Sensible Vices Round 3: Personal Day Spa

SpaThe decorations are down (or you’ve thought about it). The good china, big platters and gravy boats have found their way back to their usual cupboard spaces. The boxes are collapsed and in the recycling bins. Relatives have come and gone. Everyone in the family is finally getting back to their normal sleep schedules. The holidays have come and gone, and we find ourselves in the cold and relative seclusion of January. Many an author has talked about winter as a time to shore up, dig in, and hunker down. After the month long swirl of festivities, that doesn’t sound all bad, eh?

Just because we’re back to our normal routines, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy something of the post-holiday winter season. It’s not just time to get “back on track.” Use the time for some good – some indulgence (of the healthy kind). The reality check of January and the new year’s relatively ascetic promises can make the month seem like a harsh one. (And maybe that’s why so many people quickly decide that their hard-faced resolutions are too much.)

Imagine instead a time of rest, restoration, and renewal. It’s a chance to make your new year’s commitment to health enjoyable and rejuvenating. You have this, our personal prescription: consider mid-winter an unapologetic time for self-care and individual indulgence. (Hey, we’re all about a genuine and generous definition of wellness. We primal types don’t live by meat alone, you know.)

And as much as any of us love professional spa services, the fact is it gets awfully pricey. But at the same time, why should we be limited to the mere occasional luxury of spa-worthy treatments? We’ve all heard of the “home gym.” (And some of us actually have such a thing in our houses or apartments.) Hmmm… They’re onto something here, we say. Let’s for a moment explore the possibility of a home spa.

The Basics

First off: we’re not talking about smelly lotions and manicures. (Those might have their place in your personal vision, and that’s fine.) However, what we’re interested in is the therapeutic side of spa self-care: the gentle detoxification, the enhanced circulation, that consummate relaxation. These, we think, are – or should be – universal healthy pleasures. Equal opportunity indulgence.

A home spa doesn’t have to cost a lot, and you don’t have to have a bunch of gadgets or tools. First and foremost it’s about giving yourself the time to truly unwind. (Trust us: you deserve a better break than a night of bad T.V.) For some of us, it’s also about tuning out the rest of the world and allowing yourself to fully appreciate the alone time.

Grab your robe, brew some tea, and tell the fam that you are officially unreachable for the evening. Some ideas for your “at-home escape” (most with little to no cost):

Facial Steam and Massage


Add chamomile, rose petals or lavender to a large pot of lightly boiling water. Turn off heat and allow bubbling to stop. Put a towel over your head to allow the steam to collect around your face (as close to the pot as is comfortable), and inhale the vapors. Massage each area of the face with a circular motion and let tension melt away.

Body Scrub and Warm Bath

Bath Salts

While a regular hot bath or shower can dry out your skin, the occasional warm soak won’t hurt. And take advantage of the chance to actually replenish skin by adding essential oils of your choosing to the tub rather than a harsh bubble bath detergent. For added invigoration (and a nice spa-like glow), use a mild body scrub. You can make your own with ingredients like sea salt, aloe, and natural oils.  Cleanse and kick back….

Dry Brush and Herbal Steam Shower

Shower Brushes

The Scandinavians have the spa down to a science. One of the things they include? Dry brushing of the skin. Not only can it gently exfoliate, dry brushing increases circulation to the skin and aids the release of toxins. Use a linen mitt or natural bristle brush designed for the skin. Then enjoy a steamy shower to further induce toxin (and tension) release. (Actual time in the water itself can be minimal. What you’re looking for really is the moist, warm air.)

Hot Towel Wrap

Bath Robes

Great after another treatment or just by itself. Towels should be very warm and very damp but not fully wet. Wrap your head, neck, hands, or feet for as long as the cloths stay comfortable. Add cucumbers slices to the eyes for the full spa look. (It will keep the kids away for a while longer.)

Foot Bath

Foot Bath

It can be as simple as some good bath salts and warm water in a large roasting pan or as high-tech as the latest bubbling foot bath from the likes of Hammacher Schlemmer. Every wonder why a simple foot massage makes you feel almost as good as a full-body rub-down? Trigger points, baby. (The feet are so unappreciated….) A little pampering = big relaxation points.

Scalp Massage

Scalp Massage

The head is full of trigger points, and many of us feel our tension there first. Whether you switch the shower head to a pleasant pulsing action or try out one of those intriguing wire scalp massage instruments, we think the day’s troubles will suddenly seem a million miles away. Add a steam facial and neck massage (next idea), and you’ll be in a happy place.

Assisted Massage


Enlist the help of a partner, massage mat or thumper massager for this one. While a warm bath or hot towel wrap can help you unwind, some deep tissue action can loosen up those special spots where you carry most of your tension (neck, lower back, shoulders, etc.).

Meditation Time

Meditate in Bath

It’s one of those Primal regions you have yet to traverse. You’ve been meaning to try it, but it just keeps getting relegated to the backburner. Extend your evening of self-indulgence by setting aside some time for a (CD) guided visualization session or other meditation practice you’ve been eyeing. If you’re already in a relaxed, centered mood, you’ll be more open to the experience – and the benefits.

Restorative Yoga/Tai Chi/Gentle Stretching


In place of (or in addition to) some meditative time, take your relaxation one step further by adding a gentle session of restorative (supported) yoga poses, Tai Chi, or simple stretches. The idea isn’t to get in a workout. Just do enough to more fully loosen your already relaxed muscles (and mind). You’ll come away more balanced than you’ve felt in months (or years!).

Imagining More Extravagant Possibilities…


And then there are those indulgent “investments” – extravagant home spa ideas pricey but enticing enough to make anyone dream. (Even the thought can be enough to let you sink deeper into your chair.) Think the kneading power jets of a Jacuzzi (even a small one to replace your bathroom tub). How about the soothing steam of a personal sauna to take off the winter chill? It’s a big chunk of change, no doubt, but if/when you ever find yourself flush enough, we highly recommend the indulgence. (Good money could be spent on much worse.) Or just find friends who will let you use theirs!

Ready for some post-holiday de-stress? Have your own restorative winter rituals to share? Send us your thoughts (and salt scrub recipes)!

Niharb, LilyBaySoap,, merfam, flipg, myyogaonline, Suviko, surfzone Flickr Photos

Further Reading:

Post Holiday Recovery

Compassion Meditation

Cold Water Therapy

Tips for Getting the Best Massage

Sensible Vices Round 1, Round 2

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