Monday, August 23, 2010

Healing by Touch- What Massages Can Do For You

For part 2 of my mini-day spa series, I'd like to talk about the benefits and healing power of massage. Since I am not a trained massage therapist, I thought I'd ask a professional :) Laura Ellen is an amazing massage therapist and I asked her for a little insight regarding the health benefits of massage, and here is her lovely exposé on what massages can do for you!!

I wrote massage is for everyone as a working title but that’s not really true. Some people flat out do not like being touched and for them, it’s ok, you don’t have to get massaged and if you don’t want to be talked into it that’s fine. For the rest of us . . . oh my how we love a good massage.

Massage is beneficial on so many levels. Let’s start with the physical aspects. Massage keeps your blood flowing and helps to keep your muscles supple. This boosts your immune system. Less actual sick days at work, more “calling in sick” on good powder days in the winter and sunny bike riding days in the summer. Why waste a good sick day on being sick? Get massaged monthly. Massage can make your work outs more effective because your muscles are staying flexible and stretched. Less pain during work outs, more flexibility, and less recovery time from really pushing it. It’s no secret that if you have tight muscles getting a massage is a fantastic way to get them released and happy again. Massage releases toxins and lactic acid from your system. This helps keep your skin in good condition and your face will glow. The oil and lotion used during massage keeps your skin moisturized.

Massage also stimulates the brain. Children who were massaged as infants show greater mental acuity as they age, they have a much closer bond with their parents, make friends easily, and they are able to form and keep happy relationships.

Massage can be just flat out relaxing and pampering. Not every massage has to be after running a marathon or completing an iron man. Massage feels good and you should treat yourself. Be sure you’re treating yourself well in life and keeping you happy so that you can, in turn, be happy with others.

Massage can be particularly beneficial for those who have body image issues, especially if there is some sort of malady involved. Women who have suffered a mastectomy, people with scars, missing limbs and digits. All of these people need to feel that they are still beautiful, inside and out. There is no greater way of letting them feel this than by literally touching them so they know they are not being judged.

Check out Laura Ellen's own witty and insightful blog "The Republic of Laura" at

My Own Reflection
My first massage was a not so great experience. I had received a gift card for my birthday one year for a massage at a small, non-Aveda spa in Littleton, Colorado, and it was a painful 50 minutes. The therapist didn't listen to my requests for pressure changes and I walked away feeling sore, uncomfortable (both physically and emotionally), and worst of all, confused about why anyone would want to be massaged in the first place. It wasn't until I had the first great massage of my life (at Tall Grass during the summer of 2008) that I realized how healing massages can be if performed correctly.

As Laura Ellen started off her post, not everyone likes to be touched, and at the end of high school and beginning of college, this was me. During a massage, I can feel a deep connection between my emotions and my body, and at one point in my life, I was too afraid and uncomfortable to be touched by anyone. During that first massage at Tall Grass, I flinched the first few times I felt the hands of the therapist on my skin, but soon her gentle strokes and soothing words eased me into a state of relaxation I had not previously felt. The disconnect between my body and emotions started to disappear, and I just felt...okay. Every massage I've had since then has made me feel more comfortable in my own skin, and leaves me walking away feeling a little happier with myself.

Communicating with the service provider giving your massage is crucial. The more feedback you give them about pressure and areas that need more work, the better you will feel. As a type-A, tightly wound stress case, it takes me a while before I can relax into my massage; but once I do, it's almost a transformative experience. My intention is not to make it sound as if massages transport me into some other realm where all I see is stars and swirls and love, because that just doesn't really sound credible. However, there is a sense of peace and self-love that I feel during a massage that I just don't feel anywhere else. It's hard to articulate the exact sentiments that I feel, but all I can say is that a massage heals my heart and soul as much as it does my body. With all the stress in this world, it's rejuvenating to take a step inwards and get lost in yourself. For me, this is what a massage does.

If you haven't tried a massage before, I highly recommend one! Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Some colleges offer massages to students as part of various events or ongoing stress buster activities (I've found that often times these occur in conjunction with eating disorder awareness or a body image event).
2. See if there are any spas or massage therapy offices near your school (sometimes they offer a student discount and massage therapy students might need someone to practice on!)
3. If you really want a healing experience, find a spa that is secluded (i.e. mountains, beach, etc)- the focus is taken off of the hustle and bustle of city and college life and placed on YOU
4. It sounds obvious, but spa gift cards are easy holiday/birthday gifts! Save them up and treat yourself to a day at the spa

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wonders of a Spa Day/Hair Salon Tips

Part of the serenity on your way to Tall Grass Aveda Spa and Salon in Evergreen, CO
(source: picture from TallGrass Aveda Spa and Salon Facebook page

I have to say that there is nothing quite like a day at the spa. Being greeted at the door, changing into a comfortable, plush robe, and then being pampered by wonderful service providers who want you to feel like a queen for a day...who doesn't want just want to live at a spa?

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune of being able to treat myself to a day at the most wonderful spa in Colorado and one of the best spas in the country. Tall Grass Spa and Salon quietly sits up in Evergreen and is surrounded by enchanting mountain scenery. On my drive up into the mountains I was greeted by deer, gracefully wandering around the trees next to the road, a beautiful, bubbling mountain stream that meandered through the pine trees and fields of grass, and snow capped mountain tops that seem to be strategically placed just for Tall Grass guests to marvel at on the huge comfy chairs while sipping a refreshing glass of cucumber water. Tall Grass is certainly worthy of many superlatives, but for me this particular spa is permeated with a healing energy that allows me to just focus on taking care of myself and leaving the rest of my worries behind. I believe that a day at the spa is much more than a luxury; it is a unique opportunity to heal your body, mind, and soul.

The properly entitled Great Room at Tall Grass
(source: picture from TallGrass Aveda Spa and Salon Facebook page)

**Check out the website for Tall Grass Spa and Salon:

My spa day included three services; an aromatherapy massage, a haircut and color, and a pedicure. My next two posts are going to focus on massage (stay tuned for a great guest post from an absolutely amazing massage therapist!) and nails, but for now I'd like to focus on hair salons and hair treatments. Everyone loves a day at the salon and a new haircut and color can really put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. However, it takes effort to maintain what a great stylist has done so here are a few tips and tricks to help you along the way!

Part of where the hair magic happens at Tall Grass
(source: picture from TallGrass Aveda Spa and Salon Facebook page)

When making an appointment:
1. Do some research! Many women have their favorite stylist that they have been going to for years, but at times, it's nice to have a change of pace and an injection of fresh ideas. When looking for a new hair stylist, talk to your friends, coworkers, or check out different salons and see if you like what's going on. It sounds a little weird to spy on a salon, but see if you like the set-up, the hairstyles, and the products.

2. Bring pictures!! Don't be shy about getting pictures of hair styles, cuts, and colors that you like and bringing them in as inspiration. Being direct with your hair stylist and giving them an idea of what you want will help them create a look that you love, as opposed to just giving them free reign of your hair and then being upset with the end result. The same goes when getting an updo for a special event. If you don't like what a stylist is doing, pause and let the hairstylist know what you like/don't like so you will be happy with the end result. I've spoken to many stylists who all concur that they would rather have a client be upfront and honest about what they want than one who keeps quiet and becomes unhappy. By the way, I've even used pictures of Miley Cyrus as inspiration for my hair-- have no shame :)

3. Don't be afraid to ask the stylist for tips on how to style or maintain your look. They are there to help you love your hair! Use their recommended products (ESPECIALLY when it comes to shampoos, conditioners, and hair treatments). Styling products are a personal choice and obviously no styling product is absolutely necessary to the health of your hair, but the shampoo, conditioners, and hair treatments that can help seal in color to newly color treated hair are worth the investment.

4. Check for deals for college students. Some salons around college campuses will have either a discount for college students or a special deal once a month or once every few months. Keep an eye out for flyers posted on campus, or ask around at different hair salons you might see.

Color Treatments:
Color treating your hair can be a lot fun, but it also comes with some extra responsibilities if you want to keep your hair healthy. When choosing a salon to color treat your hair, whether it's an all over color or just a few highlights, try an Aveda Salon (Aveda's colors are less damaging to hair) or one that offers some kind of healing hair treatment as well. Color treatments can damage and dry out your hair, so some kind of protein wash or intensive hydrating hair treatment is a good idea to help protect your locks.

To seal in your color, use a shampoo and conditioner specially formulated for color treated hair. Aveda's Color Conserve is great and I have seen the difference between women who use it and those who don't. It's meant to be used 14 times after your treatment and if you use it correctly, your color will be shiny, healthy, and vibrant! Be careful not to use a dandruff shampoo (like Selsun Blue or Head and Shoulders) right after a color treatment- the chemicals can dry out your hair and impact the coloring. They are ok to use sparingly with color treated hair as long as you make sure to wash them out really well.

Product to try: Argan Oil
Back in March I did a post about Argan Oil, which had been used as a post-color treatment/pre-styling product. It made my hair lusciously soft and silky smooth and ever since I've been on the search for a less expensive alternative. Most of the Argan Oils I have found run anywhere from $20 to $40, but I have found a fantastic drug-store alternative that is both natural and cruelty-free!

The product I found is called Hask Argan Oil Treatment. I happened to stumble upon it in Wal-Mart of all places. For $5, I got a package of 3 18 ml (less than an ounce) ampules. I am so excited about this product because it contains Moroccan Argan Oil that isn't tested on animals, is inexpensive, and has made my hair silky, shiny, and incredibly smooth for the last three weeks!! The product label reads, "Argan Oil Treatment: Silky Smooth Exotic Shine with Keratin enhancers to add strength and repair damaged hair". Keratin is the protein that makes up both our hair and nails (so if you are giving yourself an at home manicure, soak your nails in a mixture of water with a squirt of shampoo to soften them!).

The first time I used this product I used it as an intensive repair hair mask because I had just had my hair highlighted. Now I mix it with any of the style products I use to either straighten or curl my hair and it locks in shine and softness without being greasy. I absolutely love this product for both the price, cruelty-free aspect, and how I can already see a change in the texture of my hair. It is much softer and not as dry as usual, and my hair just feels healthier!

Try the Hask Oil! I promise you won't be sorry!

**Stay tuned for a special guest post on the benefits of massage therapy!!**