Giving Gifts of Touch for Valentine’s Day

I can think of at least three amazing gifts of touch that you can give to someone you love for Valentine’s Day. The cool thing about these gifts is they are appropriate for just about anyone on your list and you can either give them directly yourself or give them in the form of a gift certificate to a local spa, salon or holistic practitioner.

Can you guess what I’m thinking? If you guessed the gift of a massage then you would be right on the money for the first one I had in mind. This can be delivered in many different ways. Pressed for time but want to find a memorable and meaningful way to say “I Love You” or “Thank You”? Give them a gift certificate for a 1-hour massage. Who amongst us couldn’t use a good massage every now and then? And how much more enjoyable would it be if it was given to you as a gift?

If you have a massage therapist then send them to yours. If not, ask people you know for referrals or contact a local spa. Better yet, turn into an experiential gift of time, where you go to the spa and get massages at the same time, then take a leisurely lunch or dinner right afterwards and savor the experience together!

Even if you don’t have the funds to splurge on a spa spree or gift certificate you can still deliver the goods yourself. This is an excellent way to do it if you prefer to give a gift of a more personal nature. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or professional. You can give them a simple neck and shoulder massage, a hand massage, a foot massage, or better yet, all the above. Applying gentle pressure to tight muscles always provides relief and will be greatly appreciated even if it’s not done in an expert manner.

To take the experience to the next level, incorporate a little aromatherapy into the massage experience. You can light an aromatherapy candle or use an electric oil diffuser to create a warm, relaxing atmosphere. For even greater benefits add a few drops of essential oil (like lavender or orange to relax, rosemary, lemon or grapefruit to stimulate) to a tablespoon of carrier oil (olive, jojoba, safflower, sesame, or coconut) and use it as your massage oil. I recommend our Certified Organic Aromatherapy Body Oil, which comes with the essential oils already blended in a base of organic jojoba oil, which is hydrating and protective of the skin. It’s also absorbed very quickly into the skin so it isn’t messy to work with and won’t permanently stain clothing or sheets. The aluminum treatment pump lets you control the amount you need so you don’t overdo it. Just be sure to use scents that you know the person likes. If you’re not sure then ask beforehand.

For a romantic couples massage, try a blend that includes sensual or earthy essential oils like ylang ylang, patchouli, vetiver, lime, lemongrass, bergamot or other citrus fruit, rose or rose geranium, cedarwood, sandalwood, or vanilla.

More Natural Solutions for Insomnia: Reduce Physical Stress with Massage

If your stress is physical (i.e. chronic pain due to injury or illness), some of the methods listed above like Hatha or Iyengar yoga and deep breathing can help. But if you have an acute case or suffer from chronic pain you might consider getting a regular massage and consulting a naturopathic doctor for alternative solutions for pain management.

Extensive research on the use of massage therapy in the treatment of specific medical conditions by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) among others, has demonstrated a wide variety of benefits including: reduced swelling and pain, improved immune system function, better sleep patterns, lower levels of stress hormones, improved mobility and range of motion after injury, lower levels of depression, faster recovery from surgery, and in some cases lower blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Muscle tension, stiffness, and soreness are often the result of overuse, strain or injury, compounded by inadequate blood flow (which is required to provide oxygen and nutrients to the tissue), and the build up of cellular and metabolic wastes like lactic acid due to the insufficient flow or movement of lymph fluid (the body’s primary mechanism for waste transport and elimination). Chronic muscle tension can reduce the circulation of blood and movement of lymph in the areas of the body where it is prevalent.

The physical contraction of muscles accomplished via various massage techniques stretches the muscles and connective tissue surrounding them, stimulates nerve receptors which in turn dilate blood vessels enabling increased blood supply, and creates a pumping effect that gets lymph moving. So the first job of a massage is to release the tension and the build up of toxins in the muscle, the second is to stimulate the movement of lymph to “cleanse” the muscles by carrying the toxins away, and the third is to stimulate blood circulation to nourish and regenerate tissue. The other benefits naturally follow from the increased movement of fluid and muscles that were previously stuck.

There’s nothing quite like the euphoric sense of peace and relaxation one experiences after a really good massage. Heck, even an average massage can make you feel like a new person if you were feeling like hell before you indulged. The release you experience from it can definitely help you get some deep restful sleep if it has been evading you!

Gifts of Love for Couples to Celebrate Valentine’s Day: Staying In vs. Going Out?

Going out to a nice restaurant for Valentine’s is a great gift if you don’t have the opportunity to do this very often, or you’re feeling so cooped up that you need to get out of the house to enjoy yourself. On the other hand there are many ways you can celebrate this occasion by staying in.

Below are some ideas for ways couples can celebrate the day in a way that focuses on nurturing each other rather than succumbing to the old standby clichéd way of giving each other store bought gifts and (ho hum!) “dates.”

Why not try a variation on the old breakfast in bed? Rather than one of you making breakfast for the other, why not prepare a nice breakfast or brunch together then retreat to the bedroom to eat it in bed. Plan it all the night before and don’t make any other plans for the day. Just enjoy a lazy day at home sharing favorite moments from your relationship or what you adore about each other.

If you want to spice things up and do something to commemorate the occasion, swing for a set of satin or high thread-count organic cotton sheets and add some of the traditional accouterments –scented candles, dark chocolates to nibble on, a bottle of champagne (for mimosas) and roses or other flower petals strewn around the room. Try an aromatherapy massage followed by a hot bath with mineral salts. Or curl up together with lots of soft cushy pillows, some hot cocoa, and your favorite movie or a new one you’d both like to see.

If lazing around all day doesn’t suit your style then why not work on a project together that celebrates your love for one another? Consider creating a scrapbook or collage that chronicles the highlights of your relationship. Collect everything you think should be included: photos, ticket stubs, matchbooks, souvenirs and other meaningful memorabilia. Start from the beginning, group and arrange related items you want to include and as you add them into your book, write the narrative together. If you have different memories of an event or occasion then each one can write down their version – like an entry in a guestbook. The experience of putting this together helps you appreciate each other and your relationship and you can re-visit the scrapbook whenever you like (maybe make it an annual Valentine’s Day ritual) and update it with new insights or adventures you’ve shared and would like to record. Or you can create mini-scrapbooks that are specific to events (vacations or celebrations), or different periods in your relationship.

Another variation on this theme is creating a vision board for your future together. This can involve using photos you have or photos you collect from a variety of sources with images that symbolically represent things you want to do, places you want to go, goals you want to achieve, possessions you want to acquire (a new car, vacation home, RV, kitchen, swimming pool or Jacuzzi, etc.). Include graphical text headings from magazines or newspapers that communicate the substance of what you want to accomplish and how you want to feel when you get there. This can be a powerful bonding experience and an affirmation of your plans moving forward as a couple –one that energizes you rather than draining you. The other benefit is that you can do these activities regardless of the weather, which can be somewhat unpredictable at this time of the year.

For some simple sensuous essential oil blends you can to create the right ambiance for love try these combinations:

Lavender, Geranium, Clary Sage
Lavender, Sandalwood, Vanilla
Lime, Geranium, Cypress
Orange, Ylang Ylang, Jasmine
Grapefruit, Bergamot, Rosewood
Lime, Vetiver, Coriander

Combine 2-3 drops of each and add to an aromatherapy candle-based diffuser (in some water to prevent burning the olls) or to a tablespoon of jojoba or coconut oil for massage; or a cup of epsom salts or baking soda for a bath. Our Certified Organic Body Oils work great for massages too and they’re $5 off this month. You can buy them here.

For more ideas and recipes for using essential oils to create a mood for love, pick up a copy of Nitya Lacroix’s book The Art of Sensual Aromatherapy: A Lover’s Guide to Using Aromatic Oils & Essences.