In Newport, a bathhouse goes upscale

You don’t have to be a pro athlete to enjoy the benefits of the restorative “water journey” offered at the Bodhi Spa in Newport, R.I.
You don’t have to be a pro athlete to enjoy the benefits of the restorative “water journey” offered at the Bodhi Spa in Newport, R.I.

Does the term “bathhouse” evoke visions of ancient Rome or moist rooms filled with corporate types on lunch break, sweating out their sins? Banish such images from your mind: The bathhouse has gone upscale.

Some spas are embracing what’s now called contrast hydrotherapy, and many athletes swear by the routine. It’s a modern-day version of those steamy rooms of yore, where clients stew in warm pools and saunas, then dip into a cold pool for therapeutic effects. The benefits are similar — boosting circulation and hydration, clearing out toxins — but the environs are sleeker.

And in the dead of winter, it’s just the thing for silky skin and better blood flow.


The Bodhi Spa in Newport, R.I., bills itself as the only place for co-ed contrast hydrotherapy in the area. The hot-cool combo dilates blood vessels and then constricts capillaries, stimulating the circulatory system.

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“This is a spa experience. We took a modern approach to a traditional spa, copied from the Romans. I felt like there was nothing like this in New England, though there are a couple in Manhattan,” says Bodhi co-owner Harmony Oschefski, who runs the spa with her sister, Cedar Hwang. “This is an ancient tradition, modernized.”

Bodhi offers a restorative “water journey” featuring several stops on an aquatic circuit. Start by floating in a pool filled with 30 pounds of authentic Dead Sea salts, warmed to a balmy 98 degrees. This soak softens skin and helps psoriasis and eczema.

Thus soothed, clients plunge into a 55-degree pool for a minute or so. Some brave souls prefer submersion; others soak up to their mid-throat to penetrate the thyroid, stimulating hormones, such as those that regulate metabolism.

“This can provide a euphoric feeling, like a polar plunge,” Oschefski says.


Then it’s time for a 10-minute soak in a pool filled with 30 pounds of magnesium-rich Epsom salts, which can relieve pain and inflammation, heated to 104 degrees. Dunk into the cold pool one more time for another minute or so, then hit the infrared sauna.

“This type of sauna helps you release water at the cellular level,” says Oschefski, offering what she says is a deeper detox than a traditional one. Plunge one more time, then relax in a steam room piped with the scent of eucalyptus.

Oschefski says many of her clients are couples or tourists seeking a respite after ogling the Newport mansions. Many come hoping for dewy skin and relaxed muscles. Others just want to hang out with pals.

“After removing all this cellular waste, you’re glowing,” says Oschefski. Consider it the spa’s version of spring cleaning.

Kara Baskin can be reached at