No, wait, you’re not just relaxed; you’re gloriously, refreshingly relaxed. You feel like you’re floating on a cloud; your muscles are loose as Jell-O; all your tensions, anxiety and fatigue are gone. You feel fresh, vibrant and alive. Where your mind was once frenetically bouncing among appointments, errands and to-do lists, you now feel quiet and clear. You’re ready to face tomorrow with joy, calm and confidence.
How did this miracle of renewal happen? You made a 1-day commitment to personal wellness with an at-home spa experience. “The hardest part of the at-home spa day is just doing it,” says Peggy Wynne Borgman, author of Four Seasons of Inner and Outer Beauty (Broadway Books 2000) and chief executive officer of Preston-Wynne Inc., which operates and manages spas and consults to the spa industry. “Creating time for self-care is hard for both men and women. The problem is that no one is going to make you do it. You have to take responsibility for it yourself. And once you make the decision to do it, you have to really defend it—and make the time sacred.”
Taking time to recharge can be especially difficult for fitness professionals. “For most people, taking time out for exercise is the hardest thing to do for stress management,” notes Borgman. “But fitness professionals are used to pushing themselves physically. For them the challenge is to ease up on the physical activity and take time to nourish themselves in other ways.”
Autumn can be an ideal time for taking a break. “Like the earth, we need to rest in order to rejuvenate. We need to stop and allow life energy to accumulate and build back up,” she says. “Autumn is the beginning of this process of transition that takes us to winter, the season of solitude and reflection. [In fall] we can feel anxious and restless because we want to resist the natural slowing down around us. But by getting in touch with the rhythms of the season, we become happier and healthier and gain a better understanding of our natural healing powers.”
How do you get started? These guidelines will help you create your overall spa day plan:
- Don’t settle for less by just planning to do a skin treatment or throwing in a yoga videotape. For a fully rejuvenating experience, include all four elements of spa living into your day: meditation/relaxation, body care, fitness and healthy nutrition.
- “Shop” around your house for what you need to turn your home into a spa sanctuary: Gather scents and oils, candles, music, favorite healthy foods, a journal, and meditation or inspirational books.
- Don’t just “let it happen.” Plan your day in advance: what you will eat to feel healthy, the activities you will do,
the relaxation or meditations you will include.
- Plan to incorporate nature into your day, whether that means a walk in your favorite park or quiet time in your garden.
- Safeguard your solitude. Turn off phones, televisions, radios and computers.
Your spa day can be as simple or complex, short or long, as you like. (Even a spa half-day is better than none!) Phyllis Pilgrim, Rancho La Puerta’s specialty weeks director and its former fitness director for nearly 20 years, suggests this at-home spa formula for fitness pros:
- Do 20 minutes of light weightlifting followed by 45 minutes of yoga.
- Give yourself a facial using a good-quality face cleanser, placing a cool pack over your eyes and relaxing for 15 minutes.
- Take a long shower with a salt scrub, rubbing your body in light circles with a loofah or washcloth, depending on your skin sensitivity.
- Eat light meals of fruit and juice, fresh salad with a wide variety of vegetables, cottage cheese, cranberries, nuts, sunflower seeds and a light dressing.
- Relax to classical or New Age music and use incense and fresh flowers to enhance the atmosphere.
- Try meditation or reflective activities, such as reading or journaling.
Your spa day should reflect your personal interests and needs. Is there a visualization tape you’ve been meaning to try, a healthy recipe you cut out of a magazine but never got around to making or an emotional issue you would like to reflect on? Why not do it on your spa day? In addition to your own list of ideas, consider incorporating some of the following.
Try this breathing meditation for balance, from Four Seasons of Inner and Outer Beauty. The exercise combines alternate-nostril yoga breathing practice with
aromatherapy. Place a comfortable straight-backed chair outside if possible or next to a window. (Or sit cross-legged on the floor, with a folded towel under your tailbone.) Ideally you should face the sun. Put a drop or two of undiluted lemon and geranium aromatic oils onto a cotton handkerchief. (Lemon has high, light notes that facilitate the flow of mental energy; and geranium has a balanced blend of yin and yang energy.) Hold the handkerchief to your face and take several deep breaths.
Close your eyes, putting your right hand up to your face, thumb beside your right nostril, and two middle fingers beside your left nostril. Press your right nostril gently shut with your thumb, exhaling through your left nostril. Inhale just a little more deeply and slowly than normal, keeping the right nostril closed. Now gently press shut your left nostril using your two middle fingers, and take your thumb away to open your right nostril. Exhale just a bit more slowly than normal. Repeat. Practice for about 4–5 minutes. Then, pick up the handkerchief and take a few more easy breaths of the aromatic essences. Feel the sensation of awakening flowing through your entire body.
The Marshall Plan, spa consultant to many of the world’s leading spas and resorts, suggests these at-home spa meal tips from The Spa Life at Home by Margaret Pierpont and Diane Tegmeyer (Whitecap Books 1997):
Don’t Skip Breakfast. If you’re frantic, do as spa-goers do on their way to an early-morning hike—pack a bag with whole fruits, low-fat cheese, hard-boiled eggs or healthy granola.
Begin Lunch or Dinner by Eating Light Soups. They’ll help fill you up so you won’t overindulge in heavier foods. Also, keep fresh fruit and lots of water within reach throughout the day.
Choose Snacks That Fit Your Cravings. For tension-releasing crunchy foods, select low-fat popcorn or pretzels; for soothing creamy foods, choose yogurt, smoothies or low-fat cheese; for satisfying warm foods, choose oatmeal, steamed veggies or heated vegetable juices.
Eat Mindfully. Stop and think about what you are about to consume; slow down and try not to reach for more food before you’ve finished what’s in your mouth.
Pilgrim recommends giving your mind a spa treatment, too. “An ancient teaching states that if you want to change your life, change your thoughts,” she explains.
Sit for a moment and choose the most compelling issue in your life. Write it down. Then set a strategy to face it positively: List a three-part action plan to take you from where you are now to where you want to be. Set a doable time line (3 months? 6 months?). “It is very important to set your goal and plant it in your mind as an affirmation—then ‘let it go’ to be free of compulsively fretting over the ‘having to have it,’” she explains.
The most important spa thought is that self-care really is about love, says Borgman. “By nourishing yourself, you regain your natural ability to give generously to others. In fact, it is impossible to keep the benefits to yourself.”
There are many hair, face and body treatments, ranging from easy to elaborate, that you can make at home. For example, pineapple contains bromelain, a protein-digestive enzyme that helps rid skin of dead cells and dirt, counteracts histamines, has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a mild astringent. Olive oil also has excellent healing properties and is a good source of vitamin E, which restores the skin’s surface.
Spa Index, a consumer guide to spa information, suggests combining four large pineapple chunks—or half a cup canned, drained pineapple—with 3 tablespoons highest-quality cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil in a blender until almost smooth. Apply the mixture to your face, leave on for 15 minutes, rinse with warm water and pat dry.
There are many hair, face and body treatments, ranging from easy to elabor