How to Create an At-Home Spa
January 29, 2021 • 7 min read
With most of us spending much more time at home these days, our regular visits to spas, massage clinics and wellness spaces have drastically reduced. Paradoxically, self-care couldn’t be more important, especially at a time like this, when anxiety and emotions are running high. The benefits delivered by wellness rituals go far deeper than just the surface, helping bring our bodies, emotions, and spirits into alignment. So, how do we transform our everyday spaces and routines into inviting atmospheres that promote feelings of well-being, therapy, and tranquility?
Taking a peek into the ancient world, we can draw upon practices of well-being that were holistically beneficial, aiding the body in its restoration. Many of these rituals are still practiced today, revered for their potency, as well as their roots in natural healing.
I would like to note though, that there is a difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation, and ensuring we’re always conducting ourselves in behaviour that is celebratory and understanding of traditional practices versus exploitive and harmful is important and necessary.
With that in mind, here’s how to create an at-home spa.
Hammam or Steam Room
Hammam means “bathroom” in Arabic, or “bathing room” in Turkish. These steamy enclosures have been popular in the Arab world since the 14th century, characterized by their vaulted ceilings, ornate stonework and lavishness. The steam helps loosen up tight and tense muscles, as well as opening up pores and activating blood circulation. With visits to the hammam a common practice amongst locals and tourists alike, the benefits of a full body steam are hard to ignore.
To Create Your Own Hammam-Inspired Atmosphere:
The most essential step is the hot water. In order to successfully create steam in your bathroom, you’ll need to run a very hot bath or shower. Wrap yourself in a Turkish towel (or peshtemal as they’re traditionally called) and immerse yourself in the steam. 10 minutes of immersion is enough to get your body and muscles relaxed, and to open up the pores on your skin.
Next, you’ll want to exfoliate your skin with either a glove or grainy soap/cleanser. You can apply a body mask as well to help purify and detoxify your skin (and hair!). Once you rinse the mask off, moisturize your body with argan oil. Your skin will feel incredibly soft and smooth, just like a real visit to the hammams of Turkey or Morocco!
The reason a peshtemal is used in hammams is because of its quick drying properties and its light weight, making it the perfect towel to dry the body after bathing. In the 17th century, royals and courtiers requested weavers to create peshtemals with more ornate designs. The design and colours woven into the towel often indicated which region the people were from, and this tradition continues today. The peshtemal is not just functional and cute, it’s also a longstanding element of Turkish culture and history.
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Abhyanga or Self Massage
Abhyanga is a traditional self-care practice in Indian Ayurvedic wellness that translates to “self-massage”. While Ayurveda is becoming widely popular in the west, the fundamentals are drawn from sacred Hindu spiritual scriptures (the Vedas) that date back 5,000 years.
Anointing ourselves with warm oil from head to toe is not just relaxing – this practice is deeply rooted in self-love, helping to balance our doshas, while enhancing our well-being and inner equilibrium. Abhyanga promotes profound feelings of stability and warmth, grounding us into our beings and helping provide that deep inward restoration that a good massage can bring forth. Known to calm the nerves, improve sleep and increase circulation, Abhyanga is the perfect self-care practice to invite in balance and energy.
To Give Yourself a Massage:
First start by warming your oil (you can do this over the stove), making sure to test the temperature by putting a drop on your inner wrist. The oil should be warm, and not hot. Then start by applying the oil first to the crown of your head, working slowly out from there in firm, circular strokes. Making sure to spend a few minutes on your scalp will not only instantly relax you, it will activate points of concentrated vital energy, as well as promote healthy hair growth. Next, move downwards to your face (using circular strokes) and onto your limbs where you will massage your body in long strokes, always in the direction of your heart. Next, use broad, clockwise motions for your abdomen and chest. You can finish off by concentrating on your feet. The feet are a very important part of the body with many nerve endings for our essential organs.
Let yourself sit with the oil for 10-15 minutes so that it can penetrate deeper. Sipping a warming cup of chai or herbal tea will really elevate this mindful practice. Shower off in warm water and wrap yourself in a towel, drying gently and making sure to blot instead of rub.
Finding the perfect blend that captures the healing qualities of Ayurveda, alongside the scent profiles associated with India, Sahajan Skincare’s Ritual Body Oil hits the mark, spot on. With a deep fragrance based in sandalwood, this oil is wellness, self-care and luxury rolled into one.
Using traditionally Indian oils such as coconut oil, almond oil and sesame oil, this blend will transport you to the lush, breezy backwaters of Kerala, the birthplace of Ayurvedic wellness.
Sahajan is the only Ayurvedic brand proven with clinical results, effortlessly blending ancient teachings to fit within our modern lifestyles. All products are natural, organic, cruelty-free, eco-friendly, and local (made in Canada).
The beautiful glass bottles are recyclable, and all ingredients across all their products are devoid of harsh chemicals.
Needing no introduction, the practice of using mud and clay for facial masks has become common in ritualistic skincare here in the west. Originally attributed to the Egyptian Queen herself, Cleopatra has long been revered for her extravagant beauty regimes, where she often applied a dead sea mud mask twice a week to cleanse her skin. Ingredients like clay, rose and honey have become synonymous with her legendary pharaonic beauty. The benefits of clay are plentiful, often used to soothe skin, promote healing and detoxify the epidermis. Formed from the earth, each clay’s bioavailability is comprised of a unique composition transformed by geography and environmental elements over time.
To Give Yourself a Clay Mask Facial:
With spa menus offering up luxurious treatments such as mud wraps and dead sea facials, bringing that elevated experience into your at-home spa couldn’t be easier. Start by gently steaming your face over a bowl of hot water (feel free to drop in some dried lavender buds, rose petals or chamomile florets). Gently pat dry your face and mix your clay mask with a bit of honey or water. Apply the mask and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Gently wash off the mask and follow up with hydrating rose toner or a light facial oil for that post-spa glow up.
This collection of soothing clay masks is rooted in ancient historical beauty rituals, seamlessly blending slow, age-old skincare within a modern dialogue. Eluo digs deep into the earth to bring us clays that naturally refresh and restore.
Devoid of harsh chemicals, preservatives and synthetic exfoliators, these masks are purely clay-based with natural ingredients and essential oils. Better for our skin and for our earth, you don’t have to stress about washing this mask off and letting it go down the drain, as the natural ingredients are not harmful to our waterways, compared to other chemically-formulated masks.
Eluo masks come in paper boxes and beautiful glass vials, reminiscent of earthenware urns that were common in ancient Egypt.
Learn more about the benefits of clay for skincare here.
Taking a page from the heavily gilded book of the infamous Marie Antoinette, this more recent bathing ritual parallels the ones we’ve grown accustomed to in modern times. Known for her extravagant bathing rituals, Marie Antoinette was believed to have bathed very regularly, an uncommon practice in her era. She loved to add things to her bath – one of her favourite blends was thyme, marjoram and coarse salts. She also often dropped in perfume, a fragrant blend of white florals, sweet almond, pine nuts, marshmallow root and lily bulb.
To Create Your Own Bath Blend:
Identify herbs and florals that speak to you, that calm you, and that you feel a pull towards. You can mimic the French queen’s bath time blend or experiment with your own. Lavender is wonderfully calming, oats are perfect for soothing itchy and dry skin, citrus is uplifting, salts and ginger work wonders for detoxing, magnesium flakes are effective for sore muscles and better sleep, rose petals are anti-inflammatory, and green tea is a powerful antioxidant. Be sure to place herbs and any material that might cause clogs in a soft muslin bag.
Other Notable Ideas:
Hang eucalyptus from your shower head or place orange peels on the shower floor. The healing vapours from plants are not only incredibly invigorating, they provide benefits that balance and calm our inner realms.
Romans were communal bathers and often had reading rooms and even stages for performances adjacent to their baths. If you can’t find a partner to take a dip with or if you prefer solitary soaks, channel your inner ancient Roman and bring the performance in – Netflix and chill?
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