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Before clients lay down on the massage table, before they even walk into BodiScience’s calm-inducing, dimly lit sanctuary, they are met with what owner Dawn Tardif calls the “BodiScience handshake.”

“We bring the hand back and we look you in the eye,” Tardif says, leaning forward, and demonstrating a firm, two-handed handshake that makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room with her. “Everything, every little tiny thing is orchestrated for intention,” she says.

Although it might seem strange to reference the importance of a handshake in a story about a day spa, it makes perfect sense if you spend any time with Tardif. In fact, it’s possible to talk with her for more than an hour about her approach to health, wellness, and beauty without discussing a single one of her spa’s treatments. That’s because to Tardif, the Ayurvedic treatments that she and the team at BodiScience have provided for the past 23 years are holistic in the truest sense of the word: Encompassing not only the physical but also the emotional and the spiritual aspects of health and beauty.

“Our treatments are not a pumpkin facial or a chocolate pedicure. We’re working on meridians, acupuncture points, lymphatic stimulation, massage therapy,” she says, adding that this “scientific” approach allows people to achieve an inner health that translates to outer appearance and well-being.

Dawn Tardif takes a holistic approach to health and well-being

“Part of my education is Ayurveda, and Ayurveda is really taking care of the whole person,” Tardif says. Tardif says she studied this Hindu medicine tradition with a number of luminaries in those fields, including Dr. Deepak Chopra and Robert and Melanie Sachs, and holds a degree in Ayurvedic medicine. She’s also studied traditional Chinese medicine and other ancient disciplines and combines those with modern techniques to create face and body treatments that go beyond the traditional facial or back massage.

Take for instance, the Tibetan Abhyanga massage, which is performed with two massage therapists at once. “As we perform this experience for our clients, it is truly a dance that we do in unison with one another. Matching our movements in mirror image, we massage the client from the top of their head to the tips of their toes,” Tardif says.

The therapists massage the client rhythmically, using what Tardif calls a proprietary blend of “herbalized sesame oil…that deeply nourishes the tissue of the body allowing for toxins to be released and deep healing to begin.”

Tardif’s beliefs that beauty starts with health, wellness, and truly caring for oneself are why she doesn’t offer “fix-it” kinds of beauty treatments, nor does she “prescribe” any miracle cure-alls for what ails her clients.

“You have to have many things present within a treatment to get that result. That’s why we don’t do traditional spa treatments,” she says. “That’s why we don’t do [things like] microdermabrasion. It’s not about looking young.”

In fact, Tardif says that the women she admires and considers beautiful are ones who exude confidence and happiness; have beautiful posture or a fabulous sense of style; walk with a skip in their step; and maybe even have lovely silver hair and expression lines. “That, to me, is beauty,” she says.

Such beauty really amounts to caring for oneself, which is something that Tardif believes many women neglect. However, she considers self-care and nurturing to be critical elements of being able to care for a family and other responsibilities that women often prioritize, sometimes to the detriment of their own health and well-being.

She likens the importance of self-care to a pitcher of homemade lemonade: If the pitcher isn’t full, you can’t give any of that lemonade to anyone else. And the people around you can tell the difference in quality if you skimp on good ingredients or don’t make the time and effort to make that lemonade the best it can be.

“If you don’t fill yourself up, you have nothing to give,” Tardif says. “A lot of people have a hard time with that because they think they’re not worth it. They think they shouldn’t take that time, they think that it’s something frivolous. Once you start, you begin to value yourself.”

She adds that filling up oneself doesn’t have to include spa treatments; it might include working in the garden, going kayaking, or hitting the road for a long bike ride.

“We need to take care of our bodies, we need to take care of our spirits,” Tardif says. “And we need to have some kind of routine that we practice and never let it go.”