Revel In Relaxation

What was on your New Year to-do list... gym visits, a mega spring clean and socialising sprees? If relaxation wasn't on the agenda for the start of 2010, it needs to be.

In fact, if you've been on detox and treadmill overdrive throughout January, you might just want to slow down the pace. Women who want to lose weight should ditch their diets and learn to relax, according to recent research.

Women who followed a relaxed regime of yoga and meditation were not only slimmer than the gym bunnies, but happier and healthier too, according to scientists at the University of Otago, New Zealand, who conducted a two-year comparison study.

We think that's reason enough to kick back to your heart's content and wave goodbye to stress.

Liz Wilde, author of Home Spa De-Stress, agrees.

"Modern life is spent speeding up, so it makes sense that to reduce stress you need to indulge in techniques that slow you down," she says.

Not so good at slacking off? Luckily the art of relaxation is big business in beauty. There's no need to pop a sleeping pill when you have a whole host of delicious products to help you chill out after a hard day.

:: BODY BLISS

If you have the time, skip the shower and take a long, hot soak in the tub to soothe away your stress. Look for products with essential oils - ylang ylang and petitgrain will help lift your spirits and leave you feeling mentally refreshed, while lavender eases away tense muscles and headaches.

"Massage using essential oils equals a relaxation extravaganza," says Liz.

"Not only does your skin draw the oils into your bloodstream, but deep breathing means you also inhale the oils. Massage movements ease tight muscles and release tension."

TRY: In Essence Skin Therapy Bath Milk, $29.95; Crabtree & Evelyn Aromatherapy Distillations Relaxing Gentle Cream Body Wash, $28.95.

:: FACE CALMING

Putting your feet up with a face mask is the ultimate indulgence and will let anyone around you know your relaxation intentions. Think of it as a 'do not disturb' sign hung around your neck!

Before applying your facial chill-out treats, Liz recommends using this relaxation exercise: "Scrunch up your face tight, clenching your teeth together and screwing up your eyes. Hold and then relax. With each exhale, relax your muscles a little more and enjoy the feeling of your body getting heavier."

TRY: Gatineau Serenite Rapid Soothing Mask, $55.00; Prescriptives Comfort Cream, $80.00; Shiseido The Skincare Moisture Relaxing Mask, $69.00; Swisspers Cucumber Eye & Face Pads, $4.95.

:: KICK BACK

Top-to-toe relaxation starts with the feet, so don't leave your tired limbs and tootsies out of the chill equation.

"Reflexology works on the reflex points in your feet, and massaging your adrenal glands reflexes equals instant stress relief," Liz explains.

"Situated on the soles of your feet slightly inside the middle of each arch, use your thumb held bent at a 45-degree angle and massage firmly into each reflex point for two minutes maximum."

TRY: Elemis De-Stress Massage Oil, $75.00; The Body Shop Divine Calm Relaxing Massage Oil, $19.95.

:: SLEEP EASY

Don't underestimate the power of lavender in encouraging the onset of sleep. Using aromatherapy temple balms, sprays or candles is a great way to help you switch off at night.

"Lavender is the scent most connected with safe and comforting memories, and studies show it has the power to calm and relax us in even the most stressful situations," Liz says.

She suggests adding five drops to your bath water.

TRY: Jurlique Lavender Pure Essential Oil, $18.00; L'Occitane Lavender Scented Candle, $34.95; Livinia Lavender Sky Hydrating Mist, $26.00; Jo Malone linen spray in Lino nel Vento, $75.00.
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