Valentine's Day was originally conceived as a way to express gratitude for our beloved companions with small tokens of affection—so it's also completely appropriate to reserve the day to take care of, and show love for, the most important person in your life: you. What better way to honor thy self than with a DIY at-home spa retreat filled with rest, contemplation, indulgent spa treatments and heart-centered activities?
Try to take a full weekend before or after the holiday to pamper yourself, but if schedules and other commitments make that impossible, you can work any number of the following treatments and activities into a quiet weekend afternoon, or peaceful weekday evening. The most important thing to remember: Let go a little bit, and unwind fully.
Begin your morning, or end your day, with some healing and rejuvenating yoga poses. Be gentle with yourself—this isn't the time to feel competitive or self-judgmental. Try a series of forward-bending poses, which are known to aid introspection and meditation: reclining bound-angle pose, half happy-baby pose, reclining head-to-big-toe pose and child's pose.
Rid your body of harmful toxins by starting your day with a seasonal fruit smoothie or fresh-squeezed orange juice. Herbal teas made with chamomile, peppermint and ginger are also healthy (and warming!) alternatives. Try to stay away from too much caffeine, which is dehydrating and inhibits deep sleep. But if you must, try a low-caffeine green tea instead of coffee. Lunch and dinner should be equally clean and calming foods: grilled fish, steamed vegetables with brown rice, or a savory bowl of miso soup. Keep sodium to a minimum, and avoid foods with refined sugars and saturated fats.
Contemplative activities, which also gently raise your heart rate, are a good way to reconnect with your sense of self. Try taking a walk in the woods, or through a nearby park. Mentally take note of the natural wonders you encounter and feel gratitude for—one of spring's first robins, or the soft rays of sun on your face.
Cuddle up in a comfy spot, and take a short nap. Can't sleep? Get cozy with a warm blanket, a cup of tea, and read a few chapters in a new book, or old favorite. Or, sit down with a journal and record your most positive thoughts from the morning. Make sure to address the things you feel most proud of, and acknowledge the people and things you're grateful for.
What would an at-home retreat be without a little DIY pampering? We recommend this menu of sweet spa treatments to round out your weekend of Valentine's bliss. Some of the recipes listed require essential oil "infusion" time, so be sure to plan enough time for their preparation.
Citrus-Sugar Body Scrub
Infusion Time: 1 week
1-1/2 cups raw sugar
1/2 cup coarsely ground organic whole oats
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Zest of 1 small orange and 1 small lemon
45 drops lemon essential oil
2 tablespoons warmed honey
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
In a large bowl: Combine sugar, oats, ginger and the zests. Place half the mixture in a large jar. Add lemon essential oil, then the remaining mixture. Cap, shake well, and allow mixture to infuse for one week, shaking occasionally.
For the scrub: Combine honey and sweet almond oil in a measuring cup. Drizzle the mixture into the sugar and oats. If it's too grainy, add more oil. If it's runny, add more sugar.
Apply the scrub to wet skin, starting at the feet and working up. Use a circular motion toward your heart. Since scrubbing and heat can increase the absorption of essential oils, use warm, but not hot, water.
Flowering Facial Steam
1/3 cup dried lavender blossoms
1/3 cup dried calendula blossoms
4 to 5 drops geranium essential oil
Add dried lavender and calendula (plus any additional herbs of your choice) to a large French press. Pour two cups of boiling water over herbs and steep for 10 minutes.
When steeped, fill a clean bathroom sink halfway with very hot water. Pull up a chair that will allow you to hang your head over the basin, about 6 to 8 inches from the water. Press or strain the herbs, then add the herbal infusion to the water. Add geranium essential oil.
Drape a large towel over your head and shoulders, and steam your face and neck for three to five minutes. If the water cools, add hot water as needed to produce more steam.
After steaming, splash your face and neck with lukewarm water and pat dry with a clean towel.
A post-steam facial massage helps keep skin moist and soft: Apply a few drops of a light oil (such as avocado or apricot kernel) to your fingers, then gently massage your forehead, cheeks, chin and neck using small, inward circles.
Heart Chakra Mood Mist
Use one drop each of the following essential oils to stimulate the center of the chakra system where love, compassion and spirituality are united: Rosewood, Patchouli, Geranium, Petitgrain, Orange and Ylang Ylang Complete.
Fill a clean, dry, mini spray bottle with four ounces of distilled water. Use a dropper to add the essential oils directly into the bottle. Tightly close the bottle, and shake vigorously.
Spray the air around you, mist hair and skin, or spritz on linens.