From digital-free teahouses, massage rooms and spas to serene redwood forests and beaches, opportunities for relaxation and pampering are plentiful in Santa Cruz. But spending a blissful hour in the reclining leather chair of Christine Nickell of Botanical Reflexology is an experience in total-body relaxation like no other.
A certified essential oil therapist and certified reflexologist, Nickell has melded the health-boosting modalities of reflexology with the brain-stimulating, body-balancing powers of therapeutic grade essential oils to create her practice, run out of the beautiful Galleria in downtown Santa Cruz.
“People come in in fifth gear all the time,” says Nickell, pausing to activate a top note of bergamot between her hands and letting the sweet, pungent citrus scent waft over me. Overtaxed adrenals, insomnia, and chronic stress are the problems she sees the most, but Nickell’s philosophy is that the body contains the wisdom needed to restore and maintain health and well being.
Essential oils are scientifically proven to act on the limbic brain, which mediates and controls all aspects of our emotions and memories. With a passion for aromatic plants and a deep knowledge of their properties—calming, stimulating, sedative, balancing, etc.—Nickell’s wide array of oils utilize the power of scent to transport the mind, while the brain responds by creating neurochemicals that calm and relax. She lets me smell a batch of artemisia hydrosol she’s distilled herself, and my memory lights up with the vivid memory of Carmel Valley Road. She then selects the rich, soothing scent of sandalwood and begins to work on my feet, rich with nerve endings that apparently love being touched in this way.
Nickell uses specific thumb and finger techniques that create responses throughout all of the body’s 11 systems (the inner foot bed, which corresponds with the adrenals is particularly tender, something she says she notices in almost all of her clients). By increasing circulation and energy, blockages, or congestion, are cleared throughout the body. The relaxing effects are immediate—my breath soon slows and deepens. But the healing effects of this practice are also known to extend beyond the immediate, reducing pain, stress, anxiety and depression. “We are structural, chemical and spiritual beings. With reflexology, we can balance and treat the whole being, rather than just a part of the body,” says Nickell. She finishes the session with the refreshing scent of peppermint to wake me up a little, and sends me back off into the world in a state of bliss and calm.
Santa Cruz is lucky to have this uncommon practice that blends relaxation and healing, and for visitors passing through, a gift certificate to see Nickell is an unforgettable gift to oneself or to a friend or family member.
740 Front St., Suite 250, Santa Cruz. 831-421-1939, botanicalreflexology.com.