Happy Holistic Holidays

This season, the definition of an indulgent gift goes beyond expensive jewelry and designer handbags. Smaller luxuries that make life better – a massage, a hot cup of tea, a restorative lotion – can be the most inspired gifts of all.

Think about giving those who count most in your life – your spouse, sister, mother orbest friend – gifts that inspire and uplift; gifts that are beautiful andgood for them, in a calming sort of way; gifts they will love you forevery time they use them.

April Masini, an author and online advice columnist, believes theconcept of holistic gifts – gifts that do good for the recipient and forthe world – is the new frontier of luxury. “The problem with giftgivingat holidays is that all the good gifts have been given,” says Masini.“Sweaters, watches, jewelry – it’s all been done and done and done.“Holistic gifts are a new arena to explore, buy and give in.”

The word holistic, meaning a whole that’s composed of interdependentparts, has become a sort of shorthand for referring to the connectionbetween mind, body and spirit. Applied to health and medicine,the term has become a synonym for nontraditional, alternative therapies.

But in its widest meaning, holistic refers to something that embraces the whole person andthe whole situation. Holistic gifts,then, are those intended toenhance the well-being of therecipient in all aspects of theirlife. Is there any better way of sayingI care about you?

Ahh, Spa!

An obvious way to enhancesomeone’s well-being iswith a gift certificate to aspa, and it’s usually a wellreceivedchoice. Spa treatmentsrange from simplefacials and massages tomore rarified body wraps,salt scrubs and hot stonemassages.

“A gift certificate for aspa is great, especially forsomeone who’s neverbeen to one,” says GaryWalther, editor-in-chief ofLuxury SpaFinder magazine.“It’s a gift many peoplewould never buy forthemselves.”

These days, there are tons ofproducts you can give so the personcan recreate that “spa” feelingat home. Beautifully packagedselections of DIY spa treatmentsare widely available on retailshelves this season, at all prices.

Check out local spas and salons,boutiques and department stores.The Bliss “Merry Citrus” set oflemon + sage body scrub, bodybutter, body wash and soap ($38)delivers some of the trendy spachain’s most popular productsfor an at-home retreat. Or trythings she can keep in her bathroom,like the Om Petite Spa($28), a duo of body polish andlotion available in upscale spasand boutiques. For the man inyour life, try the Osmotics MaleDaily Essentials Set ($55), whichcomes with a scrub cleanser,facial sunscreen/moisturizer,shave butter and after-shavebalm, all in a dark, guy-like box. Agirl a little younger will love ME!

Bath, ice cream scoop- shapedbath fizzes in gift sets ($28).You’ll find the Los Angeles-basedcompany’s shower “sherbets”and “ice cream sandwich” soapsin department and specialtystores.

Health & WellnessIt might be rude to get someone amembership to Weight Watchers(talk about a hint!), but it’s veryacceptable to get a gift certificatefor a personal trainer. BostonbasedBodyscapes, for example,sells certificates for a certainnumber of sessions withone of their personaltrainers. Since it’s not agym – all they do is personaltraining with just a few peopleat a time – it’s much lessintimidating for a recipient whomight not want to head to a gym.

If you know someone has acertain ailment, there are coolways to help them heal. Forexample, for the mom whohas high blood pressure, a giftlike the Resperate ($299) isgreat. The FDA-approveddevice from InterCure, Ltd.,Fort Lee, N.J., guides usersthrough paced breathingexercises that lower bloodpressure by relaxing constrictedblood vessels – and itworks (we tried it). For fun,or if they have kids, check outsomething offbeat like theTravelHoop ($40) from Hoopnotica,Marina Del Ray, Calif.

It’s a way of getting in exercisewhile not feeling like it.Available in exercise studiosand boutiques.ComfortTea bars are popping up all overthe country, and it’s no wonder.Herbal teas can make people betterphysically, calming theirchemistry or stifling their sniffles.

Some teas, like the mints andchamomile, contain oils that canslightly dilate the blood vessels tocreate a warm, flushed feeling.

Others, such as fenugreek andslippery elm, contain ingredientsthat may help soothe inflamedmucous membranes.The flower teas from bothRariTeas, Mission, Kan., and NumiTea, Oakland, Calif., unfold dramaticallyinto mini bouquetswhen steeped in hot water. Thetea flavors range from sweet andsubtle to rich and bold. RariTeas’blooming white tea blends withnames like Honesty, Generosityand Simplicity come in gift sets($14) with several choices of glasscontainers for brewing. NumiTea’s Bouquet ($29) set containsnine “bouquets” of hand-sewn tealeaves and dried flowers in amahogany bamboo case.

Kristen Schuerlein, CEO ofAffirmagy, Seattle, says that peopleare increasingly looking forcomfort and holistic health. HerAffirmawrap ($20 to $30), fleeceblankets with affirmations silkscreenedon them, has seenrecord sales, especially duringthe holidays. If you want somethingcomforting for the newbaby, try a handmade wool rug($135) by Pittsfield, Mass.-basedCrispina Design Workshop.

Stimulate their LifeFor the person who likes to travel– or just wishes they could – howabout helping them learn a newlanguage? With Rosetta Stone($190), for example, you just popthe CD into your computer andhear native speakers saying thewords, then can record your ownvoice saying them. Or give thema holistic Jet Lag Care Kit byOsmotics

Male Daily Essentials Set fromOsmotics includes a scrub cleanser,facial sunscreen/moisturizer, shavebutter and after-shave balmSensory treat: ice cream-shaped bath fizzesfrom ME! Bath

ME! Bath

Better health through breathing: Resperate, a digital feedback device forbreathing exercises that help reduce blood pressure

Michael Lavin Flower

InterCure, Ltd.

New life: Lilac Pot Holder rugmade from recycled wool and cottonand a felted wool baby blanketmade from recycled sweaters,both from Crispina Boiron ($10) – it comes withherbal remedies to help drowsiness,sleep disturbance and musclepain. Homeopathic medicinescan be purchased without a prescriptionfrom health-food stores,pharmacies, upscale grocers andgeneral-merchandise retailers.

There are also gifts that giveback. For example, World Visionallows you to choose gifts thatbenefit the poor in the name of aloved one, such as a $15 share inan Alpaca in Peru or food forAfrican children ($50). The recipientreceives a card that explainsthe gift and its impact. The EmancipationNetwork sells items likejewelry ($4 to $50) and journals($14) made by abused women inThailand.

Don’t Forget the SpiritualIf the person in your life is religious,it’s nice to acknowledgethat with a gift. The Psalm 23Bracelet ($85) by Laura KDesigns, Rancho Cucamonga,Calif., for example, is designed tooffer hope, comfort, courage andlove. It’s made of Swarovski crystalsand sterling silver pieces,including a cross or Star of Davidand a prayer box charm thatopens to fit a small prayer inside.Look for the bracelet in specialtystores.

For those less religious, DeepakChopra, Dr. Andrew Weil andDr. Dean Ornish have just createdHealing Rhythms ($299), a“whole body wellness” computersoftware program that includes40 guided meditation and breathingpractices you do on your computerwith biofeedback monitors.

No matter what you buy, anyof the above gifts will show thatyou care. And isn’t that what reallymatters?© CTW Features