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Focus on Health
by Teri Brickey
Beltane 2003, Vol 2-3
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MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Magazine for Goddess Women Near & Far
The Bath
Alfred Stevens, 1867, courtesy of CGFA
The "Day Spa"

When most of us think of a day spa, we think of a luxury available mainly to the rich and famous. The original concept, however, was of a place where anyone could go to help maintain their health.

In ancient Rome, the public baths were places to cleanse oneself and soak in beneficial mineral waters. Cleopatra (and many of her followers) soaked in milk baths to preserve the integrity of the skin, the body's first line of defense against disease. While the commercial day spas often outwardly espouse the notion, many of them place more importance on appearance than on actual health. The services, though, when done for health-enhancement, can often have terrific results.

In previous articles, we have learned about the therapeutic bath and using essential oils for health. While these concepts are often part of the spa experience, there are many others that can help bring the body into a state of health. Incorporate them if you want.

In celebrating May Eve (Beltane) we rejoice in our sensuality. Our concept of health must include the ability to enjoy physical pleasure, and many of the "treatments" offered at a day spa can do just that. But you don't have to pay $60 to $100 a treatment, you can do many of them at home for a fraction of the cost. Invite your friends over and make it a party to welcome the sensual energy that abounds at this time of year!

Salt Glow
Salt is cleansing to the skin, as well as the lymphatic system. It is also reported to eliminate residual radiation that we absorb from things like computer screens, x-ray machines and TVs and also chemical exposure from UV rays, cleaning products and other household chemicals.

To prepare a salt glow: Get a bowl (cereal bowl-size -- ceramic or earthenware would be best, but if you're concerned about breaking it, plastic will work). Fill it about halfway with salt (table salt or sea salt, whichever you prefer). Add in a cold-pressed oil (olive oil may be the only one in your house, but you can buy many at natural foods stores. Other cooking oils will not give you the skin benefits, since most of the nutritive properties are removed in the processing.) Mix with your fingers and keep adding oil until the salt feels as if it is dissolving into the oil. This is a little past the paste stage.

If you have a friend helping, stand in the shower or lie down on a comfortable surface (some of the salt mix will drop, however, so make sure you cover the surface to protect it). Start at your feet and work your way up the leg, spreading and massaging the salt mix into the skin. It will feel a little scratchy (that's the salt), but the oil will help make the skin soft and smooth. Then go to the hands and work toward the torso. Spend a little extra time massaging any rough patches. On the torso, the direction does not matter overly, except that the abdomen should always be done in clockwise circles.

Once the whole body has been covered (skip the face, as the oil would be too heavy), shower off the salt. Be careful if you're walking into the shower room, your feet will be slippery. If you're worried about slipping in the shower, rinse off in the bath and wash your feet with soap before you get out. After rinsing, turn off the water and rub the oil into your skin. If you feel greasy, go ahead and soap some of it off (soap combines with the oil to remove it from your skin). Take some time to enjoy your soft skin -- all over!

Massage
There are a lot of great massage books and videos out there, but the basics are pretty simple. Use an oil or cream designed for massage. Regular hand lotion will absorb into the skin and not give you the "glide" of a massage product. You can experiment with different scents or textures, but the simplest one that you probably have in your house is (again) olive oil. It takes very little oil to create the "glide" effect.

Always warm the lubricant in your hand before you apply it. To apply, use long gliding strokes toward the heart (don't worry about direction on the back though, just do what feels good). If you don't have a massage table, you may think this will be hard for you. It doesn't have to be. You can massage from your knees, either on a bed or the floor, or have the person sit on a chair backwards, resting their head and arms on a table. The key is to use your body to make the motions, not your arms and hands. Hands are simply the contact points, not the main focus of the stroke.

Feel for bony landmarks and work around them. Let your hands be your guides. Ask for lots of feedback about what level of pressure feels good, where muscle tension is, etc. The key to giving (and getting!) a good massage is communication. No two people like exactly the same massage.

The hands, feet and head are the keys to helping your "client" to relax. The hands and feet can usually take a large portion of your body weight in a gliding stroke, but they also may like some kneading. Just like kneading bread dough, use your whole hand as much as possible. On single fingers or toes you may want to use just one finger and the thumb. Again, ask for feedback. What feels good to you is probably not the same thing that feels good to them. They may like deep foot work, or very light. Experiment, and when you find something they like, do it for several strokes.

The head is also a place where relaxation can be found, but feelings about this vary. Some people like a deep scalp massage, some prefer a light fingertip massage. Make sure to do the face too, although pressure should be lighter than what you've been using on the rest of the body. If you've just done the feet, you may want to wash your hands before massaging the face, but don't completely leave it out. Lots of tension can be found there. End your session with light fingertip strokes all over the body to wake up the nerve endings and give an uplifting feeling. And make sure you drink plenty of water after these treatments!

In good health!

Disclaimer: the information in this article should not be used as a substitute for competent medical attention. No guarantee of safety or usefulness is implied.

Teri Brickey is a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Missouri and teaches massage at Allied Medical College. She is also trained in aromatherapy, shiatsu, chi nei tsang, pregnancy, infant and labor massage. If you have any suggestions for future topics, or questions about this or any other article, email her at Tbrickey@juno.com. Inquiries always welcome!

Graphics Credits (OLD)
+ The Bath, Alfred Stevens, 1867, courtesy of CGFA.

Contributors retain the copyright to their work; please do not take art or words without permission. All other graphics and reference materials are used and attributed as per the Fair Use Provision of The Copyright Act and individual terms of use.
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