Essential Oils and Your Dosha
Aromatherapy is in vogue now, and even corporate environments use fragrances for sensory engineering to improve marketing, improve employee mental health and productivity, and appeal to consumers. But “fragrance” aromatics may do more harm than good as they include synthetic scents instead of pure essential oils. At a time when we are recognizing the need to minimize toxic load, here is a dangerous way to sabotage the immune system of the body. From an Ayurvedic perspective, synthetic scents lack prana, the life force found in all things natural. They pollute the environment as well as our bodies, with chemicals that cause our bodies to create toxic waste, or ama. In the body, toxic buildup of ama is considered the cause for all disease. The fastest way into the body is through inhalation, as whatever is in the atmosphere will sift from the lungs into the bloodstream and can easily cross the blood/brain barrier. Pure essential oils will support and enhance the function of the 9 systems of the body. Synthetic substances will only aggravate the doshas (the unique constitution of each individual) by throwing the nervous system out of balance and the domino effect is the development of allergic reactions. Use only pure essential oils to access therapeutic effects for your body and mind. Note that in our LifeFit yoga classes we use essential oils to cleanse the air of airborne pathogens, to wipe off surfaces to kill bacteria and viruses, and for affecting emotional well-being. Aromatherapy is an effective way to have a “one-pointed” focus for meditation. Peppermint aids focusing skills, rosemary improves memory, citrus oils will improve mood, lavender is calming, certain blends of oils will open the airways, or relieve tense muscles, and all essential oils have some antimicrobial properties that translate to helping us in the similar ways that they originally provided protection of the plants they came from.
There is a direct link between our sense of smell and the limbic system of our brain. The limbic system is the foundation of the basic instincts that connects our emotions and memories. Scents that we consider pleasant will improve our mood, ignite our memories, and perhaps improve cognitive skills. Scents that we consider unpleasant will derail our outlook and make us sick both physically and emotionally. In general, scents that appeal to you are probably good for you. According to Ayurveda, aromas can balance or derange the doshas, the unique constitution of each person. Thus, this can have a great affect our overall health and our daily well-being. So with trendy conventional use of the same therapeutic scents for everyone, Ayurvedic physicians will tailor aromatherapy to each person’s prakriti , their individual constitution which is a makeup of all three doshas, thus to their individual needs. For example, if you are vata-dominant, then rebalancing essential oils need to be warming, focusing, calming, grounding scents like lavender, marjoram, geranium, wintergreen, cinnamon, clove, orange, and rose. Pitta individuals benefit from scents that are hydrating, cooling, sweet, and soothing like sandalwood, gardenia, jasmine, violet, lemon and patchouli. Kapha individuals need warming, light, stimulating, expectorant aromas such as myrrh, sage, cedar, pine, fir, birch, and eucalyptus.
If you’re interested in learning more about aromatherapy, we developed a course to help you get the hang of how to use essential oils alongside how to deepen your understanding of Ayurveda and yoga. Essential Yoga Sangha (my tribe) is a two week online course that is light, fun, interactive, and taught at two levels. One can enjoy the main course which was created to introduce essential oils to yogis and yoga to essential oil enthusiasts. Last year we ran the beta-test of the course twice. It is now hosted on an educational site. The information becomes yours to enjoy and refer to at your convenience. Yoga teachers can purchase an additional segment and use it all for 10 CECs with Yoga Alliance. All Lifefit students will receive the oils we use in the course when registering for the next course. The next course begins April 9th. Sign up here! Want to learn more about doshas? Look to our blogpost Take the Dosha Quiz in our book Essential Yoga Practice – need a copy – ask Mona or order on Amazon! Follow Essential Yoga Practice on our social media and comment, share, retweet,… to be entered to win our monthly giveaway.
Meditation and Pranayama Practice
Meditation is the new trend of the decade and this year “breathing is the new meditation.” Despite all the articles and guidance, despite the simple understanding and craving to slow down, many people still wont take time to meditate, and it is a reflection of the times, of our busy lives. Most people understand that meditation involves being still. The questions I get about meditation lead me to realize that most people are still overthinking what the process should be – how ironic, when the whole point is to stop overthinking. Years ago I realized with having small children, that sometimes the only quiet time was going to be when everyone else was asleep. So I would stay up to “get things done,” craving some clarity in that quiet time. I soon realized that at the end of the day, I was actually spent of brain energy and everything took longer to accomplish. So I switched to the early morning idea of rising before them and it was not just the yogic way, or the Ayurvedic way, but the only way toward some semblance of clarity gained from time spent in solidarity. When I first started meditating the hardest part was to sit still. It wasn't that my back hurt or I kept thinking of the hundredth thing I could get done before everyone else got up. It was my own fidgety nature. I understood the need and the outcome but couldn't seem to get the hang of the course of action, the “doing” of meditating. I found myself trying to adjust to the sitting, getting sidetracked from delving into the myriad of experiences that I thought meditation was supposed to be. The shortcut answer from my teachers’ experiences is something I hope to keep sharing. The key is a “one-pointed focus.” And it doesn't mean that we are trying to run from things we are uncomfortable facing. Rather, it is, as Patanjali puts it, “calming the fluctuations of the mind.” A one pointed focus gives the mind a break from the racing habits and anything we practice doing, we get better at. The racing habits of the mind throughout the course of the day, spurred on by the myriad of infomercials of technology, cause unnecessary sabotage of our energy, and from that alone we arrive to the end of the day feeling mentally spent. To give yourself the opportunity to focus on only one thing: a breathing exercise, a mantra, a sound, a payer, an intention, a person,.. frees the mind from overstimulation and allows space for clarity, for healing, and with that comes renewed energy. Over time, with practice, I realized that my way of meditation needed rhythmic movement, so for the most part it comes in the form of walking in nature or on the labyrinth, garden work that is repetitive (think pulling weeds, watering plants), petting the cats, writing notes to friends,... Eventually it became focusing on my breath, and my body began to naturally adjust to turning away from the distractions of my surroundings. The more I meditate, the more I find ways to be comfortable with being still. Meditation has become a necessary part of my morning routine which I actually now crave and has positively impacted all aspects of my life in the following ways:
1. My days have more structure.
2. I am more realistic about what I can and cannot get done.
3. I feel the need to spend more quality time with people
4. My patience and tolerance has improved
5. I will not compromise on good nutrition
6. I am more intent on spending time in nature
7. I am more accepting of the hurdles of the day
8. I am more grateful,…for everything and everyone in my life!
9. I am learning who I truly am. I am ready to courageous about it.
10. I am more “present.”This is probably the best benefit of meditation. Just like any other part of a grounded yoga practice, meditation is not the“instant fix.” Just like any other part of a seasoned yoga practice, it is just that, a practice. Refinement comes with consistent practice and in surprising ways. Pretty soon the fruit of the labor is the one-pointed practice of being “present”to what and who is in front of you! I am a happier person because I am a more authentic version of myself.
Want another pranayama to use in your meditation practice?
Try Box Breathing:
This pranayama practice involves exhalation, retention, inhalation, and again retaining the breath—all for the same amounts of time. It can be helpful to visualize a square or box shape to remember to breathe in equal increments. This is a calming breath and is sometimes used in therapeutic settings.
· Find a comfortable seat.
· Rest your palms on your thighs or on your belly or heart.
· Take a few deep breaths to get centered and prepare/stretch the diaphragm .
· Exhale for a count of four. (Count silently.)
· Hold your breath in for a count of four.
· Inhale for a count of four.
· Hold your breath out for a count of four.
· Repeat as many times as you like.
· Then don’t count or seek to follow the pattern. Note the natural tendencies of the body to breathe – it is always a pleasant surprise to observe how the body wants to continue with slow deep breathing.
Save the Dates, Register for LifeFit Specialty Classes:
In the recent past, “Specialty Classes” have been introduced on Sunday afternoons, in the Youth Building of Christ UMC, 410 N Holden Rd. These classes have been opportunities to experience different themes of yoga and mind-body classes. We will have more depth of these classes along with other themes during the LifeFit 2018 Summer Workshops. Note that Yoga Teachers will receive continuing education credit from Yoga Alliance. The remaining classes for the spring are listed here:
· April 8, 3:00 – 4:15 pm, $20: TRE: Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercise
· April 15, 2:30 – 4:00 pm, $25: Yoga for Osteoporosis, the Second 12 Poses Note that if you have not learned the first 12 poses, it is ok to come to this class as we will cover all three variations (beginner, intermediate and “maintenance” variations) of the poses in the current Osteoporosis study of Dr. Loren Fishman, MD.
· Come join us for Yoga on the Labyrinth and a walking meditation! Register for Yoga on the Labyrinth with the School of Servant Leadership for World Wide Labyrinth Day, May 5th, 2018
· May 20,3:00 – 4:15 pm, $20: TRE: Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercise
New Chair Yoga Class Forming
New Chair Yoga class forming Thursday 1:00- 2:00 pm in the Youth Building April 12 - May 31
Cost $80/8 classes
Our chair yoga classes are most unique collection of preparations for poses to fine-tune the movement capacity of the body, calm the mind, support resilience of the respiratory system and build community. Come join us!
Register and pay here by April 5