This post was created in collaboration with Soma Rituals.
Self-care comes in many forms and is often different for each of us; what we need can change from day to day, even from hour to hour. Listening to our bodies is key to understanding what we need.
Occasionally, I put my self-care needs in the hands of others; every couple of months, I book a treatment with an experienced therapist. It may seem indulgent to some but if it’s something I know will benefit me, isn’t that a good investment of my time and money? The type of treatment I choose and the therapist that performs it have a huge impact on how beneficial it is. Before I book anything I consider what it is I feel I’m lacking, I research different treatments, read about the therapists that perform them and ask questions. This way, when the treatment is over, I come away feeling good about the time and money I have invested.
I recently visited Chandra Casali-Bell, the talented therapist behind Soma Rituals, in her Marylebone treatment room. Chandra takes a holistic approach to her clients’ wellbeing. The light and airy, therapeutic space helped me begin to relax as soon as I stepped through the door. The room is comfortably warm, decorated in natural tones, with lots of plants and a few well-chosen decorative details. A candle burns with a pleasant relaxing scent and light floods the room from the large sash window.
Chandra and I talk about the treatment she has recommended for me, a Gua Sha Facial Fusion with Thai herbal poultice. The treatments she currently practices have been taught to her by internationally-renowned, US educator Cecily Braden. Cecily spent decades training with various Thai Masters and Indonesian Healers, learning their techniques and developing her therapies. Chandra lets me know there is a carafe of water and a glass for me, before leaving the room to allow me time to get ready.
As I lay on the bed trying to let go of all the thoughts passing through my busy mind, there is a knock and Chandra enters the room. She tells me that she doesn’t intend to talk to me much throughout the treatment, so that I can focus on using the time to fully relax and feel taken care of. Just as I’ve experienced at the start of many yoga and meditation classes, she reminds me that this time is for me, that thoughts of other things may come up, to try to acknowledge them and then let them go; a reminder I’m grateful for.
The treatment begins with Chandra’s warm soft hands massaging my face with an oil cleanser. Her light but firm touch gently caresses my face, neck and the upper section of my décolletage. She gently removes the cleanser and follows it with a balm cleanser and then a lighter, oil cleanser. All of the products she uses contain only natural ingredients and smell incredible. A hot towel opens the pores and removes any remaining product from my skin.
By this point I’m feeling incredibly relaxed. Chandra begins to massage my face with a heated Thai herbal poultice; containing organic healing botanical ingredients such as hibiscus, lemongrass, ginger, java apple leaf, and more. The poultice warms the muscles, helps to release tension and detoxify the skin. Chandra combines acupressure and lymphatic drainage massage to help reduce swelling and dark circles, and improve nutrition to the skin, as well as lifting and contouring. It’s hard to tell that she’s using a poultice and I mistake it for one of the gua sha tools I saw on the side before my treatment started; it feels smooth, hard and hot, reminiscent of the stones used in the hot stone therapies I’ve had in the past. The heat feels incredible on my tense muscles.
Chandra then moves on to use her gua sha tools; these beautiful, professional tools are made from high-quality gem stones. She chooses and uses the various different shapes and stones based on my specific needs. She massages my face with each, helping to release congestion in the connective tissue, renew lymph fluid, activate circulation, release tension in the muscles and stimulate cell activity. Her movements are sometimes small and precise, other times the gua sha tools glide across my face. It all becomes a bit blurry as the rhythmic massage sends me into an incredibly relaxed state.
Just when I think it can’t get any better, Chandra gives me a Thai Wai Facial Massage – to reinforce the benefits of the treatment so far. She uses her hands, feeling deep into the skin, moving and draining the lymph, improving the health of the skin and sculpting my face, as she does so. She follows the massage with a beautiful herbal face mask and head massage, releasing the tension around my hairline and scalp.
I come around feeling utterly cared for, in a way that I had forgotten was possible in my 40s. Chandra’s treatments are precise, prescriptive, and intuitively practised in an incredibly compassionate way. She gives you the time and space to stop and allow yourself to rest and feel restored. When I take a look in the mirror, my face has a golden dewy glow and there’s something more youthful about it. I leave feeling re-energised and so grateful for the experience. It was unlike any treatment I’ve had before and I think that is largely due to Chandra herself, and the care and energy she has so generously shared with me.
I had the Balancing Herbal Ritual, a 90-minute Gua Sha Facial Fusion therapy. It took place in Soma Rituals’ treatment room in Marylebone, London (Soma Rituals has since moved to Edinburgh). Please contact Chandra for further details, or book a treatment online.
During the treatment Chandra used products containing only natural ingredients from the British skincare brand, d’still.