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A new Wisconsin day spa rooted in Ayurvedic medicine teaches an ancient form of self-care.

By Kelsey Ogletree
December 23, 2020
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Kosa Spa Wisconsin seating area
Kosa
| Credit: Martin Menocal

Imagine lying still for 45 minutes while warm oil is poured over your third eye (forehead), melting away tension like butter. Sound like bliss? Known as shirodhara, it’s a technique of Ayurveda, a holistic approach to medicine and longevity dating back 5,000 years in India.

You can try it at Kosa (KO-sha), a new spa in the Garver Feed Mill, a food hall-meets-wellness center in Madison, Wisconsin. Founder Shilpa Sankaran describes Ayurveda as the science of life and how the universe relates to your body. Practitioners believe humans are made up of the elements around us—space, air, fire, water and earth—and that we’re healthiest when those elements are in balance in our minds and bodies. Kosa aims to help guests find that equilibrium through spa treatments like lymphatic massages, sanctuary retreats, in-depth self-discovery counseling and Ayurvedic food at Kosa Kitchen.

Kosa Spa Wisconsin
Shilpa Sankaran
| Credit: Courtesy of Kosa Space

For India-born Sankaran, opening Kosa was a return to her roots—and to her childhood home. Working in tech consulting in San Francisco and Chicago, she found the fast-paced lifestyle took a toll on her health. “Culturally, growing up, my family was always doing little things [to improve our well-being] that I’d forgotten about,” she says. “This was my journey of finding myself and getting more in touch with my own body.”

Acknowledging everyone’s wellness path is ongoing, Sankaran says Kosa is meant to be a place that’s accessible and enjoyable. Here, you can enjoy a full spa experience while disconnecting (no devices allowed) and kick-start those baby steps toward improving your health.

Kosa Spa Wisconsin
Kosa
| Credit: Martin Menocal

At-Home Ayurveda

Shilpa Sankaran suggests small shifts for winter self-care and immunity.

FILL YOUR MUG

In the morning, sip warm water with lemon to flush your system. It also helps keep your body in a warm, moist state and aids digestion, especially in cold months. Avoid ice water and sugary drinks this time of year.

MIND YOUR MOUTH

First thing in the morning, use a stainless-steel or copper tongue scraper to gently scrape your tongue from back to front up to 10 times. This helps to remove toxins, freshen your breath and wake up your taste buds.

COOK FOR COMFORT

Raw, rough or dry foods can negatively impact digestion in winter. Add more cooked meals into your rotation, like nourishing one-pot stews with root vegetables and warming spices like cumin, cinnamon and ginger.

Kosa Spa Wisconsin
Ayurvedic food at Kosa Kitchen
| Credit: Courtesy of Kosa Spa

BRUSH UP

Before showering, use a dry brush or raw silk gloves to make long strokes toward the center of your body, and in a circular motion around joints. This energizing practice stimulates lymphatic, circulatory and nervous systems.