Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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Not everyone is a fan of spas or they can't afford to go to one, but most would agree that spas have a special way of transporting you and relaxing your body, soul and senses.
My love affair with spas began 30 years ago. About one month after completing grueling chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, my then-boss surprised me with a party and a gift certificate for a day of beauty at the famed Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa.
I entered through the big red door—a sign of welcome and sanctuary—and instantly felt transformed. This was the perfect medicine: the calmness and equilibrium I so desperately craved after my recent upheaval and ordeal. Subsequently, I was indulged and pampered. And hooked.
Coincidentally, I'm celebrating my 30-year cancer-versary this month and am kicking off my celebration with a massage in the same spot where my love affair began. I'm looking forward to the massage I won in a raffle (I never win anything, ever!) from LiveLoveSpa during its event honoring Wellness Month this past August.
Although we can't all get to a spa, there are things we can do at home to create the spa experience and transform our own personal space into a sanctuary. Some of these are as easy as dimming the lights, lighting some candles, drawing up a bath made more special with fragrant oils or Epsom salts and playing soft, calming music. Or it can be as simple as changing out your showerhead. Others may require a bit more effort, but your senses, mind and body will be so grateful for the effort—trust me.
Some top spas around the country share their secrets below. Keep reading to learn about some of my favorite product recommendations that never fail to transport me.
The Lodge at Woodloch. This luxury resort in the heart of the Pocono Mountains is the recipient of too many awards to list, including a 2018 Top 10 Domestic Spas award from Travel & Leisure's Readers' Choice Awards and a Traveler's Choice Award by TripAdvisor. Amanda Clabaugh, its treatments manager, shares this simple yet effective fall-inspired recipe.
Hydrating Facial Pumpkin Mask
2 tablespoons cooked or canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon chia seeds
½ teaspoon coconut milk
Mix all ingredients together and place in the refrigerator for 1 day. Apply to skin and leave on for 10-15 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
If you have some leftover candy canes, here's a way to put them to good use: crush them up and treat your feet (now, that's a good way to feed your sole!).
Candy Cane Foot Scrub
¼ cup grape seed oil
1 cup raw sugar
5 drops peppermint essential oil or 2 drops peppermint extract
½ candy cane, run through food processor until very fine
Blend all ingredients and gently rub over feet. This cooling foot scrub will soothe tired feet while leaving you feeling invigorated!
Blu Spas, a spa design company that has created over 400 projects in 38 countries—from the Four Seasons to the Waldorf Astoria—shares some secrets for creating your at-home sensory sanctuary:
Bring nature inside with hydroponic, vertical-grow garden towers, which can not only add color to your space but be a ready source of fresh produce.
Create a tech-free space, ideally in a shady corner of the yard, terrace or balcony—or inside with ample light. Frame the outdoor area with potted herbs, succulents and fragrant plants. Indoors, set down a soft rug or carpet so you can go barefoot or sit on the floor.
Consider using natural candles (beeswax is ideal) or aromatherapy essential oil diffusers.
Lake Austin Spa Resort, an all-inclusive luxury resort tucked away in Texas hill country, is a destination I hope to visit one day. I've heard nothing but raves about its services, programs and food. Chef Stephane Beaucamp helps you channel your inner chef with an easy, healthful salad dressing recipe.
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes about 1½ cups
¼ cup Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons light agave syrup
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 cup grapeseed oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Combine the lemon juice, agave syrup and vinegar in a blender and puree until smooth. With the blender running, add the grapeseed oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture is emulsified. Add the salt and pulse to blend.
1 Tablespoon of Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
80 calories | 8g fat | 3g carb | 0g protein | df | gf
Maggy Dunphy from Loma de Vida Spa at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, likes to end her day with her two Himalayan salt stones, which she rubs with pure lavender and places in her hands before lying down to rest.
Breathing is something we all do—but we all don't do it mindfully. The Four Seasons Lanai offers this simple breathing technique used by yogis, which activates the "relaxation response." You can do it anywhere, anytime, and in just three minutes it can chill you out.
Sit comfortably on a chair (at home or at work at your desk, for example) or sit on the floor in an easy pose (cross-legged).
Relax your shoulders, close your eyes and take a deep, full breath through your nose. Exhale out any distractions.
Bring your right thumb up (as if you are giving the "thumbs up" sign) and close off your right nostril.
Take a slow, deep inhale through your left nostril and send the breath down to your lower abdomen, allowing the belly to expand and the chest to rise. Exhale slowly and completely, pressing in gently at the navel center. Continue for 1-3 minutes (or up to 11 minutes). Allow your facial muscles to relax, and pay attention to what it feels like.
To end, inhale fully, hold the breath for 10 seconds, then exhale. Make sure you take a moment to feel the difference you've made in your body.
If you're finding it difficult to breathe through your left nostril, feel free to adjust your hand accordingly. Get creative—the whole idea is to breathe deeply, fully and calmly.
Onward to some of my (very favorite) product picks:
Surrounding your space with soothing fragrance is easy with this aromatherapy diffuser from The Pure Company that will quietly fill the air with a fine mist of essential oil. And don't worry if you nod off while it's running (one of the pleasant hazards of being relaxed): you can set it for two, four or six hours. It even comes equipped with a soft, white LED light to further put you in the mood for … whatever suits your fancy.
You know how when you come out of the shower at a spa, you smell so, so clean and fresh? Dr Teal's Body Wash has relaxing eucalyptus and spearmint to help restore your tired body, plus aloe vera, shea butter and vitamin E to nourish your skin.
Comphy sheets were developed for spas and are now available for home use. And I'm so happy I discovered them! They make crawling into bed at the end of the day even more special. I melt right into these silky-soft sheets and feel like I'm back at the spa. A girl can dream, can't she?
Did you know Ugg made bathrobes? Neither did I until my husband surprised me with this one (Happy Chanukah, honey!). It's soft and warm and makes my body feel pampered every time I wear it. I wouldn't be surprised if some spas don't already offer these to their clients as part of the experience.
Wahl wants everyone to be able to have a massage whenever they desire. And they make it possible with their extensive line of massage at-home multifunction massagers. Create your own spa-like experience and take matters into your own hands to soothe those pesky aches and pains that plague you. And say ahhhhhh.
If you can't get to a spa, you can read about one—or 200 of them, to be exact. Lonely Planet's new book, Wellness Escapes, can take you on journeys to some of the world's most inspiring and relaxing wellness retreats. Who knew there were ancient thermal baths right in New York City?
Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, which means I may earn a small fee for links from this blog. I only recommend products I personally have tried or like. You never incur an extra cost by clicking and purchasing.
This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.