Mama be well - Marma Me: Why getting my 'head read' at a day spa was the best thing I've done all year

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I recently had a beautiful birthday treat Marma Massage also known as an Indian Head Massage at the glam Elderberry + Kate day spa in Wellington’s Willis St.

As an Ayurveda enthusiast, I’ve been dreaming about this treatment since the spa opened just over a year ago. I love how owner Kate Coles and her team are unashamedly focused on pampering mind, body and spirit ‘like nowhere else’.

The Marma Massage didn’t disappoint but before we get to that, let me take you through a bit of the history so you can get a feel for why you need this technique in your life.

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For centuries, practitioners have been mapping the human body and linking various limbs, organs, immune responses even emotions to specific energy points. 

There are said to be 108 Marma points in the body, which are junctures where two or more types of tissue meet, such as muscles, bones, veins, ligaments or joints. In Chinese Medicine, they are known as acupressure points.

Marma means hidden or secret in Sanskrit and it can also be translated as ‘a point that can kill’. 

The knowledge of this collection of points originates in Southern India around 1500BC when masters of Kalari, an ancient martial art, targeted Marma points to inflict injury or instant death on their enemies. Marma massage was also used to nurse soldiers back to health and surgeons have been trained to avoid damaging the Marma points of patients while in surgery.

Marma massage is said to be very powerful as a health preventative. Blockages can occur at these points, leading to a build-up of toxins, lowered immune system and a range of physical and emotional symptoms. 

Put simply, by stimulating or massaging the Marma points with warmed oil you can benefit the local area, support the lympth and improve the function of the connecting organs as well as the overall nervous system. This massage technique also tones the muscles surrounding the points to support greater drainage and flow.

Migraines, insomnia, writers block/mental clarity and energy can all be helped through Marma massage. Similarly, the muscular and neuromuscular, digestive, respiratory and immune systems can be stimulated.

With very few Ayurveda practitioners locally, it is great to see Elderberry + Kate embracing this technique and offering their interpretation of it in their downtown locale. 

My therapist Nicole told me of her knowledge of how the Marma head massage has become part of Indian culture, with grandparents practicing the massage on grandchildren until they are of age to return the favour to their elders. In modern-day India, it is a regular treatment for self-care at the barbershop.

Elderberry + Kate offer the 45-minute seated treatment using warmed Ginger & Me oil, covering the upper back, shoulders, neck, face, and head. The oil is optional for the head, but I highly recommend it. There is so much goodness that can come from leaving that oil on your scalp and in your hair for a while. And there would be time to pop back to work for a shower or whip it into a top knot on your lunch break. For executives experiencing high pressure, this is the treatment I would prioritise working into your weekly calendar. Ayurveda tells us that blockages occur more as we approach middle age and beyond (think stubborn thought patterns, emotions, and stiff joints) so whatever we can do to keep things moving will aid all facets of life (#abundance anybody?).

There is an option to book a series of four of these massages with E+K, which I think is a great idea. I felt a decent amount of un-stressing/detox after my massage. I began sipping hot water and lemon in their Living Room (an incredibly decadent and private, luxe green space) right after, which helped and I continued to sip away with lots of rest in the day following. I am sure a few more treatments would help infinitely to get all the good energy flowing again. 

Insomnia has been a bit of an issue for me and with little ones I often sleep with one eye open but I had the best sleep I have had all year after my head massage and interestingly, a few days after my massage I was in a fantastic place creatively.

I’ll be incorporating my Marma knowledge into my Abhyanga self-massage routine in between treats like this. Below is one technique you can try right now or to book in with the experts, head over to Elderberry+Kate. 

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Marma Phana 

Meaning ‘a serpent’s hood’ the Phana point is found at the sides of the nostrils

Each of these two points measures ½ anguli (half a finger unit) in size, and is located just outside the base of the nose, where the nostrils open out. 

These points are said to control the flow of prana through the subtle body, the sense of smell, and the sinuses. 

To massage these points, use a strong and circular motion for about five minutes simultaneously. When using the index finger for acupressure at this point, it is said to help relieve headache symptoms and sinus congestion, and can be even more effective when coupled with aromatic oils like peppermint or eucalyptus (I prefer the doTERRA brand). Choose an organic cold pressed massage oil such as sesame or coconut as your base and just a drop of your essential oil mixed in. Mustard or apricot oil has also been recommended although I haven’t tried these. 

The Residents - Top to Toe for Summer, A Cheats Guide to the Silly Season

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3rd December 2017

Well here we are! I can’t believe that it’s December. Be prepared for the onslaught that is the silly season, complete with too much Lindauer and Snoopy’s Christmas.

I’m a bit of a mess at this time of year, especially when it comes to beauty things. All of a sudden, I need to go out and it takes me by surprise. I’ll end up busy and forget to do basics like shave my legs or pluck my eyebrows, leading me to have stray distracting hairs that aren’t doing me any favours.

I thought it would be a good idea to try and do things differently this year by getting myself booked in at Elderberry & Kate to see if I could bring down the stress levels. Booking some long-lasting beauty cheats that will mean getting ready throughout December will be a lot faster. In Wellington, my go-to is Elderberry & Kate (in the Spark building on Willis Street). I found Elderberry & Kate after getting some gel nails a few months back and have been going back ever since - especially because I love Mary-Kate, the owner, and INCREDIBLE team of women who perform treatments there (shout out to Nicole and Megan!). They’re an enthusiastic bunch who really care about their work and are very, very lovely.

Elderberry & Kate has SUCH a lovely atmosphere. Everything is marble and velvet with antique teacups - very much a relaxing and chic backdrop for your treatments - I basically want to move in. I know things get booked up in December so I decided to go in last week for two separate sessions, a spray tan and pedi/mani and eyes. The aim was to help me feel more organised in December, from top to toe, that reduces the amount of time it takes to get ready. Now, after a week, I can now review what these treatments are and how I found them. 

1. Cheat One: Fake it til you make it!! - St Tropez Tan

I’ve had a couple of fake tans in my time, both at home and at a salon or spa. A fake tan can be a really nice way to help you feel more confident heading into Summer, especially when the weather changes and you find yourself out and about much more. I was SO impressed with my fake tan from Nicole at Elderberry & Kate. It was very even and light and perfect. I’ve found in the past some have gone too dark, and it makes me look like an extra from Geordie Shore. 

Elderberry & Kate use St Tropez tan, and I really liked the formulation - not at all sticky or smelly. I even slept in it overnight so it could fully develop. Make sure you exfoliate first if you do get a tan - it helps the colour last longer, as does moisturising (2 weeks max). A fake tan really does make your life easier when you have to suddenly start to show more skin as the weather warms and the way Elderberry & Kate do it is that ‘just got back from holiday’ look, rather than Donald Trump - so know you’re in safe hands.

2. Cheat Two: Brow Tint and Eyelash Lift - Game-changer!

I’d heard about eyelash lifts from some of my favourite bloggers/YouTubers - so was excited to try this. If, like me, you have stick-like lashes, without much curl, a eyelash lift is for YOU. I loved the results through and through. Turns out I don't have crap lashes - just straight ones which are apparently long after all! Definitely one that EVERYONE should try - and it’s subtle. An eyelash lift will help your eyes stand out and as a bonus make your mascara look better.

I also opted to get my brows tinted which is something I think I’ll stick to going forward (I find although I have big bushy brows, as I’ve gotten older they’re softened a bit and are lighter in parts). Framing your face is SO important. It is great now that I don’t have to fill my brows in, making doing my makeup faster so I can get to the party earlier! I literally have not touched my brow pen since getting this done! It has changed my life.

3. Cheat Three: Gel mani-pedi please!

Elderberry & Kate use CigiSi gel nail polish (which is awesome) and, since trying it for a blog post earlier in 2017, I’ve been getting manicures all year. A nice nail pulls together any look, and you can choose from so many colours. I decided to play it safe and went for a pale pink tone. As usual, the results were fantastic and after two weeks are still going strong. Gels don’t ruin your nails if you get them removed correctly and also use a nourishing top coat in between. 

As I’ll be getting my feet out more, a pedicure was in order. I was excited that I could get it to wear with my new shoe school shoes. The pink toes and nails were the perfect finish to complete this top to toe look for Summertime. 

- The Resident

The Residents - A Date with Kate

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I love having painted nails. They make me feel on top of life like nothing else. Do you know the feeling?

If I have my nails painted I feel like I can conquer anything. The trouble is (1) I bite my nails still (sorry, Mum) and (2) I find my nail polish never lasts long enough to keep up with my busy life. Enter, luxurious and sassy Wellington Beauty Spa, Elderberry + Kate.

The brainchild of owner Kate Coles + Jude Campbell, Elderberry+Kate is nestled in the heart of the city on the ground floor of the Spark building on Willis. Elderberry + Kate is a perfect place to go in Wellington when you need some time out from life, and they cater to almost all beauty needs, from waxing to facials. I, however, decided to try them out to find out whether they could solve my nail dilemma and help me find a way to make them last. 

I was greeted warmly by Kate herself, the owner of the salon. Elderberry + Kate has wholeheartedly embraced the marble obsession in their salon, and I was instantly taken with the beautiful interior space, reminding me of a glamorous Instagram apartment more than a beauty spa. I was shown into the nail room where the lovely Nicole laid out colours for me to view, from peach to mint. I chose a neutral peach that I thought would go with everything, but it really was a struggle. EVERY colour in the line of nail polish Elderberry + Kate use is appealing. You can even have a feature nail done if you want and Kate told me that soon they'll be adding jewels and diamantes for those who want to go super-glam (residents Jaye Glam Morgan would love it!).

I was given a delightful cup of herbal Libertine Blends tea and a small slice of ginger crunch while Nicole and I chatted and she applied my gel nails. The UV light that set the nails pinched a bit as it set, feeling slightly warm. However, Nicole assured me it was OK and that happened as the nails set - there was nothing to worry about except relaxing.

Nicole also told me about the great range of products at Elderberry + Kate: from Dermaviduals, Triumph & Disaster, Ginger&Me, the Victoria Curtis Collection + Bestow Supplements, as well as other exclusive product, ranges aligned with the luxury + holistic approach of Elderberry+Kate. This is super refreshing because each brand has been hand selected based on its merits, rather than the whole mass market label some spas use, investing in just one range. Kate clearly knows her beauty products and what works well. She has a history training girls at a Wellington beauty school, many of whom followed her to the salon. Trust and experience is the foundation of this new beauty business, which is so good when you want to make sure you are getting what you pay for.

When Nicole finished my nails I simply couldn't have been happier. They looked polished and glossy, just what I needed. And better still, the nail polish didn't budge.

After a quick Instagram photo, I was off on my way. After 3 weeks I am going back with my Mum to get my nails re-done at Elderberry + Kate. They simply lifted my mood and made be feel like I was in the driver's seat of my look, even on a busy day. I have found they've lasted well, although I was naughty and chipped them off in the last week. Best of all, my nails have actually strengthened because of the nourishing gel nail polish and are now longer and stronger than ever. I can't wait to go back this afternoon and have my nails re-polished. I'm sure with their new-found length, they'll be even better.

I couldn't recommend Elderberry + Kate highly enough if you are looking for a place to get makeup, beauty treatments or relaxing spa treatments done in the Capital. Elderberry + Kate may be new, and also have that modern magical-glam touch in everything from their price list to their decor, but they really have tried and tested everything and know the ropes inside out. Make sure you pop down and book in soon!

-The Residents

Heaven on Willis at Elderberry + Kate

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There’s no two ways about it, a spa session puts a spring in your step, a sparkle in your eye and will spruce you up no end.

Elderberry + Kate is an all-brand-new luxury spa nestled in the heart of the city, tucked away on the ground floor of the Spark building on Willis. It’s a hidden gem, which feels like it’s a little secret waiting to be discovered.

The main point of difference from many other spas I’ve experienced, is how special you feel the moment you walk in the door. You’re not just a 4pm massage appointment. The Elderberry folk want you to feel special. And special you will feel. From the moment you book your appointment, you’re encouraged to slow down and relax. They ask you to arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time so you can wind down with a cup of organic tea and a sweet treat, turn off your phone and transport yourself to your happy place- all before your treatment has even begun. One of the first questions on the form you fill in, whilst relaxing with your tea, is, ‘How are you feeling today?’ And they genuinely want to know.

Kate, the director of the spa, has spent many years running beauty therapy courses and with her background in the field, she has cherry-picked her staff from past students and course tutors to ensure they are all passionate, knowledgeable and friendly. And she’s done an exceptional job. Kate herself has a lovely, calm demeanour which matches the beautiful place she has created. I felt weirdly at ease discussing my exhausting day of teaching and the craziness of life with two little humans just a few minutes after meeting her, as we sat in the serene forest-themed ‘Living room’ on the chaise longues and sipped delectable tea.

Every tiny detail has been given thought and attention- the teas, the candles, the gorgeously- named treatment rooms, the natural quality products, the quirkily named but beautifully thought out treatments,  the presence of Elderberries hanging upside down in each room. It all adds up to create special, simple luxury which is noticeable yet effortless at the same time.

I was lucky enough to be the recipient of the ‘Soothe and Smooth’ massage. It was, hands down, (no puns intended!), the best massage I’ve ever received. Louise, my wonderful masseuse, was so lovely, warm and invested in making it an amazing massage that I have already booked another appointment with her. She dealt with all my aches and pains in the no-nonsense way I’d asked, but also left me feeling relaxed, floppy and wishing it would never end. It was utter bliss.

I love facials. But the thing which has always bothered me about them is how carefully they have to be timed. Once your skin feels that holy level of clean, you don’t want to be slapping makeup back onto it, yet you don’t want to go back to work or out to dinner make-up-less, looking, for want of a better word, oily. Elderberry and Kate have come up with an ingenious solution by offering you a quick-fix makeup session after a facial. They use top quality products which will compliment those used in your facial helping you keep your fresh-faced feeling, whilst having you looking boardroom/ date ready. Legends.  

Unusually for a spa, they also sell and offer make-up services and the Curtis Collection by Victoria looks like great quality stuff.  If you have an after-work event with no time to spruce yourself up,  Elderberry and Kate’s experts know the strokes and shades to put a smile on your face and a twinkle in your eye. You could even indulge in a spray tan and, following that,  the folks down at GF Hair will be happy to work on your locks too. So in the space of ten steps, you can be glammed up and feeling on top of your game.

The products are all natural and have been thoroughly researched and chosen for their quality and lack of nasties. The Dermaviduals range uses something science-y called ‘corneotherapy’ which is based around not pulling apart layers of your skin, but building on what is there to make it better. There are beautiful oils, scrubs and lotions for your skin and a range of stuff for men, created by Dion Nash (a NZ cricketer for those of you not in the know).

Which leads me onto…. the Man Cave. It’s impressive, understated and classy. Adorned with a gigantic stag’s head, retro wall paper and a funky vibe, it’s apparently becoming quite the hotspot for All Blacks and Hurricanes in need of ‘me time’. So, ladies and gents, if you fancy having your fingers and toes pampered alongside some sporting legends, you know where to spa.

And, let's not forget, with Mother's Day just around the corner, you'll be racking up the brownie points by popping an Elderberry and Kate voucher inside that big pink envelope.  Trust me. 

- Word On The Street