No vacation should be complete without some pampering, so when I decided to hit up South Beach, I immediately booked an appointment (thanks to a recommendation by The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau) at Uhma Spa, just a few blocks from my hotel. Uhma is located a few streets off of Collins Ave., on a low-key and local-feeling area – much unlike the flashy hotel-laden strip where I was staying. Marco and Deborah Almeida, the owners of Uhma, chose this particular area when they passed it walking home one day and discovered that the location felt just right.
What differentiates Uhma from your standard upscale spa is it’s strong environmental focus and subsequently, it’s unique menu of green services. Practically everything in the spa and store are 100% natural and organic. The walls and furniture are made from sustainable wood, the paint is VOC free (non-environmentally damaging) and even the cleaning products are biodegradable. Each treatment room is equipped with a special ambient lighting that mimics natural sunlight. The Almeidas’ commitment to sharing their green lifestyle is apparent in every single detail.
Uhma Spa offeres a variety of services, but their specialties are their massages. Deborah and Marco travel the world searching for hidden massage secrets and then refine them to suit the American taste. I experienced the Sabai Herbal Ball Massage, a traditional practice used in Thai medicine. The treatment begins with a full body, literally head to every toe, sweet basil oil massage. Every kink is worked out until the body is fully relaxed. Then two hot herbal balls are applied along the Sen Sib lines (the energy channels in your body). Traditional Thai medicine revolves around these lines. If a particular Sen Sib line is blocked, it could manifest itself into other forms ranging from pain, to muscle tension, to stress. The herbal balls are applied to these acupressure zones to clear these energy paths.
Whether you believe in clearing energy paths is based a lot upon your lifestyle. I, for one, practice yoga, engage in cleanses and am an avid believer (from having seen results) of traditional Eastern medicine. However, I certainly have my fair share of friends who scoff at the idea of anything naturopathic. The benefits to Uhma’s Sabai Herbal Ball Massage, however, span far beyond the idea of drawing out toxins. The heat helps relieve pain and stimulate blood flow. The pressure relaxes tense muscles, and the herbs provide aromatherapeutic benefits. I had suffered a sunburn and a red-eye flight, which had really drained me and made me tired. After the service, I felt completely rejuvenated and relaxed and ready to begin my vacation.
I was lucky enough to speak with Deborah and Marcos at length that afternoon. They are such genuine and nice people, whose warmth is apparent in the quality of care they provide each client from the moment they walk into this sanctuary. Deborah said that she hoped to create an experience where guests will feel “a bit of regret upon departing – in hopes they will want to come back and do it all over again.” I, for one, would go back in a heartbeat – if they weren’t located more than a thousand miles from my apartment. But Deborah let me in on a secret – that they certainly have New York on top of mind for their next location. That would be amazing! Stay tuned…
Uhma Spa & Shop (305-695-0996 or ) is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Located on South Beach at 726 6th Street (between Jefferson Avenue and Meridian Avenue).