Aspen Untucked: Pushing my Boundaries
The room was boiling hot. I couldn’t touch the walls or the floors for more than a second because of the intense heat coming off of them. No windows existed and the lighting was almost eerie. And, perhaps the most compromising part, I was entirely naked, with the exception of a paper-like thong (if you could call it that) that just barely covered me. “This is supposed to be relaxing,” I kept telling myself. I was lying on a waterproof white cushion, waiting for whatever would come next. “This is relaxing,” I took a deep breath, in and out. “God damn it, relax woman!”
Oddly enough, the only comforting part of this experience was that I wasn’t alone. There were three other nude women in the room. They weren’t strangers to me, exactly. I met them the day before. Any doubts about our closeness were quickly dissolved when two large women came into the room and turned on the faucet in the corner. Suddenly, it was us against them. They were clothed fully and looked tough as nails. Although they were both Moroccan women, they almost had the stature of Germans. One look in their eyes made it clear that they were not taking any bulls— and, even though we didn’t speak their language, we would be doing exactly as they said.
“Down!” One pointed to the cushions we were sitting on. Like fishes out of water, we flapped and flailed, trying to spread out in the appropriate way so as to appease the women. Some of us opted to lie on our backs, others went for the stomach. These Moroccans were unimpressed and continued to point fingers at us until we landed in the correct position. They then scooped up a brown, chunky lotion from out of a bucket and spread it sporadically on our arms and legs.
Once the gunk was applied, they exited the room just as quickly as they had come, leaving the four of us hot, wet, naked and confused. I stared at the ceiling, trying my best to make sense of what had just happened, but coming up with little to comfort myself. That’s when one of the ladies next to me said, “Since we’re sitting here for who knows how long, why don’t we do a gratitude circle?” This was only the second day of our trip in Marrakesh, Morocco, and already I had been stripped down to nothing and asked to talk about my feelings with three other ladies I barely knew? I was skeptical, but we actually did it. We talked about what we are thankful for, what scares us and how we hope to grow in the coming months and years. I had never been so open, both physically and mentally, with people I had just met. But I was eating the whole thing up, feeling more and more comfortable as the conversation went on.
This mostly nude experience, also known as a hamam or Moroccan spa treatment, was just one small segment of a five-day yoga retreat in Morocco, which I attended a couple of weeks ago with my cousin.
It was put on by Aspen local Amanda Dykann and a colleague of hers, Michelle Lee. There were 12 of us total that spent the week working on our practice, meditating, exploring our life goals and intentions and adventuring all around the aesthetically pleasing city of Marrakesh.
For me, traveling has always been a way to expand my mind and open myself up to new experiences. This trip did that in so many ways, from when I bargained for my first-ever Moroccan rug to when I had henna painted all over my arms and legs. Like all good things, the trip came to an end much before I was ready. But I left the country with more than an iPhone stocked full with photos and a newfound ability to enter into a headstand in yoga. What I truly took from the trip, I learned from my fellow yogis and the two retreat guides: That the energy we put out into the world always comes back to us. When we open ourselves up to loving one another, and loving ourselves, the possibilities in front of us are endless. I can’t thank Amanda and the rest of the group enough for teaching me that.
And, as for the hamam spa experience, the busty ladies finally returned to the hot room where we were still laid out with brown goop all over. With wiry-like gloves and some kind of black salty substance, they proceeded to scrub each of us down vigorously from head to toe. As they scrubbed, rolls of dead skin slid off our persons like spaghetti noodles. Once our skin was properly conditioned, they doused us with water, rinsing off all of the newfound impurities, and shooed us out of the room. Thankfully, they gave us robes at that point.
Looking back, this spa treatment still seems a bit unconventional, but after the fact, my heart was full of gratitude for my fellow hamam participants. And my skin was softer than a newborn baby’s bottom.
For more information on yoga retreats with Amanda Dykann, check out her website at AmandaDykann.com.
Barbara Platts may very well be hooked on Moroccan spa treatments, however she has yet to find a place to get them in the Roaring Fork Valley or anywhere else in the state, for that matter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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