The smell of lemongrass fills the foyer, while soft music echoes from an adjacent room. The décor is minimalist, yet inviting. Warm and cool tones create a different sensation of relaxation in each space with candles delicately flickering.

The undeniable intimate spa atmosphere makes it hard to believe that you’ve walked into the basement of Gaia M. Bicudo’s humble abode. And that’s exactly the way she wants it to feel.

Bicudo’s Omaha Wholistic Spa occupies that lower level; therefore her home is for both living and working.

“I started doing massage about 12 years ago, tried working out of offices, also tried different places, different spas and out of home,” she says. “I always found home to be the most comfortable because I wasn’t rushing or running from one place to another.”

Bicudo opened the spa in May 2007, offering a variety of wellness and healing treatments, including massage, mud wraps, hydrotherapy baths and energy balancing.

She says she’s never liked the idea of having to commute to work and starting a home-based business avoids that.

“A lot of people will ask me ‘do you find it hard to separate your work from home?’ and no, I don’t at all. Actually I find it easier because I’m not sitting there taking an hour to drive to work, get everything set up and then rush home and realize I forgot something,” she says.

“Sometimes I can clean when I want to clean and do laundry when I want to do laundry. I have a little more freedom, I guess.”

Her upstairs living space mirrors the serene atmosphere of the spa, making it feel very much like an extension of her home. However, Bicudo says she constantly works at being disciplined about when it’s time to work or not.

“I’m pretty good. If I hear the phone ring, then I don’t go run down and get it. It’s Tuesday to Saturday, that’s it. I don’t answer messages, I don’t do anything until I start work on that morning,” she explains with a laugh.

“But that’s taken time to evolve because in previous years when I had tried to do business out of home I’d always be running to the phone and my life revolved around my work. That made it really tough and exhausting, you start to gain resentment and I didn’t want that.”

Bicudo finds a healthy balance through simply closing doors. She says shutting the door to the basement or the door to her office separates the spaces, leaving only house and home open.

“Finding that balance between life and work is a really important thing,” Bicudo says. “I’m pretty good at saying no when I need to, but I’ve also had really great guidance from people who are experienced in the field.”

Although Whitehorse is her hometown, Bicudo’s career in bodywork has taken her to Toronto, Vancouver and Canmore. But she says the atmosphere she works in now is quieter and more sacred for both her and her clients.

As her business approaches the one-year mark, Bicudo says she’ll continue to focus on how to fully reach a comfortable balance of work and play. She says as a body therapist, it’s important to be a living example of what she does.

“If I can’t take care of myself and set my boundaries of when work is and when it isn’t, then who can I really help? No one.”

Omaha Wholistic Spa is located at 506 Black St. (entrance on 6th Ave.) in downtown Whitehorse.

PHOTO: TARA McCARTHY