Holiday Gift Guide: The importance of self care

Holiday Gift Guide: The importance of self care
Sugar House Day Spa & Salon offers a diverse range of services, from hair treatments to massages.

By Olivia Anderson |

Starting to think about what gifts to get for the holidays? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. As the end of the year quickly approaches, the top of the priority list for many people includes both spending time with loved ones and finding the perfect presents to give them.

It’s also a time packed with chaos and anxiety, so for the Times’ first Holiday Gift Guide of the year, we’re highlighting local businesses that offer self-care and wellness-related products.

As we enter the thick of holiday season, it’s important to remember to maintain our individual health – both physical and emotional. Here are our top picks, from music lessons to manicures, that are sure to restore the mind, body and soul.

In next week’s gift guide, we’ll share our top luxury-themed gift suggestions.

532 Yoga

When Suzanne Leitner-Wise moved from England to the United States in 2000, she had recently completed a twoyear training program and was looking to become a fulltime yoga teacher. She taught classes in a variety of settings, such as gyms and dance studios, and in 2012 eventually opened her own yoga studio in Alexandria.

“I was going here, there and everywhere, teaching about 35-plus classes a week, and I thought, ‘Actually, you know, I don’t want to be driving here, there and everywhere,’ so I began looking for a yoga studio,” Leitner-Wise said. “One day I came across this place, saw a ‘for lease’ sign on the door, popped my head through the door, and thought, ‘It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.’”

532 Yoga operates with the belief that “yoga is for every body.”

532 Yoga, located at 532 N. Washington St., aims to get as many people involved in yoga as possible and operates with the belief that “yoga is for every body.” While Leitner-Wise’s specialty is Iyengar yoga – or alignment yoga that prevents undue joint stress – the business offers many different types of yoga.

The goal, Leitner-Wise said, is to encourage people of all different ages and skill sets to feel comfortable signing up for a class. Clients range from 11 to 85 years old.

“That’s really our mission, is to have classes available for every sort of person to come to,” Leitner-Wise said.

532 Yoga offers a “New Students Special” package, which is $83 for one month of unlimited classes – half the cost of the normal month unlimited package. There are also single drop-in classes for $27, one week of unlimited classes for $60, various membership options and yoga teacher training.

The business also offers gift certificates for various amounts, available in-store or on the website. For more information, visit

“[Yoga makes me] much more happy, stable, better able to understand my own body,” Leitner-Wise said. “It’s a preventative means of maintaining the health of your physical body, which, once you get to know your physical body much better, also resonates with the mind. We teach all-encompassing yoga here.”

Mason & Greens

In March 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Justin and Anna Marino opened Alexandria’s first sustainable dry goods and grocery store, Mason & Greens. The couple was looking to create something that “helps people and the planet,” and ended up with a store that is 100% palm oil free, package free and vegan.

More than two years later, Mason & Greens, located at 913 King St., carries a wide array of natural, easily compostable products related to home, personal care, pets and organic food.

“Everything that you purchase in our store is not only good for you, but it’s also good for the planet,” Justin said. “We dig deep into the products that we carry. We have a very high bar that we set for the products that we carry in the store.”

The store is constantly rotating products, and recently added several new brands to its shelves. For example, they selected the Colorado-based Consciously Curly Company, which uses many mushrooms in its product line such as powdered hair masks. The ayurvedic repair mask, listed at $25, is made from organic herbs and works to strengthen hair and add shine.

Another featured brand, Kov, has a glacial clay cleansing mask for $32. The mask includes anti-inflammatory and calming properties, and works to clean, hydrate and tighten skin.

Stop by Mason & Greens and check out Consciously Curly Co.’s ayurvedic repair mask, which is made from organic herbs and works to strengthen and condition hair.

“I actually use that one every week and I’ve loved it,” Anna said.

In the way of new self-care products, Mason & Greens also offers body and lip scrubs, neck wraps (filled with lentils), incense, candles and intention journals.

“It’s really important, this time of year, to think about what we’re actually giving people, and what the impact of those gifts is, not only in their life, but also on the planet,” Justin said.

For more information, visit

School of Rock

School of Rock Alexandria, located at 3260 Duke St., is a music school that offers camps and workshops to help kids learn how to write songs and play in bands. It is for kids of all skill levels who want to learn guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and vocals.

Steve McKay, School of Rock’s general manager, said that the skills students learn through the school goes beyond just music.

“They’re socializing, they’re learning teamwork, collaboration, some humility,” McKay said. “If you’re just taking music lessons you might have some goals, but when you’re in a band, everyone is depending on you to learn your parts. They just learn so much.”

School of Rock also puts on shows at the end of most camps, providing students with a goal to work towards.

School of Rock is for kids of all skill levels who want to learn guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and vocals.

Classes begin with the Little Wing program for students 3 to 5 years old, which consists of a curriculum where students play games to learn the foundational skills to grow their music abilities. Then comes the Rookies program, which teaches 6 to 7 year-olds about different instruments and introduces music theory. Starting at age 8, School of Rock offers one-on-one lessons in conjunction with band rehearsals.

“What School of Rock brings is the social aspect of being in a band, being a team,” McKay said.

For more information about School of Rock, visit schoolof

Sugar House Day Spa & Salon

Sugar House Day Spa & Salon’s roots go back several centuries. The city’s very first sugar refinery opened in 1803, with the refinery owner’s home located on the property. City officials nicknamed it the “sugar house.” Decades later, in 1998, the now-popular day spa opened its doors in the same location.


“When they went to go file the paperwork to open up the spa, [city officials] said, ‘Oh, you’re getting the old sugar house!’ And they knew from then, ‘That’s what we’re calling it.”

These days, Sugar House is a full-service salon. There are three floors, the first of which is a salon with 13 stations and a shampoo room. The second and third floors are dedicated to spas.

Sugar House, located at 111 N. Alfred St., offers a diverse range of services. There are options for hair design, hair treatments, skin care, dermaplaning, microdermabrasion, power peels, waxing, makeup, nails and 15 types of massages of varying types and lengths. On Mondays, there is a Medi Spa that offers injectables, including botox and dermal fillers.

According to General Manager Vennessa Ortiz, massages, which start at $65 for a 20-minutes sinus relief treatment, are one of Sugar House’s most popular gifts. Sugar House also has numerous facial options, ranging from a classic facial to a $115 rejuvenating back “facial.”

There are also premade spa packages for those wanting to mix and match. The Short and Sweet package, priced at $234, includes an organic deep cleansing facial, classic manicure and classic pedicure.

“We’re able to offer quite a bit of services, and that’s what [the owner] really wanted to do was create this oasis and place for people to go and relax and treat themselves,” Ortiz said. “What woman or man doesn’t want to have just time to themselves and enjoy those things?”

For more information, visit