By Jenny Hope, Chopra Center University certified meditation instructor
When meeting new people, how many times have you heard the comment “Oh, you work in a spa…how relaxing!” I used to hear this all the time, and usually my internal response was, “No way!”
Anyone working in a service industry, especially an appointment based one, knows the pressure to perform treatments to high standards while remaining mindful of the clock. This can create a very high stress environment, despite the façade of calm that we work so hard to create for our spa guests. Over time, these demands can wear on our patience, performance, the guest experience, and ultimately, our own health.
The fight or flight biological response is the lingering result of ancient and primal instincts required to protect us from life endangering situations. These deeply engrained physiological responses include increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and release of stress hormones, as well as sweating, weakened immunity, and clotting of blood platelets.
Fight or flight is rarely helpful in modern times, unless you are in a war zone or have an extremely dangerous career. But we still experience the same fight or flight response from common daily emotional or physical stressors, including late clients, chaotic work and personal relationship dynamics, chronic pain, and lack of work/life balance. The more time a person spends in this stressed state of being; the less efficiently the body and mind function. This can lead to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, depression, and chronic hormonal imbalance. All in all, not a very spa-like lifestyle!
So what can we, as wellness ambassadors do? Meditate, meditate, meditate!
Numerous studies show that meditation creates a very different physiological state in the body, a state called “restful awareness.” Entering this state, even for just a handful of minutes daily, leads to proven normalization of heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, stress hormone production, and immunity. This translates into better overall health, losing our tempers less frequently, effortlessly making healthier eating decisions, approaching others with increased compassion, and just generally having more “good days” and fewer “bad days.”
There are multiple styles of meditation that have proven results, and if you are a former practitioner who has drifted away from a daily practice, now is an excellent time to recommit. If you are new to the idea of meditation, here is a simple way to get started. This technique will use a “mantra.” Mantra is a Sanskrit word that simply means “instrument of the mind.” The mantra is not used here to focus on any meaning or message, but rather as a meaningless phrase to distract the mind from other thoughts, feelings or data generated by the five senses.
- Turn off your technology. A few minutes without your phone, email, TV, music, etc. is a form of therapy in itself, and required for meditation.
- In a quiet spot, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Don’t lie down, because stressed bodies will drop into sleep, and will not receive the benefits of meditation, which differ from the benefits of sleep. No need to contort your body into a pretzel; a comfy armchair will do just fine.
- Bring your attention to your breathing without trying to change anything about it. After a few inhalations and exhalations, begin to silently say “so” along with your inhalations. When you exhale, silently think “hum,” stretching the words to match the length of the breath.
- Continue with the mantra “so hum,” and as other thoughts creep in, which is a normal part of meditation, gently release them and turn your attention back to your breath and your mantra repetition. Continue for 5 minutes the first time that you meditate, and gradually increase daily until you reach 30 minutes. Once you can comfortably perform 30 minutes of meditation, you can, if you wish, increase it to 30 minutes twice daily for maximum results.
During a meditation, we are not seeking anything “mystical” or even particularly relaxing that might occur at the time of the session. The benefits of a daily meditation practice are felt in the other 1,380 minutes of the day! We know a meditation practice is working for us when, over time, we (and/or those around us) begin to notice subtle changes in our demeanor, choice making habits, and stress levels. Often things like making healthier decisions in diet, exercise, and lifestyle happens more effortlessly, and intuition becomes stronger, so choices become less difficult to make. Synchronicity becomes more commonplace and you begin to feel like life is more beautiful in general. Sound too good to be true? Try it! Commit to a month of meditation and I promise that you will feel changes in your life.
You can also easily integrate meditation into your work schedule. At the beginning of your spa shift, enter your treatment space a few minutes earlier than usual. After everything is set up for your clients, sit down and visualize your ideal shift. See smiling faces: both yours and your clients’. Visualize the perfect massage technique, home care recommendation, or praises and compliments for your work. Then gently begin repeating the mantra until it is time to greet your client. They will sense your state of restful awareness and feel immediately at ease with you and more open to your expertise. You can even teach this technique to your clients who arrive to their appointments frazzled, disconnected, and distracted. Begin their session with a few “so-hum” breaths before you begin working your spa magic! Create a meditative environment in your spa and in the clients’ homes with these meditation and ambiance tools and begin the dialogue of self-care with those that you treat in your spa.