Of course, I start with setting the stage. As much as I love candles, I have pyro-philic cats that like to try and knock them over, so I opt for strands of fairy lights around the windowsill, or placed into empty wine bottles (this version looks like a jar full of lightning bugs!) I have a lovely essential diffuser that lights up and adds a touch of elegance; when I can’t use fresh herbs I’ll add some essential oils to my diffuser. I’m a fan of birch or opoponax in the summer months, and mixes of sandalwood, cedarwood, and blue tansy in the winter.
Next, music! I’ve always loved Celtic music, Enya, or Vedic chants for my relaxing downtime. I often listen to kirtan (a form of meditative chanting) when I work in the apothecary, and not getting enough of it there, I bring it with me into my self-care routines. Artists like Ragani, Deva Premal, and Snatam Kaur soothe my body and take my mind to transcendent places. For those who don’t care much for silent, sitting types of meditation, kirtan is a wonderful way to step out of one’s ego with music.
Having set the stage with dimmed lights and fairy bottles, scented the air with fresh herbs or essential oils, and created the vibe with my chosen artist, I then get down to the business of taking care of me. When I studied at Ghoti Ashram in India, my guru told us, “Bring peace to the body, and the mind will be free. Bring peace to the mind, and the spirit will soar.” And this is the intention I try to bring into my self-care routine: I’m taking care of my body because it deserves to be cared for, and so mind and spirit can more easily find liberation in each and every moment.
I love a good bubble bath- Miracle II Neutralizing Soap, or any brand of castile soap usually whips up a good number of bubbles. In the summer months I prefer to take fresh lavender and mint from my garden and put those in the tub in lieu of bubbles. I settle into my warm tub and let the music carry me to wherever I want to go- whether that is a dream for my future, or deep into meditative bliss. Sometimes I choose a charcoal or clay mask to apply prior to the bath, and scrub it off at this point, taking a loofah and giving my skin a good scrubbing.
After the bath, I towel off and sit down on the fluffiest bath mat or towel I can find. In Ayurveda, an oil massage, or abhyanga, is one of purest acts of self-love. In fact, the word for oil, sneha, means “loving kindness”. I take a mixture of herbal oils I've made just for me, warmed in a bottle from the heat of the bath, and starting at my heart, massage the oil into my skin. Making clockwise circles, I move up to my shoulders, mentally observing all that my body is. Her strength, her softness, the absorbency and the colors of my skin. Moving to long stroking motions over my bones I observe freckles, blue veins, and body hair. After massaging my arms and hands, I continue with clockwise motions over the organs in my belly, spending extra time massaging my hips and lower back, which are sources of occasional soreness and pain for me. I stretch my back in all four directions, feeling my vertebrae, noting that they hold me upright, and house the nerves that communicate messages between my body and mind. I do my best massaging the muscles in my back, and taking note of how easy or difficult it is for me to manipulate them. The legs are like the arms- long strokes along the bones, circular motions on the joints. I spend extra time on my feet, since I am so frequently on them. I don’t use much oil, just a thin film that easily sinks into my body. Oil massage is traditionally done in the morning, before a shower, but I prefer to do mine at night, after my shower. It’s an exquisite way to come down from the day, to center your mind in your body, to stimulate circulation, and to be at one with the present moment just before retiring for the day.
And with that, I’ve given myself a transcendental spa treatment without leaving the home.
Rachel | Lead Herbalist