• Catherine Flutsch

Christmas Gifts for Culture Lovers: The Wellness Edition

Updated: Nov 21

Prices are correct at the time of publication.

Each year over the Christmas season, I treat myself. In this context, treating myself usually means eating far more sugar than is good for me. So, like a lot of people, I put on a few (or more than a few) kilograms over the Christmas period. Inevitably, the first few months of the new year is spent trying to lose the weight I’ve put on – sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

Photo by Rob Wicks


This year, as some of you know, I’ve lost 25 kilograms.* So over this Christmas season, I really don’t want to put back on any of the weight that I’ve worked so incredibly hard to lose.


Losing weight this year has been about focussing on mental and physical health – both my own and the health of those I love. I’ve written quite a few posts on health – which you can find here. Through researching and writing these posts, I’ve come to realise that the things you do to look after yourself, and others, are the true treats – not overdosing on sugar, fat and salt. Though that can be fun too, sometimes.

Photo by Myriam Zilles.


So, if you’re like me this Christmas season and want to find ways to luxuriously indulge yourself and others without putting on extra weight, then you might find something in my list of self-indulgent, self-care gifts. Perhaps this list will inspire you to take extra special case of yourself and your loved ones over this Christmas season.


Photo by Joanna Kosinski.


I have also updated last year's Christmas Gift Lists, so if you're looking for further inspiration, you might find it here.


Wishing you and your loved ones health, and happiness.





Yoga

There is overwhelming scientific evidence to show that yoga is good for humans. From being an effective ancillary treatment for depression to improving outcomes during cancer treatment , yoga has a beneficial effect on almost every aspect of human health and wellbeing.

Photo courtesy of Prana Yoga

If you’re interested in reading the evidence, you can find further reading here. The gift of yoga may start your loved one on a journey to better health and happiness; and that is a gift for you both.

Photo by Jared Rice

While there are a lot of fantastic free yoga courses online, including my personal favourite, Boho Beautiful Yoga, there’s nothing that beats a really warm and welcoming yoga studio.

Image courtesy of Prana Yoga


Google makes it relatively easy to find a good yoga studio in your area. I think it’s always best to have a look in person.

Things to look out for are:

  • A studio that doesn’t make you feel intimidated, fat or stupid

  • Good introductory offers

  • A community feel

  • Warm, friendly responses to any questions you have

  • Beginner’s classes where you’re encouraged to go at your own pace

  • A light, airy studio

  • A studio that doesn’t burn incense during class - this is known to be carcinogenic

If you are lucky enough to live in Oxford, the best yoga studio is, in my opinion, Prana Yoga. This is not a sponsored post, it’s just my personal recommendation of what a fantastic yoga studio can be to you, and your community.

Photo courtesy of Prana Yoga

Like all good yoga studios, Prana Yoga usually has great introductory offers, which you can buy as gifts. At the time of writing, Prana has an introductory offer of unlimited classes for 2 weeks for £35 - you can find the offer here. This is truly a great Christmas gift. I have given this introductory offer as a gift a few times and have gotten my best friends hooked on yoga!

Photo by Raimond Klavins

During this Christmas season, you could even treat yourself to yoga classes for a few weeks. This deep act of self-care will make you feel so much better than eating one million mince pies. Trust me, I know.


Root and Flower Fragrance Oils

Lovely perfumes are a safe go to Christmas gift for perfume lovers. But a nice twist on the traditional is a gift of fragrance oils instead.

My favourite fragrance oils are Charka Anointing Oils made by small artisan British company Root & Flower. I love these oils because they are gentle and smell utterly divine.

Photo courtesy of Prana Yoga

Approximately 4000 different synthetic chemicals are commonly used in commercial fragranced products including perfumes – and most of these chemicals have not been tested for toxicity. Where tests have been done, often the findings aren’t human friendly.


Photo by Heather Ford

The Chakra Anointing Oils are made of raw, natural and organic ingredients, mixed by hand in small batches. You can buy individual oils for £12 but I think a nice gift would be the set of 7 for £60. If you buy the set, you can also split it up - keep your favourite scent and individually wrap the others as lovely little gifts for 6 lucky friends.

Base, my favourite of the scented oils is a blend of Patchouli, Lavender, and Mandarin oils. It's definitely a love or hate fragrance. The smell reminds me of my grandparents' farm - which you can read about here.

I love how these fragranced oils are so low key. You wear them for yourself, not for others. You won’t fill a space with an overwhelming fragrance when you enter a room – at most, someone may catch a gentle aroma if they give you a hug. Even thought it's gentle and unobtrusive, the fragrance lasts all day – drying down into something warm, clean and uplifting.


These fragrance oils are an understated luxury and a real treat.


Yoga Mat

If you are planning to give the gift of yoga either to yourself or someone else, then you might consider adding an indulgent yoga mat to the package. Yoga mats are good for any kind of floor based exercise, including stretching and foam rolling, so is usually a welcome gift for any exercise enthusiast.


Sadly, most cheap yoga mats are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is toxic to humans and bad for the environment at every stage of its lifecycle. Vinyl chloride, the main component in PVC is a known human carcinogen, which can be absorbed through the skin and through inhalation when practicing yoga. Not something you want to give as a gift.



My favourite yoga mat, and the one I use myself, is the sustainably sourced natural rubber mat created by certified B-corp, Liforme - pictured above. Liforme yoga mats have been tested by Dr Bradley P. Ladewig of Imperial College London and found to be safe for yoga and will biodegrade fully in landfill in between 1-5 years. You can download the Imperial College study here if you want to read further.


These yoga mats are beautiful and will help deepen your yoga practice because you won’t be worried about your hands or feet slipping around. Also, the alignment graphic printed on the mat is unexpectedly useful. Each mat comes with a very nice sturdy carry bag.




There are a few cons though. The main con is the expense. At the time of writing, the cheapest Liforme mat in the Black Friday sale is £77. Another con - the same with all eco-friendly, non-toxic mats – they are quite heavy at 2.5kg.


The final con is that once you start practicing regularly, Lifeforme mats look used. This is something that I don’t mind at all – but if you have a friend that loves to have everything shiny and new, it’s worth keeping in mind.


Liforme's yoga mat cleaner. It's £13.50 in the Black Friday sales.


If the cost of a yoga mat is a little bit too much or if your loved one already has a good yoga mat, then a nice gift for a wellness, yoga enthusiast might be a Yoga Mat cleaner. Liforme sells a very nice plant based, vegan yoga mat cleaner on sale here for 40% off at £13.50.


Palo Santo Wood

Palo Santo or Holy Wood wood comes from the Bursera graveolens tree, which is native to the Yucatán Peninsula, Peru and Venezuela. The wood and the oil have been used in folk medicine for various purposes but mostly in relation to purification - of both the body and the mind.

Bursera graveolens or Palo Santo tree. CC BY-SA 3.0


As is often the case, traditional wisdom has been confirmed by the science.

This is the palo santo oil I use, which you can buy here.

Studies have shown that palo santo oil does indeed seem to have certain "purification" properties. Palo santo oil has been shown to have promise as an anti-inflammatory, to have anti-cancer properties, skin calming properties, as well as being a natural insecticide. If you're interested, you can do further reading here.

Burning palo santo wood as incense. Picture from NovaObject.


I couldn’t find any real research into the safety and efficacy of burning palo santo wood as incense. However, as it has been used for generations in traditional medicine, and as it is one of the few room fragrances that doesn’t make me sneeze, I am OK with using it to scent the house, and also giving it as a gift.

Palo santo wood.

My favourite way to give palo santo wood is to gift wrap individual sticks and include a note on how to use it. Beautifully gift wrapped, palo santo makes cute, tiny gifts when a larger gift would be inappropriate.

Burning palo Santo as incense. Photo by NaliniHome.


Buying palo santo can be a bit of a mine field. True palo santo wood has died naturally and been left in situ for between 4-10 years to allow the resin it contains to properly cure. This makes true palo santo wood rare and rather expensive. The good news is that you can buy it in small 50g batches, which cost around £8. A 50g batch will yield 5-8 sticks of palo santo wood, which makes 5-8 little gifts for the wellness enthusiasts in your life.

Palo Santo sticks as individual gifts. Photo by Na'vi Organics.

Make sure you purchase your palo santo wood from a reputable seller – if it is cheaper than around £100/kg it is likely to be not the real thing. I have found both Na’vi Organics and Yoga Matters to be reputable sellers.


Everybody I’ve given it to has loved using it and has ended up buying it for themselves when their stick runs out!


Recycled Wool Blanket

During the colder months, I like to treat myself by snuggling up in a cosy warm blanket with a hot chocolate and a good book. Blankets are a truly beautiful gift during the colder months. These days, my favourite blankets are made from recycled wool. I don’t normally recommend buying wool - it’s an animal product and I'm trying to avoid contributing to industrial animal agriculture as far as practicable.

However, I’m happy to recommend recycled wool blankets as a truly lovely gift.

Blankets made from recycled wool.

Recycled wool blankets are made from discarded textiles – usually clothes – which would otherwise end up in landfill. They’re broken down, colour sorted and the fibres are respun and rewoven into blankets.

Photo by Josh Clemence

I’ve bought recycled wool blankets as gifts – for myself and for others – and they are always appreciated and used. As expected, recycled wool is slightly coarser than virgin wool, but the blankets are still soft, warm and cosy.

Photo by Tyler Nix

Recycled wool blankets contain all the benefits of wool but without of the cruelty or the environmental impact involved in making and dyeing a new, virgin wool blanket. Another benefit is the cost – recycled wool blankets are generally less expensive than virgin wool blankets.


I usually buy my recycled wool blankets from Wool Blanket Online as their blankets are 100% recycled wool and made in Wales. At the time of writing, a beautiful recycled wool blanket costs £45.


Infrared Light

The therapeutic benefits of near infra-red light, or photobiomodulation, is a relatively new scientific field. Many studies conclude that the use of near infra-red light shows promise for the treatment of a huge host of medical issues from cancer to depression. Generally, near infrared light shows promise in relation to inhibiting inflammation, promoting immune response and in relation to wound healing. You can find out more here.


This is the infrared light I use. You can find it here at a Black Friday price of £67.99


Many of these studies need to be taken with a grain of salt, as they were either carried out on animals or in a petri dish – not directly on humans. So for a non scientist like me, the best I can say is that near infra red light shows promise.

Infrared saunas have some benefits over traditional saunas. Further reading here.

I have been using a near infra-red lamp for a few years now - sitting in front of it for 15 minutes, with eyes protected. I generally use it when I am feeling haggard, or have a cold. Whether it is a genuine causative effect or mere placebo, I always feel better afterwards. Invariably, I sleep very deeply if I have had an infrared session just before bed. If you or a loved one needs a boost, especially over a dark, northern hemisphere winter, then a near infra-red light, might be a welcome gift. This is the light I have, it's in the Black Friday sale at £67.99, and I can recommend it.**


Neck Massager

I realise that this is a rather long post, but I couldn’t write a wellness themed gift list without including a recommendation for this simple neck massager.

Currently £31.49 on Amazon.

So many people I care about at the moment have physical problems from hunching over their computer screens and this little neck massager is something I have used for years, and gifted to others.


It is a godsend whenever I have tight shoulders from too much computer work. I love it for the infrared heat too – wonderful for all sorts of aches and pains including period pain.

 

This year, I am not using Amazon Affiliate links in my gift list. If you enjoyed reading this list and have found it useful, then please consider donating £1 to the cost of running this blog to help keep it ad free. You can do this here.


You can read all my Christmas Gift lists here.

 

*I will write about how I lost 25kg in12 months early next year. Please let me know if this is something that would interest you.

**Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions when using an infrared lamp.


Feature image by Dan Hayder.

Unless stated otherwise, all photos of yoga mats ©️ Liforme.

Photos of neck massager ©️ Comfort Supplies.

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