A wooden fence hides and protects the Hidden Springs Wellness Center from a bustling parking lot at a shopping center in the heart of south Ashland.
Pass through the gate in the middle of the fence, and you leave the everyday world of commerce behind and enter a magical, peaceful world.
"People use the word 'oasis,' " says Brooks Newton, who founded the center in 1999 with her husband, Rod.
On the walk to the center's main building, you pass a small pond ringed by aspen and oak trees and face a towering Ponderosa pine. You walk between low shrubs and a stream, all delicate and manicured. A breeze plays the wind chimes as it temporarily drowns out the sound of flowing water from a pump that recirculates the pond water.
"I wanted something where people had a transition from the parking lot to a healing environment. They go through the gate, and by the 30-second walk up to the door, they're different," explains Rod Newton.
Massage, saunas, steam room, fitness center, yoga and meditation classes — the staples of wellness centers — are available here, but these are only the beginning.
A staff of wellness professionals offer personal coaching, relationship counseling and classes in compassionate communications. You can even schedule a consultation with the resident naturopathic physician. Other community organizations rent rooms here to offer their own wellness-oriented classes. These offerings are part of a mission to heal both mind and body.
"We've always been into preventative, empowering skills and tools as opposed to fixing," says Newton. "I've always been interested in how people can really live in such a way that they don't go through the usual degeneration before early death, especially mental and emotional things that help keep people alive, empowered.
"We wanted a place where people can really learn and grow into ways of being well, healthy — wellness-oriented," he explains.
This wellness philosophy includes health self-sufficiency.
"Teaching people to take health into their own hands, being empowered with that so they're not depending on practitioners to get them well," says Brooks Newton. "Instead, they're learning ways of staying healthy, of returning to health, things they can do on their own, whether that's emotional health or physical health or mental health."
In the past three years, the Newtons have placed special emphasis on their detoxification program, offered in both spring and fall. After an introductory week of class instruction, students change their diet and add exercise, sauna and yoga for three weeks.
For those willing to devote extra time and money to a more intense detox, additional offerings are available, including peat baths, colonics and alternating infrared sauna with cold plunges.
The current detox program began as a partnership with Ashland naturopathic physician Bonnie Nedrow, who calls detox the "70-percent solution" to healthy living.
"Seventy percent of your problems will fall away after a one-month cleanse," Nedrow says. "We can see the picture better. Some of that is because they've taken foods out of their diet they're not able to digest because it's a hypoallergenic diet. Some of it is giving their bodies a break and taking care of themselves."
The strict detox diet permits participants to consume only grains, veggies, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. All animal products and common allergens, such as corn, soy and wheat, are eliminated.
"A lot of people don't go back at the end," Newton says. "They say 'Whoa! I had no idea I could feel this good. I don't want to chance it.' So they stay on the (new) diet."
The results speak for themselves.
"We get 90-percent compliance now in changing lifestyle," says Rod Newton.
Part of the high success rate is the feeling of community that participants experience. The larger class is broken into subgroups of six or seven. Group members get to know each other better, meet often during the cleansing process and support each other in many ways.
"People say, 'I'm not alone doing this hard thing; I'm with this whole group of people,' " Nedrow says. "There's that group energy that happens that helps support a person through. There's a sense of community, and I think that's something in healing that we've lost in today's world."