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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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 “Pranayama,” can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with anxiety. Pranayama 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