What is Aromatherapy?
In a society where we inhale, ingest and apply unnatural and toxic products daily, interest in returning to the organic and the pure has been increasing rapidly. One of the practices that has gained popularity among the public and the world of science recently is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy, also known as essential oil therapy, is a complementary and alternative therapy practice that uses essential oils and aromatic plant compounds to induce healing and well-being. The main tool of aromatherapy is essential oils. Essential oils can be described as plant extracts. They are produced by steaming or pressing different parts of the aromatic plant.
History of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy has been practiced for almost 6,000 years. Historical evidence suggests that ancient cultures from China, India and Egypt have been using aromatic plants for various purposes such as healing and religious rituals. The medical benefits of many aromatic plants have been known for thousands of years. Distillation of essential oils from aromatic plants dates back to the Persians in the 10th century according to historical records however the practice is considered to be rooted even earlier. The term “aromatherapy” was founded by French perfumer and chemist René-Maurice Gattefossé in his book about the medical benefits of essential oils in 1937.
Benefits of Essential Oils
Aromatherapy benefits include fighting bacteria, virus, or fungus, improving the digestion system, boosting immunity, reducing nausea, pain, anxiety and stress, fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches and headaches and helping with menstrual and circulatory issues. With essential oils, you can experience a holistic healing experience using what mother earth has provided. Using plant extracts to increase the well-being of body, mind and soul is the goal of aromatherapy. Every essential oil has its own set of unique benefits and uses and sometimes they are blended to draw more benefits. Essential oils can have “antimicrobial, antiviral, nematicidal, antifungal, insecticidal, and antioxidant properties”.
How do essential oils affect us?
When you inhale these oils the olfactory system in your brain that is related to smell gets stimulated and after the molecules enter the nose, it passes through the lungs and travels through other areas. As the oil molecules access the brain they stimulate the limbic system which is related to “emotions, heart rate, breathing, stress and blood pressure ”. By stimulating your senses essential oils can help you get in touch with your feelings and intuitions. They can help you stay fully present in the moment and get inspired.
How to use aromatherapy products
Aromatherapy products work by either inhaling or applying it on the skin. Different methods can be used to consume essential oils such as using diffusers, inhalers, bathing salts, compresses, body oils, creams, lotions, or masks. Massaging the oil into your skin can increase circulation and stimulate absorption. According to some arguments, places of the body that have sweat glands and hair follicles can absorb the products better. Other methods such as ingesting the products are not recommended since the essential oils can damage the liver and kidneys.
Caution for Safety
People with allergies, asthma, epilepsy, hypertension, high blood pressure and skin conditions like eczema should be cautious when experimenting with essential oils. It is also important to look for reputable producers who sell quality 100 percent natural products when buying essential oils. Another tip to keep in mind is that essential oils must be diluted with carrier oils before applying to the skin. Carrier oils are made from aromatic plants and are used to dilute essential oils since they can cause irritation if they are directly applied to the skin. Some popular carrier oils include coconut, jojoba, sunflower, avocado, rosehip, argan and olive oils.
How to select Essential Oils
Try to select your essential oils based on their benefits, areas of usage and your intuition as well, as it is important for you to find the smell pleasing. If you are choosing an oil to complement your breathwork session, try to pick an oil based on the aim of the session. For example, if you are intending to relax and reach inner peace you can try incorporating calm reducing essential oils such as Frankincense into your session. If you are planning to get energised and are seeking vitality, you can use vibrant oils like Wild Orange and Peppermint.
Breathwork and Aromatherapy
A combination of essential oils and breathwork intensifies the experience and boosts your wellbeing. These two powerful healing techniques can be used simultaneously. Adding essential oils to your breathwork ritual can help you increase your energy, lift your mood, breath better, ease your mind, induce healing and ground you.
Most breathwork methods, such as connected breathing, require deep breathing. Essential oils can help open the airways and support the oxygen flow which is helpful for deep breathing techniques. Another advantage of using essential oils is their calming and grounding properties. One of the main benefits of breathwork is inducing calmness and easing stress. Breathwork combined with the effects of essential oils such as chamomile or bergamot make it easier to reach this goal. Breathwork practices require you to fully focus on your breathing. Essential oils can increase your focus and help you get into the breathwork exercise leaving distracting forces behind.
Some oils that can enhance your breathwork sessions include:
Palo Santo oil: This is a commonly used oil in yoga classes to promote inspiration, clarity and deep breathing.
Verbena oil: This oil can help you restore your breathing by healing coughs and chest aches.
Marjoram and Chamomile oil: These can help you relax and open your lungs.
Peppermint oil: It is a powerful oil to clear the airways.
Frankincense oil: This essential oil supports deep breathing and relaxation of the diaphragm.
Hyssop oil: It is known to relax the sympathetic nervous system, helping you stay calm, present and induce feelings of safety.
Douglas Fir oil: This essential oil is an antiseptic and is used to improve respiratory health.
Eucalyptus: Eucalyptus has a sharp, refreshing smell. It is commonly used in products for cold care such as inhalants. It can open your airways.
Lavender oil: This oil is one of the most popular oils in the market and can be used in many ways. Lavender oil is known to decrease stress and pain and induce sleep. It is also a strong antiseptic.
Some techniques to combine breathwork and essential oils:
Square breathing (box breathing): This technique transforms the energy, eases the nervous system and decreases anxiety. Visualise a square in your head and focus on the bottom left corner. Now imagine you are going through the bottom left corner to the upper left corner as you breathe in and exhale when you reach the corner at the top. Follow this breathing cycle through the sides and exhale in each corner. Try to breathe slowly as you move around the square. To enhance your experience you can add “3 drops Sweet Orange, 3 drops Benzoin and 1 drop Patchouli” oil in a diffuser and inhale through your session. Another tip is to apply 2 drops of Lavender and 1 drop of Patchouli on a cotton pad and inhale the pad before and after the breathwork exercise.
Alternate nostril breathing: This technique has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga. Alternate nostril breathing helps with relaxation and coping with pain. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, decreases blood pressure, and slows the heart rate. Exhale fully and close your right nostril with your right thumb. Breathe in through your left nostril then close it with your left thumb. Now release your finger from your right nostril and exhale through it. After you are finished, switch the order of nostrils and start by inhaling through the right nostril this time and continue the same cycle. Keep breathing like this as long as required.
You can incorporate essential oils into the Alternate Nostril Breathing exercise by adding “3 drops Geranium, 2 drops Bergamot and 2 drops Ylang Ylang” oils in a diffuser and let it disperse in the room as you inhale this relaxing blend throughout the session. After the session, you can mix “1 drop Rose and 1 drop Bergamot, mix with 10ml Grapeseed oil” and use it on your pulse points and inhale throughout the day.
Aside from using a diffuser, you can try the following ritual:
Apply the essential oil you have chosen to your pulsation points such as your wrists and by rubbing your wrists together let the smell reach up to your nose. Close your eyes and progressively soften the muscles of your face. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling the essential oil on your wrist. Try to be mindful of the moment and relax your body. Observe each sensation the aroma brings and how it affects your emotional and bodily state. After this short ritual, you can set your intentions and start your breathwork session.
Overall, essential oils can support the breathwork session and enhance the experience. When the two methods are combined harmoniously their interactive effects can be powerful. This fully natural practice can be used as a self-care aid that helps us take control of our mood, relaxation and healing.
In our Breathwork Method training we talk more about cohesive effects of breathing and aromatherapy. How various scents can intensify your breathwork experience and you can benefit from it on emotional and spiritual levels.
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