By Vince Meehan
It’s not unusual for people to travel vast distances in search of the perfect premiere spa experience. Some head south of the border to exotic coastal spots in Mexico or even overseas to Bali or Thailand. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a premiere spa here in the City of San Diego? Well, we do and this secret spot is The Knotstop in Bankers Hill.
Adam Shevel is the CEO of The Knotstop as well as its new offshoot the Yoga Deck. He always had a dream to create a wellness facility of his own. Fifteen years ago, the South African native was immersed in the corporate world of marketing and advertising in Los Angeles and decided to leave that life to start his dream in San Diego. Two years ago, he moved his successful massage studio from Hillcrest to a charismatic craftsman style building on Fourth Avenue in Bankers Hill. But shortly after that, Covid hit and changed our world forever.
The Covid shutdown definitely had a detrimental effect on most businesses in San Diego, with the hospitality industry taking the brunt. Spas were among the many businesses which were not allowed to operate indoors and forced many to lay off staff or close down completely. But like many restaurant owners, Adam found a way to pivot and take advantage of outdoor spaces as a way to continue to operate.
“During Covid, we were kinda forced outside— I thought we were going to lose the business and I had to lay off all my employees; it was a very scary time,” Shevel reflected as he sat in the relaxation area of his new Yoga Deck. “But luckily we had just moved to our new space and had this outside area that we were able to pivot and utilize it during a time when most massage place and spas where closed.”
Shevel basically converted an outdoor parking area located in the back and alongside the building into an extension of his shop. Cabanas were created so that The Knotstop could continue to provide massages for its clientele during the shutdown. It became so popular that Shevel decided to make it a permanent fixture and thus the Yoga Deck was born. Shevel decided to cover the area with a wooden deck and also professionally design the space to create a motif of serene exclusiveness.
“I wanted to create an outdoor spa experience like you find in Bali or Costa Rica,” Shevel explained. “Early on, we went to the park and did some yoga in the park, which was great too, but there’s a lot of other things going on in the park which can act as distractions so I thought ‘What about the space we’re using for massages? Why not create this incredible, cool outdoor yoga space in the middle of the city in San Diego? Especially when there is really nothing like this around?’ That was the genesis of it and as I spoke to more people in the yoga community, everything just kind of seemed to gel together. Everyone told me, ‘Yes! This is great! This is exactly what people are looking for!’”
The outdoor annex has an Indonesian motif which instills a very calm and tranquil vibe to the spa, inviting guests to come in and decompress in the open space. The area is covered, but air is allowed to flow through the spa because there are no walls to the deck. This allows a connection with nature that most spas cannot replicate. Cloth curtains can be drawn if the wind gets a little blustery, but this creates a very natural interaction with the air as the curtains sway with the breeze. One guest gushed at how the clouds floating by and the curtains billowing reminded her of Thailand.
Since he was starting from scratch, Shevel decided to make the extra effort to add hidden details to give his new space extra personality. One hidden gem is a crystal energy grid that is concealed under the new wooden deck that was built above the original concrete out back. This was created by a friend of his who is not only a designer, but also a spiritual healer as well as a tarot reader.
“Rachael created a crystal grid under the deck, so when we were building the deck, she created a whole crystal energy grid that’s under the deck that you don’t see, but its actually there to harness that energy. So we wanted to infuse those little things into the space, so that – even though you don’t see it – it’s there and its special not just like any other yoga studio.”
Shevel has partnered with some of the best teachers in San Diego. He is committed to creating a sense of community where people can not only practice yoga and meditation, but also come together and meet people. “Everyone is craving that right now – that sense of community. We’ve been so isolated for the last two years, that I’ve created a space where people can come back together again.”
What started out as a survival tactic to stay solvent in the midst of a viral pandemic has now evolved into a communal spa that guests can enjoy whenever they want instead of flying off once a year. Shevel loves the idea that it is so accessible by being located right here in the city. It’s been almost a year now since he created his retreat from near ashes of demise brought on by the Covid outbreak, but fate has smiled on his dream and the community has responded with appreciation.
“Ever since then, it’s just kind of taken shape and started off as this simple little deck and grew into this— what you see here today, Shevel said. “We wanted to create a space that could be used year round – that would be outside – and safe for people to come and practice yoga during Covid or any other time. And even besides Covid, having an outdoor space to practice yoga in – that’s what we want here. We’re a city with great weather so why not have a space were people can do this outdoors instead of having to go inside all the time?,” Shevel asked.
Shevel wanted to give his guests the same type of amenities and healing that people usually have to hop aboard a plane to experience. A place to decompress, heal and leave the career life behind for a bit – a place to get away and enjoy good health and serenity. “So we want to create a little of that in the middle of San Diego – in the city. Lets bring that feeling of… a place to rejuvenate and restore, a place to practice yoga and meditation, to do sound baths and do retreats. We have a lot of things we want to create here, and so that’s what we’re gonna do!”
— Vince Meehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org