Sanctuary: Safe Spa Spaces & Contactless Therapies

Individual flotation tank at Sanctuary Fairfield (photo by Werner Elmker)

After I rinsed off, dimmed the lights, and gently lifted the hatch to the flotation tank, I paused, clutching my towel, to take in the white, egg-shaped pod and couldn’t help but wonder which galaxy it had been beamed down from. Emitting an aqua glow that softly faded to indigo then violet, its still, luminescent waters—heated to the temperature of my skin—were calling to me. “Come, my dear,” I imagined a comforting voice saying. “We will take you now to the mother ship.” Well, if anything could take me off this Godforsaken planet, I mused, this pod may as well be it. I climbed in and began my float. It was serenely quiet in there.

• • •

Raise your hand—how many times in the past couple years have you wanted an escape pod?

With the health and safety—and sanity—of their community in mind, last year Joanne Reed and Paul Tapp of Fairfield hatched a plan to provide their fellow earthlings a place for respite and healing while weathering the storm. Now open by appointment, Sanctuary Fairfield, an “individually distanced” single-occupancy spa with an expanding repertoire of cutting-edge therapeutic technologies, provides a place of refuge to help you reset. Whether you’re hoping for accelerated post-surgery healing, deep detox, improved respiratory health, better libido, or just a moment of delicious oblivion, there is something at Sanctuary for everybody. Political banter and daily worries are left at the door; this is the time and place for something else entirely. It’s a space where all are welcome. But for now, just one at a time.

The lobby at Sanctuary (photo by Werner Elmker)

Flotation Therapy

I’d been hearing about this one for years from friends who swore by it. I was skeptical. Something about being enclosed in a tank of salt water made me worry I was going to feel like Han Solo in the carbon chamber. At Sanctuary, I was pleasantly surprised. Once inside the pod, I found there was ample room to sit up, maneuver, or spread out. And while the self-cleaning, magnesium-rich Epsom salt bath (so concentrated that you literally float on the surface) works its mind-body magic, you can customize your experience as you like: lights on with relaxing music, or lights off in silence for a sensory-deprivation experience. Lid up. Lid down. Or any combination thereof.

Flotation tank—or escape hatch??! (Photo by M. Siemsen)

There’s an open flotation pool available too, Sanctuary’s alternate offering designed for couples to enjoy the experience together. The pool may also be a more comfortable choice for someone built like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

For some folks, the flotation experience is instantly blissful; for others, it takes a few sessions to surrender to a restful state. But for many, it’s a life changer. Known for relieving deep muscle tension, Epsom salt flotation is also beneficial for mental health, helping to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.

“A lot of people have told me their experience in our flotation tank was deeper than any meditation they’ve had,” says Joanne. Whatever your experience, the benefits abound. Just ask the New England Patriots.

Red Light Therapy

Joanne assumed the flotation tanks would be their most popular offering, but more customers have sought out the red light. “The new science with the red light has created a lot of interest,” she tells me.

Red light therapy room (photo by Werner Elmker)

Non-invasive red and near-infrared light treatment is proving to be of benefit for a multitude of things: muscle recovery, cell regeneration, good sleep, joint pain, and inflammation. It’s also being used for collagen building, thyroid function, sexual dysfunction, brain injury, and cognitive health—so many benefits, this scientifically validated modality has been likened to a “magic pill.”

The specific FDA-approved PlatinumLED Therapy Light panel Sanctuary offers is the same one used by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Paul explains, “With expensive athletes and high salaries, they need to get ’em back on the field. This is good for recovery. And injury. It gets in at an intercellular level.” The basic science behind this modality is that concentrated doses of red and near-infrared light enliven the mitochondria in your cells, which creates chemical energy and accelerates healing.

Joanne believes the benefits that have been scientifically documented thus far are just the tip of the iceberg. Sanctuary spa-goers themselves have shared some of their own results after regular red-light sessions: chronically inflamed skin wounds have quickly turned themselves around, and one young woman witnessed the unexpected reversal of her degenerative eye disease. I was anxious to get in there and try it out for myself.

Once inside the red light room, it was explained, I could either sit on the swivel chair provided or stand—ideally about 6 inches away from the vertical light panel—and pivot my position by degrees to expose one area at a time. My 20-minute gentle blast felt like a pleasant, full-body reiki session, and I liked being in charge of which parts got more attention: my sore knee and my always-tense thoracic spine muscles. It was fun to play an active role. I’ll be baaaaack.

Halo Salt Therapy

Among the first to experience the healing powers of dry salt therapy were the workers of Polish salt mines in the 1800s, who, it was discovered, were mysteriously insusceptible to typical colds, coughs, and allergies. All they had to do was breathe. Talk about a job perk.

Sanctuary’s halo salt therapy room, where pharmaceutical-grade salt particles are infused into the air and absorbed through the breath and skin, provides benefits for respiratory health: relief from asthma, allergies, sinus issues, and even sleep apnea, not excluding skin benefits and stress reduction.

In a comfortable chair, and with no one else there, I loved the idea that I was getting the benefits of sitting seaside for days—in just 30 minutes. As I listened to the hum of the halo generator through the wall and became slightly hypnotized by the glowing crystalline sconce cycling through shades of green in the corner, I felt like Superman chillin’ out in his Fortress of Solitude.

The salt cabin—designed for efficient delivery without a lot of bells and whistles—is a clean, private spot to meditate, journal, or even do a little light work while you breathe a little easier. “I go in there with my laptop all the time,” says Joanne, master of multitasking, but she does not recommend bringing your devices into the flotation tank.

Infrared Sauna

Sanctuary’s sauna—a single-person wooden cabin that was skillfully built by American veterans—ain’t just any sauna; it comes equipped with a chromotherapy (multicolor) light system to further boost healing. Similar to the red light therapy room, sessions in the sauna are great for cell regeneration, anti-inflammation, and even Seasonal Affective Disorder, plus “you burn about 600 calories in a session—boom!” says Joanne.

“And if you’ve had any exposure to metals, it just sweats everything out,” she explains. “Say you’ve been on antibiotics or had to take a bunch of ibuprofen because of whatever was going on in your life, this is a good way to quickly get it out. It’s a great detoxer. It gets really deep into your tissues. And feels great.”

“Athletes like it too,” she adds. “Sometimes they’ll come in and warm up, and they’ll go do their exercise.” But because sauna treatment is not safe for adults with certain health conditions, “people really should see their own doctors before sauna use,” Joanne recommends.

The sauna is accompanied by a shower, so once you’ve sweated out a bunch of toxic gunk, you can cool off while rinsing it all down the drain. “Scrub it off!” says Joanne.

And There’s More …

A mural created by Chad Starling for Sanctuary (photo by Meredith Siemsen)

While you’re at Sanctuary, take a moment to enjoy their tea and water bar (hydration is a key ingredient to healing, after all) as well as custom murals by Chad Starling and Gerry Moore. And Paul and Joanne are giddy about a few other amenities in the works, including exercise equipment, a state-of-the-art massage chair (I got a taste of it and it’s out of this world—I couldn’t stop laughing), and eventually, a meeting room with a view of beautiful gardens and an orchard.

Joanne and Paul are thrilled to be able to share these much-needed therapies with their community—and since some of the offerings are unique to the entire region, people are starting to trickle in from out of town. But for everyone’s comfort, Sanctuary is sticking to a “slow rollout.”

As I said my thank-yous and goodbyes, Joanne imparted one final thought. “There are so many ‘woo-woo’ things out there, but this is all peer-reviewed and science based. We researched the heck outta this—we wanted to make sure people had a place to come where we felt like it was scientifically safe, tested, and studied, and been used by the professionals.”

I hope Joanne will forgive me my sci-fi and extraterrestrial analogies, but some days I really think “otherworldly” is just what the doctor would order. I’m already thinking about which of my family members would enjoy a tech-forward, float-away birthday present.

To learn more about Sanctuary Fairfield, visit or call (641) 351-7870.

Meredith Siemsen

Meredith, an Iowa native, was baffled when she earned her high school's writing award in 1993. It wasn't until twenty years later that she discovered she actually enjoyed wordcraft. (Too bad she's still a two-fingered typist.) Thanks for reading, friends!