had detoxifying treatments from the sauna, mud wrap, colon hydrotherapy–that’s what I wanted to take somewhere else because we needed extra treatment rooms. Colon hydrotherapy is not necessarily for spa people, but more for natural health people–they’re not going to do a facial and a colonic, it’s a different clientele.
So, that was the inspiration behind opening The Soma Detoxx Spa.
Soma opened in April of 2018, when I recognized the need for a dedicated detox place. It’s doing really well, and we have a full range of ages from 22 to 70, though our demographic is mainly people in their 30s to 50s. They tend to come in and do the Infrared–that’s the gateway drug to detoxification.Then they learn about the other treatments. Colonics is the last thing someone will book, but people do come in for just that. We have a three-and-a-half-hour Detox Experience that’s popular and includes colon hydrotherapy, full spectrum sauna, ion cleanse detox foot bath, and halotherapy (salt cabin).
I see people at Soma who have Lyme disease and different autoimmune issues who’ve been prescribed the sauna and ion cleanse by naturopathic doctors who have referred them to me. Products we use include Floracopia, Kaia, Dragon Herbs tinctures and powders. Quintessence, our private label line, and my body scrub.
What is the most popular treatment at Jivana?
Jivana’s most popular treatment is the Mud Wrap in the Soft Pack flotation system. We mix up our own clay powders and essential oils. We also have a Lymphatic Massage and Wrap with the herbal lymphatic oil and wrap from Shankara. In addition to Shankara, we use and retail Nelly de Vuyst, Clovertree Apothecary, Malie, and Quintessence. We have a few lovely products from Saint Jane, as well as Jane Iredale makeup, Coola sun care, and O Way and O&M hair care from Australia.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from Covid?
That a large portion of the population is not thriving health-wise. So many people have underlying health issues, with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and more. Why is Lyme disease so rampant now? People’s immune systems are not able to do the job! It is time to take care of ourselves with lifestyle and natural medicine.
What do you believe the consumer has learned from Covid?
I feel people now know that regular self-care, such as massage, is not just ‘pampering.’ It is vital to their wellbeing!