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Introduction to Essential Oils

 

You have probably heard people mention Essential Oils, especially in reference to yoga. I remember the first yoga class I ever attended. While we were in Savasana (Corps Pose), the teacher came over and used Lavender to help me relax by applying it topically. I had no idea what was happening since my eyes were closed, but I loved the smell, and instantly felt the therapeutic, aromatic benefits! I soon discovered many essential oils were suggested for emotional and mental health, and I wanted to learn more!

Essential oils are highly concentrated oils found in plants, trees, shrubs, bushes, etc. Not only great for mental health, essential oils are often used for respiratory health, immune support, skin care, sleep, and muscle tension/pain relief.

Applied topically or diffused into the air (aromatically), there are several ways to enjoy the benefits of essential oils. Some oils are even ingested! Often essential oils are found in skin care products from lotion to lip balm, and other body care products. I personally like to apply them topically or use them in a diffuser (especially when I’m teaching a yoga class!)

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The most commonly used essential oils for mental well being include:

  • Lavender
  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Rose
  • Vanilla
  • Nutmeg
  • Ylang Ylang

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I will be doing a series on essential oils and mental health. I will talk about the different oils, how they work, what they are used for, safety, and of course, their benefits. I hope you will follow along and learn to incorporate essential oils into your self care!

Namaste,

Tina

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DIY Yoga Mat Cleaner with Essential Oils

Let’s face it, if you practice yoga, you need to clean your yoga mat! Without the proper cleaner, your yoga mat can get kind of gunky (this is the technical term of course) and this is even more true when sharing or renting mats at a yoga studio.

yoga mat

With so many products on the market, it’s hard to know which is the best, so why not just make your own? When you make your own yoga mat cleaner:

  • You know exactly what is in the product!
  • It’s chemical free!!
  • Essential Oils can be incorporated into the cleaner making it smell great and antibacterial
  • You can choose the essential oils you use to design your own scent
  • It’s super cost effective
  • You can use items on hand so you never run out of cleaner!
  • It makes a great gift for your yogi friends
  • It’s environmentally friendly because you aren’t using chemicals and you can reuse your spray bottle many times over!

With so many great reasons to make your own spray, I don’t know what you’re waiting for!

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Here is what you need:

  • One small, clean spray bottle (even travel size will do!)
  • Distilled water or spring water
  • Alcohol-free witch hazel (white vinegar also works as this is your cleaning agent)
  • 8-10 Drops of Lavender
  • 3 Drops of Lemon OR 3 Drops of Tea Tree Oil

To make the spray, fill your bottle about 3/4 full with distilled or spring water. Then add witch hazel or white vinegar to fill the remaining 1/4 of the bottle. You need just a bit of room to add in your essential oils. Drop in the oils and shake gently.

To clean your yoga mat, spray evenly over the mat, wipe with a damp cloth, and allow to dry (about 10 minutes on each side). That’s it!

There are other essential oils you can use as well! You will just have to play around until you find the right one and the right combination for you.

Antibacterial Essential Oils Include:

  • LemongrassLavender Oil
  • Tea Tree
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint
  • Bergamot
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Cinnamon

I like to use Lavender and Lemongrass in the summer and then alternate Peppermint and Cinnamon in the winter.

Lavender and Bergamot are both relaxing and work great together for stress relief and relaxation.

Whatever combination you use, you can rest assured you’re using the best cleaner possible for your yoga mat.

Spray Bottle

Yin Yoga Explained

One of my favorite classes to teach is “Yin Yoga.” One of the questions I get most is “what is Yin Yoga?”

I remember the first time I tried Yin Yoga. It was during my teacher training course and another student was “testing out” by teaching a class to everyone. While most of us did a typical flow class, Nan wanted to introduce us to Yin. I had never practiced Yin in any of the studios I had practiced, but I wanted to know everything about yoga, so I was eager to try something new. When we were 15 minutes into the class, I knew I was in love and would be teaching this style in my own studio.

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In short, Yin Yoga is a slow paced yoga class, usually based around floor poses, held for 3-5 minutes.

If you’re new to yoga or the style of Yin, you might try holding poses for 1-3 minutes, and work your way up to 5 minutes. Often, teachers will use an egg timers to teach a class, and this is completely acceptable in your private practice as well!

While its roots are founded in India and China, Yin is a relatively new practice (1970’s) to the western world. The practice has spread to Europe recently as well.

What I loved about the practice was how much space I found in my body as I opened up in each pose. As the muscles stretch, it is possible to move deeper into the pose.

Yin concentrates on the areas of the body with connective tissue between muscles and joints (these are the tendons and ligaments). Yin also releases the “fascia” layer of connective tissue. The fascia layer is what holds our body together and gives us our shape (so it’s pretty important!) As we work with the fascia layer, we increase the flexibility of the body. One of the most common reasons people turn to yoga is for increased flexibility!

In addition to the physical benefit of stretching our muscles and become more flexible, Yin Yoga also quiets the most important organ in our body, the brain. During your practice, the brain is not being bombarded with messages, information, ads, conversation, etc. The mind can take the time it needs to be still.

Benefits of Yin Yoga include:

  • Increased circulation
  • Flexibility
  • Calming effects on mind and body
  • Energy movement through the body
  • Improved joint mobility

No matter what benefit you seek from Yin Yoga, it’s worth giving it a try! You might be amazed at how much your body opens up as you move deeper into the pose. You also might be surprised at how relaxing and calming the practice is for the mind!

Namaste,

Tina

The Why & How of Ujjayi Breath in Yoga

Yoga is the unity of mind and body and to achieve this unity, we often focus on our breath as we move through postures. Previously, I talked about How Pranayama Breathing Relieves Anxiety, but now let’s look at a type of Pranayama known as Ujjayi breath. In Sanskrit, Ujjayi breath means “victorious breath.”

Ujjayi breath is relatively easy to practice by constricting the back of the throat (just as you would while whispering) and forcing the breath to pass through the nostrils. The breath can be heard, and some compare it to the sound of the ocean. You may hear some practitioners even refer to this type of breathing as “ocean breath.”

Happy breathing

There are a number of benefits to this type of breathing, including:

  • This type of breathing helps balance our chakras, or “energy centers” in the body
  • Ujjayi breath is calming
  • It helps in regulating blood pressure
  • It helps the lungs work freely to pass air to all parts of the body (even off the mat)
  • Aids in concentration and focus (you can hold a pose longer while using Ujjayi breath!)
  • It can release tension in tight areas of the body
  • Strengthens the nervous and digestive system
  • Helps relieve headaches and sinus pressure
  • It regulates the heat throughout the body

While any type of healthy breathing is beneficial to the body, we can practice different types of breathing during our yoga practice to benefit not just the body, but also the mind!

Namaste,

Tina

Meditation and breathing

How Pranayama (Yoga) Breathing Relieves Anxiety

We can all agree, breathing is important. It’s the first thing we do when we are born. We take our first breath, and we continue to breathe the rest of our lives. Without breath, we have no life, but how can the WAY we breathe help our daily lives and the anxiety we face?

Focused breathing, known in the world of yoga as “Prananyama,” can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with anxiety. Prananyama is the Sanskrit word for “breath or life force.” Alternatively, it also means “breath control.”

Understanding how Prananyama works, will allow you to use focused breathing for anxiety relief.

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“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

When something happens causing people to panic, concerned people around them will remind them to “just breathe,” but why do they do this? It’s because the breath can be calming and restorative.

It works a number of ways. In another post we will talk about methods for using the breathe to calm ourselves, but for now let us explore the “how” of breathing and finding relief for anxiety.

So let’s start with what anxiety feels like. Everyone is different, but you might feel some or all of these things during an anxious episode:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings like choking (or a lump in the throat)
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea
  • Chest Tightness
  • Fear of close-by danger
  • Fear of dying
  • Heart Palpitations
  • The need to escape
  • Feeling disoriented

Most psychiatrists/doctors need at least four of these elements to diagnose a panic attack.

It is with the breath, we are able to help control the feelings we are having during an anxiety attack. With slowed, rhythmic, concentrated breathing, your can reduce anxiety because proper breathing:

  • Slows your heart rate causing muscles to relax
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Slows breathing
  • Decreases metabolism

Being aware of HOW you are breathing will help during an anxiety attack. Often in the panic of an attack, many people will breathe faster and shallow. This leads to the feeling of having a shortness of breath, fostering the symptoms further. Slowing the breath, and allowing the body to use the breath to calm the body naturally, is the best way to overcome anxiety naturally, wherever you are when you feel anxious.

I will post breathing techniques soon!
Namaste, Tina

Pigeon Pose for Trauma Release

When I first came to yoga, I used to dread hearing the yoga instructor (whom I was quite fond of!) start leading us into Pigeon Pose (known in Sanskrit as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). The dread did not last long and invariably, something always would happen once I was in the pose. I started to feel wonderful…not just great….WONDERFUL. I mean this not just physically, but mentally. Having suffered the majority of my life with Major Depressive Disorder (depression), I was amazed at my mental clarity with this pose. Now I see my own students making “the face” when I tell them where we are going with our next pose. I tell them it’s okay….trust me on this one! The mental benefits far outweigh the awkwardness of getting into the pose when one is just learning.

Of course, I was sure it was the practice of yoga as a whole, which made me feel so amazing, but something about Pigeon soon had me doing the asana (pose) on my own, not just at the studio. I was addicted. Sometimes I was so busy, I had time for one pose in the morning to start my day, of course it was Pigeon! A beautiful pose, great for opening up hips, there is more to the posture than meets the eye.

According to those who have studied trauma, the hips are a place where many humans store emotions, including stress, fear, and anxiety. These are feeling the human body pushes down into the hips, causing them to be tight. This is much like how we clench our jaw in a stressful situation, or hold tension in our neck and back.

Not only do we as humans store our trauma in our hips, but this tends to be true mostly for women. Thinking about things women go through, such as giving birth, this should come as no surprise.

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While the act of pushing negative emotions into the hips is not a conscious decision, it is primal, and we all tend to do it to some extent. I’ve heard several yogi’s refer to the hips as the “junk drawer to the body.”

Adding Pigeon in any of its variations to your yoga routine can help you release the pent up emotions held in your hips. For me, I would feel the benefit as soon as I was in the pose. For others, the relief may come later, such as during the drive home, for example.

It may take time to be able to get comfortable in the pose. In my own practice, it took several classes to become comfortable and do do the pose without the help of blocks.

Other poses to help open hips and process emotions:

  • Reclining Twist: Supta Matsyendrasana
  • Crescent Lunge: Anjaneyasana 
  • Garland Pose: (Malasana)
  • Goddess Pose: (Utkata Konasana)
  • Half Lotus: Padmasana
  • Bound Angle: Ardha Padmasana

We now know Pigeon Pose is great for our mental health, but there are physical benefits as well. These include:

  • Opens the hip
  • Improves alignment
  • Improves posture
  • Lessens sciatica pain
  • Relieves lower back pain
  • Lengthens the hip flexor
  • Helps with urinary disorder

I highly encourage you to add Pigeon pose into your regular practice so you can get the benefits of emotional release. It’s time to open up your “junk drawer” and add a pose to your yoga routine. You might just find yourself craving this pose!

Namaste, Tina