Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spa Girl on Ear Candling

So many of us these days are looking for answers and often we find them in alternative medicine. And while many of these treatments are very popular, they can also be highly controversial.

Years ago I decided to try ear candling, also known as ear coning or thermal auricular therapy. I didn`t think much about it at the time, or do any research, I saw the candles in a health food store and thought this is a great idea for removing excess wax from my ears. And while I found it to be very relaxing and I could definitely hear better, little did I know at the time, the controversy surrounding this holistic procedure.

Depending on who you talk to or what you read ear candling is a common alternative treatment for the cure of various issues ranging from ear wax removal to relaxation. Some suggest it is an excellent way to draw out toxins and pollutants, cleanse the sinus cavities, improve hearing and other senses and revitalize the nerve endings, while others believe it has a psychic, emotional and spiritual impact on a person as it draws out negative toxins and revives the energy flow throughout the body.

While the exact history is obscure, the practice of candling is believed to be centuries old. Most candling practitioners explain that heat from the burning candle, which is placed in the ear canal creates a vacuum which draws out wax and toxins through a hollow disposable candle made from cotton or linen fabric coated in purified paraffin or bees wax. Some specialty candles can also contain herbs and essential oils.

The medical profession on the other hand state that ear candles do not remove wax, have no known scientific or medical benefit, and pose a significant risk. They believe candling to be quite dangerous and serve no apparent beneficial purpose. Reports from the USA, FDA (food and drug administration) and Health Canada warn of "burns, perforated eardrums and blockage of the ear canal which required outpatient surgery from the use of ear candles.” The FDA and Health Canada have taken actions against manufacturers of ear candles, including import alerts, seizures, injunctions, and warning letters.

Ear specialists suggest that nothing should go in your ear if it is smaller than your elbow!

And so this debate continues!

Spa Girls tip: It is important to do your research no matter what treatment (traditional or alternative) you are considering. Know the risks, weigh the benefits and make an informed decision.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spa Girls Tips for Planning a Spa Get-Away

Gellert Bath, Budapest

Most of my spa visits are tranquil daily escapes close to home. I often call and book a lunch date at the spa to enjoy a facial or have my massage therapist come to my home. Now that's a real treat! But when it comes to a weekend get-away, or a holiday spa week you have to plan carefully or you could be very disappointed.

My last weekend get-away was with my sister to celebrate her birthday and I was surprised when talking with other guests that they had booked their hotel and waited until their arrival to book their spa appointments. Well guess what--the spa was fully booked and they left feeling very disappointed. I was also surprised by the number of first time spa goers and how little they knew about what to expect.

So this blog is dedicated to all you first timers who want a few helpful hints on how to plan your visit to the spa!

Step One: Decide where you want to go and how much you want to spend...

There are a number of companies dedicated to helping you find a great place for your spa holiday whether it's a weekend get-away, or a holiday spa package. The web is also a great place to search for spas, just type in your destination of choice. One of the best resources I have found is Spa Finder, The Global Spa and Wellness Resource which will help you find spas, buy gift certificates and book treatments online, you can also find them on facebook. Another is Trip Atlas at

You need to decide how much you want to spend, so set a budget that is realistic that includes travel, hotel and food costs, play money and of course the cost of your spa treatments plus taxes, fees, gratuities and related service charges. And make sure to check out spa specials which are routinely offered and can lower your overall cost substantially. Knowing your budget and doing your homework will make it much easier to find the right destination.

Step Two: Pick the perfect Get-Away date...

It's important to select a date far enough in advance so you can secure the spa treatments you want. Spas are increasing busy and book up fast. The weekend of our get-away the Spa was booked for the next six weeks solid, that's why so many guests who left booking their appointments to the last minute or tried to book when they checked in went home disappointed.

Once you picked your date call the Spa and make sure they have availability, if not ask when you should book in order to have your choice of treatments.

Step Three: Make a decision on location and accommodation...

Once you decide on how far you want to travel and where you want to go you need to decide on your accommodation. There will always be a number of great choices from B&Bs, fancy resorts, basic, deluxe or luxury hotels, spa resorts etc. I generally love to stay at the same place the spa is located, but sometimes this is just not practical, as my budget determines I want to spend more money at the spa than my pillow.

It's also important when making a decision about location to check what amenities there are, both in the hotel or spa and surrounding area, especially if you like to shop, ski, swim, hot tub or exercise in addition to your spa treatments.

Step Four: Make your reservations and book your appointments...

Now it's time to make your reservations and book your spa appointments. Because I have done my homework and know there is availability, I generally book my travel first, then hotel, spa treatments and dinning last. But I do this all in the same day so I have my choice of spa treatments and I'm not disappointed, this is especially important if it's a holiday weekend or part of a special get-away package. Most Spas list their services on their website so you can select your treatments and book them all on-line or via e-mail.

For me dinning is as important as my spa treatments, and I like to try out several different dining experiences. This of course requires additional research, but I guarantee, well worth your time.

Step Five: Necessities & Niceties...

Make a list and check it twice for all your necessities and niceties. Necessities include bathing suits, athletic footwear (I also like to bring my own flip flops, rope and linen towel), workout gear, clothing for all occasions, more shoes (LOL), creams, lotions and toothpaste. And niceties include several good books, magazines, music, snacks, wine or other beverages, including bottled water for your room.

Step Six: RR&R...

You have done your planning so now it's time to relax, rejuvenate, and restore, that’s Spa Girls motto!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spa Girl says sits down, take a load off, relax!

Sit down, take a load off, relax...are these familiar phases?  Learning to relax is vital for ensuring good health and overall well-being. My mom taught me your health is your personal responsibility and if you don't look after it, no one else will.

Learning how to relax is essential to a healthy life-work balance and teaching yourself a few simple techniques will definitely pay off.

One of the most essential ways to relax is by slowing down your breathing. This can be done by inhaling deeply through your nose, count to five and then breathe out through your mouth at least ten times. If you learn a few arm movements which complement the breathing it makes for a great relaxation technique.

Avoid sugar and carbohydrates which easily convert to sugar as these can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels upsetting the body's ability to utilize energy. It is also a good idea to lower the amount of caffeine and remember that drinking warm water will help you relax. Better to eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, drink plenty of water each day and remember to take your vitamins.

Everyone knows the importance of exercise! Scientific studies repeatedly show that at least 30 minutes every day is the best known way to reduce stress. Practicing yoga, tai chi, or aikido is a great way to both exercise and clear your mind of the stresses of the day.

And of course one of my favorite ways to relax, go to the spa and have a great massage and facial.

I think learning to relax your mind will also help improve your overall well-being. Staying positive and learning to see the glass half full, rather than half empty is a great place to start. Look at the big picture and don't focus on the negative.

Visualization will help take your mind to a place you love, like the beach or remembering the best massage you ever had. Focus on the beauty in everything around you.

Pamper yourself, take a warm bath preferably with candles and essential oils, read a great book, spend time with friends, listen to music and remember to laugh!

It also helps to prioritize your work, clean a closet, don't feel guilty and don't procrastinate, just do it! When you get it done, you will not only have a nice clean space, but you can relax and enjoy a task well done. Meditate and play, get your mind off what is stressing you out! Go fishing or to the Spa and if you have a dog go for a walk--pets know how to have fun.

Here's to finding your inner peace!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spa Girl likes active mind musing and a good soak!

Every time I turn around these days people are indicating they are trying to "live in the moment". And while this idyllic state of being might be the just what the doctor ordered, there are simply days when fretting just creeps into our head space.
When this happens to me, I like to steep my uncertainties away in a nice bath where I can relax, meditate and soak in some peace of mind. Meditation is something I have been practicing for many years. I like to refer to my method of mediation as active-mind musing. I use an audio program from Centerpointe Research Institute ( which helps provide the benefits of long-term meditation, boosts intelligence and creativity, lowers stress levels, helps to create new levels of self-awareness and inner peace and helps reduce anxiety, anger, fear and other issues we often fret over. What I like about using these CDès is that I can listen and begin to relax even when my mind is going a mile a minute.
Here is how they describe it...
Centerpointe has created a very powerful audio technology called Holosync®, which we place inaudibly beneath peaceful music and environmental sounds. Many people call it "instant meditation"—but it's much more than that. Experiencing these deep meditative states each day provides a super-enriched environment for your nervous system, causing enormous (and very beneficial) changes in the brain. What we're actually doing is gradually giving the nervous system more input (of a very precise nature) than it can handle... the way it is currently structured much the same way exercise gives your body more than it can handle physically, pushing it to grow stronger. The brain's response? Reorganization at a higher level. Creation of new neural pathways. Increased communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain, leading to what scientists call "whole-brain functioning".
Add this amazing meditation when having a nice relaxing bath and you come away feeling totally rejuvenated and restored!
I have written a number of blogs on the delights of soaking in a nice bath. It is comfortable, soothing, and one of the most pleasurable ways I find to unwind. I tend to love a hot bath, however I have been trying hard for the sake of my skin, to keep the temperature a little more temperate and add some of my favourite essential oils and a touch of olive oil to pamper my skin. If you have dry skin, try using essential oils such as Chamomile German Oil, Benzoin Oil, Palma Rosa Oil, Pettigrain Oil, Bosi De Rose Oil, Patchouli Oil, Geranium Oil, Lavender Oil and Carrot Oil. I also use a fabulous "all in one cream" to help keep my skin hydrated and silky smooth after my bath.
For all you Spa Girls, who like me, love to soak your worries away, here is a great DIY recipe for the bath.
Soak Your Worries Away Bath Blend
  • 4tbsp almond oil
  • 12 drops of sandalwood essential oil
  • 8 drops orange oil essential oil
  • 4 drops of rose oil
  • 2 drops lemon oil
Mix together and store in a dark bottle. Add about 1tbls of oil to a warm bath and soak for at least 15 minutes.
Sandalwood oil has a sweet-woody, warm, balsamic aroma that improves with age. The essential oil blends wonderfully with most oils, especially rose, lavender, neroli and bergamot. Sandalwood oil is also an excellent cleansing, astringent addition to massage and facial oils, bath oils, aftershaves, lotions and creams. Aromatherapy benefits: relaxing, centering, sensual.
Although the botanical differences between mandarin and tangerine are slight, the oils expressed from each differ in aroma and are not considered interchangeable in aromatherapy. The floral, neroli-like undertones of mandarin are evocative and sensual. Mandarin is used in combination with other citrus oils in colognes and fantasy-type perfumes. Aromatherapy benefits: uplifting, cheering, sensual.
Rose oil is one of the oldest and best known of all the essential oils. The fragrance of rose is associated with love. It is warm, intense, immensely rich and rosy. It is used in perfumes to lend beauty and depth. A drop or two in a massage, facial or bath oil is luxurious and soothing. The oil is used in skin creams, powders and lotions. Aromatherapy benefits: romantic, supportive, gently uplifting.
The aroma of Lemon Eucalyptus is similar to the aroma of citronella. Both contain citronellal as a major component. Lemon Eucalyptus has a fresh, rosy, grass-like aroma. Aromatherapy benefits: purifying, invigorating.
To Learn more about essential oils, check out this website:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spa Girl heads to the pool...

I'm a big fan of low-impact fitness and the best way is to work out in the pool. Water aerobics supports the entire body and reduces the risk of injuries. I also find I have greater range of motion and really enjoy all the stretching exercises I can do in the pool.

Water exercises help to increase your metabolism, burn calories, improve flexibility, balance and over strength, and helps with overall body coordination.

Exercising in water reduces 90% of your body weight making it easy on your joints, bones and muscles while at the same time enjoying a thorough workout. It is also a great cardio-workout as you are moving the entire time you are in the pool. Water also offers a good resistance training helping to improve muscle strength and tone.

Like all exercise programs, working out in the water requires a warm-up, toning and stretching and a cool down. It is also important to drink water while working out in the pool, you might not think you are sweating, but you are, and keeping hydrated is super important.

Here are some Spa Girl tips: warm up by swimming a few laps or running/jogging in the water; toning and stretching involve rhythmic movements such as leg lifts, water chair, lateral raises, squats, and water jogging; and the cool down involves stretching out all the muscle groups and some breathing exercises.

I love to use various pool aids such as kick boards, noodles and dumbbells for many of my routines. Dumbbells especially help to increase resistance and work the muscles a wee bit harder.

When I first started exercising in the pool I took a number of classes so I could learn the basic routines and movements, and there are a lot of them. Once I decided on which were my favourites I created my own workout and can do it anytime I'm in the pool, class or no class.

The most important thing to remember about any exercise program is to like what you are doing, and do it. By adding something different to your weekly routine helps mix it up and keeps it fun and if you enjoy the water, this is ideal for you.

Check it out: