Picture yourself slipping into a deliciously warm bath with candles flickering and soft music massaging your mind into peaceful submission. While aromatherapy oils and floating flower petals sooth your mood, a thick body mask enriches your outer layer. Sound like an exotic spa, suited for a goddess? Indeed, the goddess in every woman—this spa is found at home.While it may not rival the calming effects of a full day of professional pampering, household spas are the perfect retreat because they can be enjoyed on a minute’s notice, on a reasonable budget and on occasion, as a romantic event for two.
The key is to create the full spa experience. “The essence of spa is appealing to the five senses,” says Kathryn Stolle, president of B.C.-based SLK Total Spa Concepts. Your at-home retreat should be no different. Here are twelve tips to do it yourself.
Finding the right music is an essential part of setting the mood. It helps to focus on the present and drift away from outside pressures. The music you select should be something soft and mellow that lets your mind drift away. If you don’t have a suitable CD, keep an ear to the ground. Next time you are out and hear something you like, inquire. Or experiment with classical, nature, or white noise compilations.
Remove the distractions
There is nothing like a blingin’ cell phone, beeping fax, or buzzing washer and dryer to ruin a restful moment. Before you slip into soapy submission, be sure to unhook, unplug and block out all distractions. If your house is too busy to put on hold, ask someone else to take messages.
Set the mood
Soft lighting makes even the most cluttered bathroom restful—candles are one of the easiest and most dramatic ways to create the desired mood. For feng shui harmonizing effects, Stolle suggests adding a plant to the room.
Tea for one
“I recommend bringing in a hot cup of something,” says Kailee Kline, founding president of the Premier Spas of Ontario association, and owner of the HealthWinds spa in Toronto. “Herbal tea, lemon water, perhaps a spritzer—something festive,” she says. “Or a glass of your favourite red wine—perhaps a champagne!” says Stolle. Whatever you sip on, make sure to give your taste buds a treat.
“Nothing heals as quickly as a bath,” says Kline, “The water should be warm, but not hot and steamy,” she says. “You should be able to climb in foot by foot, not toe by toe. Once you are in, lay back with a towel behind your head for 15-20 minutes and let your mind drift away.”
Follow your nose
“All aromas have the ability to transform a moment,” says Jacqui MacNeill, founding president of Vancouver-based Escents Aromatherapy. “The brain responds to fragrances by releasing endorphins that make you feel calm and relaxed.” Best of all, it’s practically instant. When scent-shopping, remember that not all aromatherapy products are equal. To reap the ultimate holistic benefits, be sure your products are made with 100 per cent real essential oils distilled from a plant’s leaves, stems, flowers, bark and roots.”Different scents are great for different purposes,” says MacNeill. For relaxation, she recommends: lavender, neroli, roseweed, rose, and orange. For rejuvenation: lemon, rosemary, grapefruit, patchouli. For renewal: lime, eucalyptus, and basil. And for their calming and balancing properties: geranium, ylang-ylang, marjoram, frankincense and clary sage.
It would be wonderful if you could hop on a plane to Budapest—the spa capital of the world—every time you want to cover yourself in hot spring mud. But you can reap all the benefits of Danube-side soil in your own tub—even with Canadian dirt. There are many mud bath products available for take-home use. Extracted from bogs, the mud is said to exfoliate, detoxify, relieve aching muscles, and restore skin to its natural glory.
Bath salts or salt scrubs made with either sea or mineral salts are wonderful for their detoxifying properties. Greek, Roman, and other European cultures have long-believed in the benefits of balneotherapy, healing through bathing in hot springs. And while you can’t bring the hot springs indoors, standard epsom salts, used liberally, are great for reducing swelling of inflamed muscles and helping the body heal.
Equally relaxing and entertaining are sweet-smelling, fast-dissolving bath bombs. Like an out of control chemistry experiment, bath bombs fizzle and bubble while you soak. Some contain flower petals; others will tint your water. All will tickle your skin and release a fragrance infusion—wonderful for special occasions.
Fall into a cloud
To avoid the chill of the after-bath air, find your fluffiest, softest towel and robe—if you don’t have one, buy one. “Lovely, big bath sheets really create the effect of luxury,” says Stolle. Heat your downy cloths in the dryer for an unmatched toasty treat.
“Remember that water from the bath also has a drying affect on your skin,” says Kline. “So you should always moisturize afterwards.” To make the most out of your skin replenishment, keep a special moisturizer for spa days—one with an aroma that leaves you feeling fresh and replenished. “Use body butter for very dry skin, or a body whip for a lighter effect,” says MacNeill.
Your new commitment: The royal treatment
“I advocate an at-home spa treatment at least once a week,” says Kline. “At a minimum, twice a month. You have to commit to making this time for yourself,” she says. “If you can’t make 20 minutes for yourself twice a month, it is time to reevaluate.” And when you do take the time out to pamper, go the full nine yards, from head to toe, because you’re worth it.
Spa for two
There is nothing more sensual and relaxing than pampering with your partner. You can convert your home into a soothing, low-light oasis, scrub all the hard to reach places and massage each other’s aching muscles.
Here are four tips for your next bathroom rendezvous:
Make it a date
Set a day in advance, and shop for your products together—building the anticipation. If you have time, make a full day out of it and follow-up with your favourite meal and a movie at home. If he’s reluctant and finds the idea très fem, show him the array of masculine and unisex products on the market, geared towards his rough and manly shell. Better yet, introduce the idea while giving him a back-rub.
Rub a dub
Start with a foot massage and work your way up. Reflexologists have long known that there are reflexes, or nerve endings, in the hands and feet that correspond to all the body’s organs and systems. “Or, attend a couples’ massage course or go to your local spa,” says Stolle. “Getting some simple techniques down allows you to take care of each other,” she says. To find courses, view instructional videos and more, visit Sutherland Massage Productions.
The smell of passion
Find scented products that both of you will enjoy. For sensual aromatherapy benefits, MacNeill recommends: patchouli, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, peru balsam and black pepper.
Dreams are made of this
Follow-up with a nap. After the steam has settled and the bubbles have disappeared, it’s nice to savour the moment and enjoy each other’s warmth. Make sure you have nowhere to rush off to. Do as the Spanish do, and duck away for a little siesta.