I was inclined to title this post ‘lessons from the elders’ and hope it will become more apparent why, as you read on. Recently my darling friend Anastasia Achilleos, one of the best facialists my face have had the serene pleasure to be pampered by, has been doing weekly “soulful face care sessions” with MUA extraordinaire and founder of Westman Atelier Gucci Westman. I think those under one hour sessions, titled “Fascia Release” ( so far there have been five, with the last, sixth’s, taking place “live” this Saturday at 5pm GMT on Westman Atelier Instagram) should be watched by women of all ages. Those video tutorials act as a wonderful reminder of the importance of massage and touch for our physical and emotional wellbeing, especially when we give so much to those we love and care about daily, while at times neglecting ourselves in the process.
Anastasia and I have known each other for many years. We both lead busy lives, combining work and motherhood, and unfortunately don’t get to see each other physically often enough. However we message regularly, sharing interesting tips, recomendations and wisdoms, learning and enhancing our own daily practises, as women, mothers and professionals. But I also find Anastasia’s wisdom, that she generously & regularly shares, in her usual self-depressiating manner and with the loveliest of smiles, always intuitively and positively charged. Her advice has immense depth and continues to resonate for weeks, months and sometimes years after it was first given.
When recently Anastasia shared with Gucci a palm pressing exercise technique, to help regain focus and centre the mind, it reminded me of an exercise my grandmother taught me when I was very young. At the time I didn’t truly appreciate its value, yet today, when she is no longer alive, it reminds me of how closely our past and present are connected.
I texted Ana, telling her about my grandmother’s exercise the memory of which was triggered by what she was teaching Gucci. The essence of it is this – you put your hands into prayer, in front of your chest. Focussing on your heartbeat & slowing down your breathing a little, press your hands together, thus tightening your chest. Do this ten times, pressing palms together, then releasing, but without separating them. Then lift your hands above your head and do the same ten times. As you build strength, you can build up the number of repetitions and do it once a day or in the evening, whenever it suits you. I often do it in front of a mirror, reminding me to keep good form, while I am at it. Do this regularly and you will notice a difference in the ‘perkiness’ of your chest area.
I couldn’t watch Anastasia and Gucci’s session last week, so last night, feeling tired and a little drained after a day that only gathered pace as it evolved, I got cosy in my bed and started watching the session on Westman Atelier IGTV. A few minutes in, I heard Ana sharing the exercise I mentioned to her a few days earlier and found myself feeling deeply emotional (tears weren’t far behind below the surface) and grateful.
When my maternal grandmother shared this exercise with me, I was only five and felt more embarrassed than interested, especially when she told me she did it regularly to keep her chest in good shape. At the time I didn’t know that our chests were more fat and less muscle, making them quite prone to the effect of gravitational pull. Nor was I aware that as we age, wear bras, go through hormonal turmoils, pregnancy and nursing our children, our chests go from looking happily upwards into downward dog position. I was young, I had no clue about what lay ahead, but I liked the exercise that made me feel strong.
My grandmother was one of the loveliest people you could imagine. Her eyes always danced with laughter and everyone who met her in person fell in love with her energy. Her students ( she taught history and literature at school ), continued to visit her and my grandfather’s apartment long after they left school – so strong were her warmth, care and affection she felt for her students and the trust they placed in her and the advice she shared with them over copious cups of tea and home-made plates of food.
My grandmother died in her early 50s, after a long and painful battle with breast cancer, leaving my mother, aunt and grandfather completely bereft, but to this day there are many things that I vividly remember about her, this exercise being one of them.
As I have gotten older myself and started to notice the passage of time, this exercise suddenly popped into my head a few years ago and I started doing it fairly regularly. To see that it resonated with Anastasia and for her share it with Gucci and a much wider audience only highlighted the fact how closely connected some things in our lives are. The passage of time only reinforces traditions and practises that bring us emotional and physical benefits – for our bodies and minds. And the wisdom of elders comes into its own, as the next generation responds to their lessons and carries them forward, with their own relevance.
As to Anastasia Achilleos, I can’t recommend her online face massage tutorials & life conversations with Gucci enough – after each ‘live’ session you can find them in Westman Atelier IGTV archive. So whenever you have any time for yourself, craving calm and knowledge that can help improve your long-term lifestyle, Anastasia will guide you towards loving yourself again and being in tune with your body & mind. You will re-discover the reassurance of self-touch, different modalities and techniques of massage, as well as laughter and words that will stay with you long after the conversation itself will come to an end.
You can find “Fascia Release Sessions with Anastasia Achilleos” on Gucci’s brand, Westman Atelier, Instagram account here